APRIL 18, 2002, HOMILY: ACTS 8: 26-40; JOHN 6: 44-51
I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. . . . IF ANYONE EATS OF THIS BREAD HE WILL LIVE FOREVER. Earlier in this same chapter Jesus had said 'whoever believes in me has eternal life' (v.47). Without faith in Jesus no one can truly receive him and consequently cannot receive eternal life, for as St. Augustine states,
'Christ himself, true God, is eternal life. Who, therefore, believes in me, he says, goes into me; and who goes into me, has me. What is it to have me? To have eternal life. Eternal life takes up death, eternal life willed to die, but because of you not because of himself.' [Tractatos sobre el Evangelio de San Juan (1-35) 26.10, B.A.C. (Madrid 1968) 582, 583]
Conferring as it does such a surpassingly desirable and indispensable benefit, faith is an incalculably valuable gift that we should treasure and cultivate our life long. For, as these words of Augustine make clear, it is much more than adherence to certain truths about God and his Christ, as important as that is; it is also communion with the Lord that begins here and now and continues beyond death into life eternal.
But Jesus did not wish to confine the bestowal of this grace of eternal life to the operation of faith alone; he chose to give it a more concrete, even material expression and consequently he goes on in this same discourse to insist on the necessity of the Eucharist. If by faith, as it were, we take in the very body and blood of Christ, yet there is a physical mediation as well that our Lord would provide in the form of bread and wine that are truly his body and blood. 'He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I shall raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is truly food, and my blood truly is drink.'(John 6:54,55)
In the Eucharist we are united already with the risen Christ and share in his victory over death. As yet we live in hope of entering into his presence clearly, now we see him but obscurely. But if we persevere in our faith in him and live in fidelity to his word, the day will soon come when we join him in glory where, in having him we shall possess everlasting life.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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