+THE BREAD THAT I WILL GIVE IS MY FLESH 19TH Sunday (B) , 2018
John’s gospel on the Bread of Life has a way of completely engaging our lives, calling us into the mystery of the Incarnation it so faithfully upholds. This is a great scandal to the people of his time as it is to ours. Unless our lives as Christians reflect the very life of Jesus, can we hold that we truly have the faith, that we believe in the person of Jesus Christ around whom the whole our Christian lives are centered?
From the very beginning of our gospel this morning we see the people of his own time scandalized by the person standing in front of them. Jesus, saying that he is the bread that came down from heaven and therefore is of God, is immediately questioned. They know who his father and mother are so how could he possibly claim to belong to God, to be God’s special messenger? Jesus goes so far as to say that: “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.. I am the bread of life.” Anyone, he tells them, who claims to have a real relationship to God comes to him.
There is something wonderfully earthly about Jesus being the bread of life. It resonates with our first reading from the book of Kings where Elijah is visited by an angel in his sleep and told twice to get up and eat. He’s told this, for his journey will be long, all of forty days and forty nights until he reaches Horeb and meets God. For us, Jesus is the “bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat of it and not die.. [Indeed] whoever eats this bread will live forever” for the bread that he gives “is his flesh for the life of the world.”
What does this mean for us, to eat this bread that has come down from heaven? St Paul helps us with this in the letter to the Ephesians. It is to become imitators of God as beloved children and live in love even as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God. To eat this bread, is to have our innermost being transformed into Christ, to let ourselves to become “kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven [us] in Christ.”
To eat this bread is not so much to transform it into our bodies but to allow it to transform our bodies into becoming his, free of all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling, free from all malice. As often as we do this, our very own lives become bread that is taken into Jesus own hands, broken and given to all in need. And don’t we experience this again and again in our own personal lives with loved ones, whether in family or community. If we look carefully at our lives, what is it that gives them the most meaning, makes us creative and initiating, leaving us with a lasting happiness. It is precisely our loving relationships, as often as we experience the selfless love of others, or care for them in a selfless and loving way.
Each one of us has been destined to share in the Trinitarian life of God, going out of ourselves as a selfless gift to the other. This is taking place as often as we eat this Bread from heaven, as often as we allow the Christ life that has been given us at Baptism, to grow and mature in our daily relationships with one another. To do this is to have our lives become one with the Bread of life consecrated at this altar, one with Him who is the Life of the world. Amen