THE BREAD OF LIFE COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN
Today the Lord Jesus challenges us with the stupendous and incredible assertion that He is the bread that came down from heaven, and that whoever eats this bread will live forever. His listeners understood little of those preposterous words that came out of the mouth of Jesus of Nazareth whom they thought they knew so well. Is he not the son of Joseph the Carpenter? So, as he addressed them in these words, they were dumbfounded. Many were even provoked to anger. Some accused him of blasphemy. Others said he was out of his mind. But from a purely human point of view, Jesus understood the disbelief of his hearers. Those who do not believe in the mystery of Christ's body and blood are normal human beings. They are not abnormal people. Those who do not believe in the sacrament of Christ's body and blood are simply following the dictates of human reason. And human reason, no matter how profound, cannot arrive at this most central mystery of the Christian faith. Faith in the Eucharist is a special one.
The saving mystery of Christ's body and blood cannot be deduced from, nor reduced to mere reason. The Eucharist, the giving of Christ's body and blood for the salvation of the world and the sanctification of individual Christians remains essentially a mystery. It is the mystery of the SHEKINAH, the mystery of the inner dwelling of the most high in us. It is the mystery of God's presence in concrete form among his people. So, the response of Jesus to his confounded hearers is the same response He has for the men and women of today who have serious doubts about the Eucharist. He told his listeners that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him. That is to say that faith in Him and in the Eucharist a is matter of grace. The inner light of faith is God's initiative, not a consequence of human effort.
Today Jesus elevates this concept of food from heaven, to a far more superior level of meaning than the Jews ever knew. He now speaks of his body as the mysterious food and his blood as the mysterious drink. In presenting his body as food, what Jesus was talking about is life, life in abundance, eternal life, life with God in the kingdom of peace. He says in John 6 that he is the bread from heaven, the bread of life, the living bread, which if one eats, he shall live forever. If we refuse the supernatural gift which Christ gives, we deny ourselves of life, and our fate is nothingness, meaninglessness and futility. If we refuse the food that Jesus offers - which is sustenance for the body and nourishment for the soul, our pilgrimage through life becomes a futile exercise. Jesus is indeed food for the journey of life.
As we witness the ups and downs of life, as we go through the twists and turns of life, as we go through the rocky mountains of evil and the deep valleys of sin in this world, Jesus presents himself as the source of sustenance for the body and nourishment for the soul. As we go through this wild wilderness of loneliness, anxiety, insecurity and pain, we need this food from heaven, which for us Christians is the most concrete assurance of God's providential presence in the midst of his people. We need this food from heaven which constitute the definitive answer to the profound longings of the human heart. So the Eucharist is food for pilgrims on their way to the mountain of God, to the Kingdom of God. Our world is today plagued by fear. Perhaps the most common denominator in today's world, and in our own country is fear and anxiety. The Pandemic has showed this clearly. We are haunted by the fear of death born of widespread insecurity and instability. Yet in the midst of the dark clouds of fear and anxiety, we find the silver lining of hope and expectation of a better day, and of a new world order.
Amidst the many trials in our pilgrimage through life in today's world, Jesus recommends Himself as the real food for our journey. In the face of the multiple crises in the political evolution of our land, Jesus recommends himself as the proper food for our journey. Even as our country men and women go through the harrowing experience of economic depression and social insecurity, Jesus recommends Himself as the authentic food for our journey. Yes, as we go through this vale of tears, and especially as all else seem to fail, Jesus recommends himself as the only efficacious food for our journey.
Jesus the Son of God, the Bread of Life which came down from heaven however remains the only food that truly satisfies. He provides the answers to the deepest longings of the human heart. In the arduous pilgrimage through the undulating terrain of life, we are often hungry and thirsty, tired and weary, weak and faint-hearted. Jesus knows this, and that is why He provides His flesh and blood as food for the journey.
Whereas all other religions set out to find God, the wonder of Christianity is that in Jesus of Nazareth God has set out in search of humanity. The Eucharist - Christ's giving of Himself as food for his people, is the climax of the mysterious dynamic of God searching for or seeking an encounter with human beings. He says in Rev. 3:20 "I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him." In the Word-made-Flesh the Father invites us and offers us the Supreme Gift. Now let us stretch out our hands today and receive the Manna from heaven. Let us open our hearts today and welcome the Word. Let us receive the Eucharist today and enter into the mystery of the Bread of Life. Let us witness today the Real Presence of God in our midst. Let us become part of the eruption of the divine Person into the history of humankind.