APRIL 13, 2005, HOMILY: ACTS 8:1-8; JOHN 6: 35-40
I MYSELF AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. "No one who come to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall thirst again." Bread is a staple of the human diet and has been considered a basic, daily necessity. Abundance of bread early on was a sign of prosperity. Bread, then, lent itself to use as a symbol of life, health and peace. To share bread at a meal was to create a bond of peace with another in the time of our Lord, and is still to some extent, a natural symbol of friendship and fraternal communion. In our Lord’s time this symbolism was well understood and was particularly prominent in the customs of his social world. Health, prosperity, peace, shared happiness, life itself- all this is suggested by the symbol of bread. Humans cannot carry on for any length of time in a state of well-being without nourishment. Repeatedly, regularly we must take in food in one form or other, or we soon become unable to function. Lack of adequate nourishment impairs our physical strength and just as quickly diminishes our mental powers. Hunger limits a persons capacity to consider matters with clear judgment; as lack of food is prolonged, the mind tends to become obsessed with the thought of various foods. Bread is seen then, with the eyes of the mind, as the source of life itself. Accordingly, our Lord made use of this symbol to reveal something further of the nature of his own person. In the process he gave a fresh significance to this substance that we call bread. Just as there is a physical bread that is, as it were, the very basis of physical life, so also the person of the Lord Jesus is the principle of life in the Spirit. ‘I MYSELF AM THE BREAD OF LIFE.’
This truth is made explicit later on, in the great discourse at the Last Supper, when Jesus once again defines his person in terms that suggest his manner of influence and so his significance for those who accept him in faith. ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’, he told Philip in the presence of all his apostles. Just as the body suffers from lack of bread so also, and with even greater diminishment of its powers, does the soul grow weak and sickly from ignorance of truth and of the way to it so that the very existence of true life is threatened. Here Jesus offers the one nourishment that cures and prevents such a dire threat to happiness and health: "No one who come to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall thirst again."
Every individual person is at the center of his being a profound mystery even to himself. This mysterious reality makes itself known in a variety of ways, the most common, perhaps, is restlessness. It assumes the guise of a desire for something more than one possesses, or at least something different which seems to offer more satisfaction simply because it is unknown. More knowledge, more recognition, more money, a better position, a more gratifying relationship- the forms taken by this unquenchable desire are multiple and shifting. In short, the very substance of our self turns out to be a longing for some undefined, elusive possession or experience that soon returns after every new achievement of fulfillment. The hunger and thirst that was satisfied returns, and the desire for a more satisfying relation, a more permanent state of completion, a sense of fuller life impels us to seek further, to hope for some goal not as yet arrived at. Nothing long quiets this deep-seated longing for it transcends any finite achievement.
This is hunger and thirst that Jesus addresses himself to when he proclaims "I MYSELF AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. "No one who come to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall thirst again." He found a way to share this spiritual bread with those who come to him through the inspired word of Scripture and by the sacrament of the Eucharist. Here he offers this bread and wine for us to the Father, and gives himself to us in communion if only we come to him by faith and loving trust. May all the actions of our life flow from this center that is nourished by the one food and drink that alone satisfies the longing for true life that never ends, never disappoints for it is the life of God himself. "I MYSELF AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. "No one who come to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall thirst again."
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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