Reflections on the Readings
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 2, 2009, Year B
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis Hankins
Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life...Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life..." (John 6:27, 35)
There are things that perish with the using. Food is in that category. We eat to sustain our natural lives, but in the end, mortality will claim each of us. There is no fountain of youth, or miracle meal that will stave off the inevitable. Jesus teaches us not to look for our heavenly hope in food which perishes.
Life, eternal life is in him who said, "I am the bread of life." We will read on future Sundays, the dismay and consternation hurled at Jesus for proclaiming himself 'the bread of life.' Jesus said, "My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world."
There is food which connects us to God. Bread which nourishes us for our journey to union with the Holy Three in One. It is bread that gives life, life everlasting. Everyone who eats this bread shall never die. It is a mystery which is revealed by the Spirit, a revelation which only faith by a renewed mind can explore. (Ephesians 4:23)
"I am the bread of life." They are such simple words, but words which draw each of us into an important and necessary relationship with our Lord. Standing there among those who had been filled with the loaves earlier, Jesus invites a deeper and more profound belief, a belief in him whom God has sent into the world.
Jesus' audience listened intently, interacting with him as they drew upon their history of being miraculously fed for 40 years in the wilderness. The manna had sustained them. Jesus is now talking about a bread from heaven that will lead them to another promise; the promise of a new heart, a new mind, and a new love. This bread of which Jesus speaks is himself, the bread of life, and they said to him, "Lord, give us this bread always."
Since the beginning of the Church, it is the Eucharist which has sustained us. It is the source and summit of our faith. Instituted by our Lord on the eve of his betrayal, Jesus revealed himself to his apostles in a deep and profound way. When he had given thanks, he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples and said, "This is my body." In the upper room, a new dimension of faith formed in the hearts of his disciples. All except Judas. He would labor for the bread which perishes.
John's meditation on the 'bread of life' reminds us that in the Eucharist, we are participating in the divine nature. The prayers of the Church, the teaching of the apostles, the life of the saints together in fellowship, speak of the life and power of the Eucharist. (Acts 2:42) St. Paul describes the Eucharist as a participation in the body and blood of Christ. In the fulness of faith there is life. It is not symbolic life, but real life, the power of an endless life, the hope of eternal happiness.
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst." Let us be more deeply transformed by his life in us and be the face of Jesus for each other, our brother and sister.
Let us pray: Our Father, you give us the true bread, the bread of life, even Jesus our Lord. Pour out your Spirit upon us so that in this life we may bring to all the bread of life. Amen.