Where is true life to be found?

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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: Aug. 12, 2012
1 Kgs 19:4-8; Ps 34; Eph 4:30–5:2; John 6:41-51

What do you consider essential for living a life that is full and rich and the way that life is really meant to be? What makes you feel firmly founded; well supplied with what you need; and headed in the right direction? Or, if someone were to come to you and tell you that they are struggling; that they feel confused, directionless, hungry, cut off, dissatisfied, unhappy; and they ask you for advice: what would you counsel them? Where is true life to be found?

We can imagine a variety of answers that could be given to these questions. In the short term, someone might recommend a particular food or drink, exercise, leisure activity. Even the great 13th century theologian St. Thomas Aquinas is said to have said that “Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.” In the longer term, someone might recommend psychological counseling; embracing a political ideology; or setting oneself on a particular life course involving education, a career, family, and a particular way of life as a goal.

These are fundamental questions that each of us seeks to answer and live out.

And our Lord Jesus Christ has said that he is the answer. He said in last week’s Gospel reading: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” What is essential to true life is to be found in him.

This is a bold claim; and so it is not surprising that today we begin to hear pushback from the religious leaders among the crowd. For this is the third of five Sundays that we are spending in chapter 6 of the Gospel according to John. It began with Christ’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand from just five loaves and two fish; and it continued as the next day the crowd went looking for him, hoping for another miraculous meal, and he redirected their attention to himself.

And now some among them are murmuring. They’re saying: Wait, you? You’re the answer? You’re the bread of life; you’re the bread from heaven? Aren’t you just an ordinary man? Don’t we know your father and mother? Aren’t you the son of Joseph? In fact, he’s not. In fact, he is true God and true man, born of the Father before all ages, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. But they don’t know that. And so this is a pretty radical and unlikely claim that he is making.

And he presses it still further: No one can come to me unless the Father draw him. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. These are bold claims; exclusive claims. He is not one possibility among many; not just one more religious leader or moral teacher; not just an option, or a small part of life. And we hear him make such claims throughout the Gospel of John; in statements like:

  • I am the way and the truth and the life. (14:6)
  • I am the resurrection and the life (11:25)
  • I am the good shepherd (10:11, 14)
  • I am the gate. (10:9)
  • I am the true vine. (15:1)
  • I am the light of the world. (8:12)

What is it that can move someone to accept these claims that our Lord Jesus, and commit themselves to come to him, to believe in him, to follow him?

  • It might be the experience of being pushed to the wall—much like Elijah in our first reading. Of finding that the other answers don’t work, and there are no options left; and why not give Jesus and his claims a try?
  • Or it could be a more positive experience: of hearing in his words, of experiencing in his love, of feeling in his person, something that draws us onward, draws us deeper. Of seeing in his followers, in his saints, the fullness of life we are looking for; and wanting to find what they have found.

Either way, our Lord’s invitation stands. In spite of difficulties that can make it hard to believe in him; in spite of what might pull us in other directions; in spite of the incongruity of seeing our Lord Jesus stand there and say, “I am… I am all these things that you need”; nevertheless his invitation stands, and his claims are true. He is the Bread of Life; he is the living bread that came down from heaven. And so he beckons us:

  • to listen to him in his Word and the teaching of his Church;
  • to come close to him in prayer each day;
  • to receive his life regularly through his sacraments, especially in confession and Holy Communion;
  • to unite ourselves with him in his one perfect sacrifice in the Mass and in how we live our lives each day.

In him is found the fullness of life; the answers that we seek for this life; and, finally, what no one else can offer, eternal life. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Come to our Lord Jesus, the Bread of Life.

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Published in: on August 12, 2012 at 8:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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