Kevin C. Mullins, O.S.A.
San Diego, California
Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
Over the course of the past four weeks we have been invited to hear and reflect upon a
good portion of what is known as “the Bread of Life discourse” in the gospel of St. John.
Inasmuch as we are in the year of St. Mark, this shift to the fourth gospel for a 4-week period signifies the importance of this prominent discourse and serves as a reminder of the implications of it in our own lived faith-journey.
Three Sundays prior we heard about the so-called “feeding of the multitudes,” an event
recorded six times in the four gospels. It is easy to see how that event images the feeding of the living body of Christ (who we are) and the power of God/Christ in the world around us. Just so, it also called into question the various motivations of those who sought out Jesus and what they were hoping to get as a result.
Some clearly followed Jesus because he offered healing, nourishment, and salvation. In
those ways Jesus was truly revealed as the fulfillment of God's promise. Others, it would appear, followed for less noble reasons, perhaps to see what miracle might come next or, perhaps, to see what was in it for them at a very practical level. In either case there was, indeed, “more to come,” but not always what people sought or banked on.
Two Sundays ago we heard that some wanted to view Jesus as a competitor with Moses (he claims to be greater than…) and some simply wanted MORE (when “enough” isn't enough…). But Jesus wanted them to understand that the bread he came to give was meant to make them hunger and thirst for the non-perishable goods: for righteousness, for the good of others, for lasting justice and true peace.
A week ago Jesus defined himself as “I AM,” thereby equating himself with God. We are
told the people murmured – just as their forbearers had done in the desert – and then they asked the great, Irish ontological question: Just who … does he think he is???
Jesus responded: I AM the bread of life! I AM the living bread! I AM the bread that came down from heaven! And in so doing, Jesus made it clear they had a choice to make: Accept me or reject me, choose one or the other, because there is no in-between alternative! Choose life or choose death…
And now we come to the fourth week of our journey. And once again Jesus invites us into
something so awesome and wonderful that perhaps we are not fully capable of comprehending it:
Jesus is inviting us into an intimate relationship that has been initiated by God, a relationship that began with our Baptism – when we were “sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption.”
It is a relationship that promises us the gift of eternal life in union with our God.
The challenge, of course, is that such a gift and such a relationship has consequences, if not complications, when we enter into it. Today Jesus invites us to not only receive the bread of life, the bread come down from heaven, the bread that leads to eternal life - but also to be that “bread of life” for one another.
Concurrent with the readings from the Gospel of St. John, we have been reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians. Paul has clearly encapsulated the meaning of the gift and relationship we are offered. Simply put, Paul says we are invited to live in the unity that our ritual sacraments and prayers signify – and to know that all God’s children are called to be one, called to share in the excessive love and generosity that God desires for us and that Jesus provides for us.
Paul invites you and me to live the vocation to which we have been called!
Paul invites you and me to put on Christ, and to follow in his ways!
Paul invites you and me to be who we are because of the gift we have received!
But first we have to know Christ, because we cannot love what we do not know. Who Jesus is, how Jesus is for us – to know him and to know this is the ongoing challenge of our faith and our growth as his believers, as his followers, as his disciples. In effect, Jesus tells us “I am who and what I am because I am created in the image and likeness of my Father in Heaven. I am the living bread come down from heaven because God is in me and I am in him – and my Father chooses to share this fully with you in this very moment of your lives.”
And, most importantly, Jesus offers to nourish us for our journey of faith – to give us the very bread of life-eternal that we might be better able to imitate his self-offering in the outpouring of his divine love - for us. Feast on me, Jesus offers, because I am for you. Receive my very flesh and blood, so that you may be my very flesh and blood in the world around you – in service of one another.
Nourished by this divine gift, let us remain in Him and let us be imitators of God’s love, and of Christ’s compassion, as we accompany and nourish one another along the way of His gospel. So wonderfully gifted and nourished, let us give thanks and praise for the relentless generosity and graciousness of the God who has first loved us, who calls us His own, and nourishes us with the intimate gift of the living bread come down from heaven.