19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51
Some time ago I received an e-mail telling me about cactus plants, a topic that had not in the past provoked much interest on my part. After all, I pictured them to be gawkish and unattractive, although I have seen some cacti that appeared to have surrealistic heads and arms resembling human forms that exercised my imagination. Nevertheless, I read on.
Pictures came as attachments to that e-mail, and when I opened them up and viewed those pictures I was delighted to find that cacti produce stunningly beautiful blossoms, all of which brought me to reassess my judgments about cactus plants. Evidently there was a whole lot more to them than I thought. My “know-it-all” previous judgments about cacti completely blocked me from seeing the beauty that lay hidden within them.
That lesson can be applied to the way we see people, especially people about whom we have a “know-it-all” attitude. All of us are familiar with what happened to us when we grew from being teenagers and in the following years became adults. Too often in our teen years we judged our parents to be “out of it,” lacking in understanding and compassion, overbearing, and uncaring. It wasn’t until we were well into our twenties that we discovered their “newly acquired” wisdom and good parenting. The problem, of course, is not limited to teens; there are plenty of adult “know-it-alls” in our lives, “know-it-alls” who by their attitudes are blinded about others and thus deprived to seeing and enjoying the beauty that can be found within them.
Such is the case presented to us in today’s gospel account in which St. John reports:
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,” I am the bread that came down from heaven,”and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say,’ I have come down from heaven’?”
Did Jesus’ miracles mean nothing to them? Did the account of His birth not interest them at all? Did His teachings leave them totally unimpressed? Evidently nothing about Jesus mattered except their own judgments about Him, all of which should cause us to ask ourselves about our own perceptions of Jesus and our own understandings of what He is telling us.
Jesus presents himself to us as the Bread of Life, the sustenance of His life to be made a part of ours. In receiving Him in the Eucharist we are, at the same time, being received into His life. His life and ours are commingled in a holy communion.
That’s more than just a nice thought because it means that our concerns become His concerns just as much as His concerns become ours. The challenges we face become challenges He faces with us, a wonderful truth that should not only give us comfort but that should empower us and energize us.
Our Blessed Lord faced a world that didn’t care about the poor, didn’t help the suffering, and didn’t give much thought to what God wants of us. In our world today we have people who suffer at the hands of powerful men and women, men and women who are motivated solely by their own self-interest, their own greed. Their attitudes and actions have hurt many, many people, including people who perhaps we know. We need the nourishment and the strength given us by the Bread of Life to cope with joblessness, the drug culture, the suffering of those who have been abused, terrorism, and the draining away of our nation’s resources. We need the Bread of Life to help others who have been diminished by these forces. And let’s face it, we too have felt powerless and weak. We need the Bread of Life to strengthen us in our own struggles.
In an increasingly secularized world, our children need now more than ever to draw closer to Christ. They need to draw Christ closer to themselves, to receive the Bread of Life in order to strengthen their resolve and guide them in making decisions. Their minds need to be fed and their hearts need to be filled with the Word of God made flesh for us. We need the Bread of Life just as much as did the people of Jesus’ day because we face powerful forces that hold us in their grip.
It’s no secret that teens are altruistic. They quest for the best; they expect their parents to be the best, their friends to be true to them, and our world to be a whole lot better than it is. God loves them and wants to be fully a part of their lives. I hope teens never lose their idealism. Many adults have abandoned and lost their own ideals thereby have messed up our world… really messed it up. In adjusting to reality I hope teens will not lose their vision of what can be and thus merely settle for what is. I know that receiving the Bread of Life, receiving our Lord in the Eucharist will give them that for which they hunger and seek.
Jesus cared, deeply cared, for the poor, the downtrodden, the sick, the elderly, and those cast off by this world’s well-to-do. The Bread of Life we receive in the Eucharist will inspire and motivate us to have the same attitude as Christ’s. And as for our human experience of pain and suffering, for what more could we ask than Christ living in us and we living in Christ?
The life our Blessed Lord offers us is for our salvation, to be sure, but it is also for the benefit of those around us. Jesus was sent into our world by His Father in heaven, and Jesus, in turn, sends us also into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it. We are here today to receive, and then be sent.
St. Teresa of Avila once pointed out a truth that has deeply affected me, a truth that remains central to my life. It is reported that she said: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks with compassion out on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; yours are the hands with which He is to bless men now.”
In a moment we will all receive the Bread of Life in Holy Communion, a communion that is ours, not individually mine or individually yours. We will pray the Lord’s Prayer, that wonderful prayer that begins with the word “Our.” We receive our Lord in Holy Communion in order to be sent, in order to share Christ’s compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and love in a world filled with junk food, populated by people who have a hunger within them that this world can never satisfy. In your love, bring them the Bread of Life that is found in your own life. “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks with compassion out on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; yours are the hands with which He is to bless men now.”
Receive Christ now and take Him into the days that are ahead of you and into the lives of those you will encounter in those days. We all hunger and thirst for what is decent, right and good.