In the Gospels of the last two weeks Jesus has told us “I am the bread of life.” This week He proclaims: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”
Clearly Jesus is life-giving bread. Good for Jesus. What about us?
Jesus proclaims “whoever eats this bread will live forever;”
Who eats this bread? We do! We come to the altar/table and receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, under the forms of bread and wine.
But there is a catch. Usually when we eat something – a pizza, a hamburger, BBQ, even some funky tofu stuff – it becomes a part of us. What you are physically is made up of all the food you have eaten. Whether it is healthy, good-quality, nourishing food, or empty calorie junk-food and beer, that is now you.
However this food, the Bread of Life that is Jesus, is different. Instead of the food becoming a part of us, we rather become a part of it. By eating the Body of Christ and by drinking His Blood we become part of the Body of Christ. As St Augustine – of Hippo not of Canterbury – said, “Behold what you are, become what you receive.”
Jesus declares in today’s Gospel, “the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” By consuming this bread we are transformed into His Body, His way of being present and active here and now.
So if Jesus is living bread for the life of the world, guess what? We too are to become living bread for the life of the world. Jesus assures us “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” Or her. We become part of the Body of Christ, His way of being present and active in our time and in our neighborhood.
We “remain” in Jesus. To “remain” in Jesus does not mean to remain comfortable and cozy and safe in our private rooms, secure in the known communities we are nested in. To “remain” in Jesus is rather much more active and dynamic. It is to be sent.
Jesus declares: “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” This life is not just for us. Not for our own personal holiness and sanctification. Rather, like Jesus, we are sent.
We are sent to be bread for the world: to be life-giving, to be healing, to be nourishing, to be enlivening. This means we must work for justice and we must reach out to help others in need.
What does Jesus do? He expresses and embodies the compassion of God. Likewise we must express and embody the compassion of God in our relationships, reaching out to those who are hurting.
Jesus forgives and heals. We must forgive and heal, in our own families and communities, and even beyond that in all the hurting places of our world.
Jesus speaks the truth. We must speak the truth both by our actions and also by our words. Words of comfort and healing to those who hurt and suffer, and words of challenge to those who oppress and are indifferent.
Jesus teaches and instructs. We must teach and instruct, not only by our words but primarily by our example and our stance in life.
Jesus glorifies and worships the Father. We must live our lives in such a way that the Father is glorified and worshipped.
That is what it means to be bread for the life of the world. It is what you and I receive. It is what you and I are to become.
And we do this not as a heavy burden, as a terrible responsibility pressing down on us, not as an obligation hard to bear that has been dumped on us by God. NO! Not at all.
Listen to St. Paul in our second reading today: “but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”
That doesn’t sound very oppressive, or even very somber, to me.
When is the last time you sang and played to the Lord in your heart?? Do you do that every hour? Once a day? Once a week, or month or year?
St. Paul is calling us at all times to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord, “giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”
That gratitude is very Eucharistic. Indeed, eucharist comes from the Greek word for giving thanks. This is the essence of Eucharistic devotion: giving thanks.
To be the living bread we are called to become by the Eucharist, by the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, is not easy. It goes against our natural selfishness and laziness. It requires sacrifice and discipline. But it is not sad and gloomy. Indeed, it is most joyful.
We receive the Living Bread so that we will be transformed into living bread for the hunger of the world, and the sign of that transformation is gratitude.
“Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” AMEN.