The Bread of Life
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, B
I love bread.
All kinds of bread:
wheat and rye, raisin bread and zucchini bread,
Mexican tortillas, Indian chapatti, Mediterranean flatbread, Ethiopian
njera, cornbread, even bread pudding!
For the past three weeks,
we have heard Jesus speak of himself as the Bread of Life
and invite us to make him part of us
by eating his Body and drinking his Blood.
Today we complete the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John,
and we are confronted with the same choice that his disciples faced:
Will we take him at his word?
Will we accept him as the Bread of Life?
Will we realize that we cannot fully live without him?
Will we accept him as our Lord?
In a sense, the Son of God was asking
the same question that Joshua asked his ancestors at Shechem:
“Decide today whom you will serve.”
Decide whom—or what—you will make part of you.
Joshua had recounted to the Israelites
all the ways that God had served and saved them.
God called Abraham
and made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
God brought them out of slavery in Egypt.
God delivered them from their enemies.
God gave them a land of their own,
cities they did not build,
vineyards and olive groves they did not plant.
The Israelites told Joshua that they would serve the Lord.
But over the centuries they turned their back on God,
again and again.
God allowed them to suffer the consequences of their sins,
but God never abandoned them.
Instead, God sent the world his Son as the Bread of Life.
Receiving that Bread of Life is not easy.
When we come to this altar for communion we commit ourselves to live as
He is part of us and we are the members of his body.
It’s not always easy to be members of his body.
We are all sinners.
We have seen again in recent weeks
how even priests and bishops can commit horrible crimes and grave
against the most innocent and vulnerable among us.
It is tempting to walk away from all of this mess.
But that only weakens the Body of Christ.
Receiving the Bread of Life commits us to a lifetime of conversion,
a process of striving to become more and more like Christ.
Isn’t that what it means to be a Christian?
As St. Paul describes in our second reading,
our relationships are changed.
Following Jesus means that we choose humble submission over domination.
We serve rather than demand to be served.
We use whatever power we have as priests, religious, spouses, parents,
business owners, supervisors, teachers, coaches and public officials
to help others rather than harm them.
Receiving the Bread of Life means that
we take God and God’s word seriously.
We cannot “taste and see the goodness of the Lord”
without also remembering what we heard in Psalm 34, that God:
has eyes for the just, and hears their cry,
hears and rescues the just when they cry out, and is
close to the brokenhearted.
St. Monica, whose feast we celebrate tomorrow,
was married to a violent and unfaithful man.
When she saw her brilliant son following his father’s example,
it broke her heart.
But she never gave up on him,
and more importantly, she never gave up on Jesus.
After many years of prayers and tears,
her son became a Christian.
Not only that,
he became a priest, a saint and a Doctor of the Church: St. Augustine.
St. Augustine wrote:
“As you come to communion,
you hear the words ‘The Body of Christ’ and you answer ‘Amen’.
Be, therefore, members of Christ that your ‘Amen’ may be true.
Be what you see.
Receive what you already are.”
Receiving the Bread of Life means everything or it means nothing.
Let it mean something today. +