Thursday 5th August 10.00am
Sunday 8th August 9.30am
This Weeks Offering
“I am the bread of life”, says Jesus, “He who comes to me will never be hungry.” For the people of Israel, bread would have been a staple food, just as it is for us. I don’t know about you, but I love it in all its varieties and find it hard to pass a bakery if I can smell freshly-baked bread. I could demolish a French stick in one sitting. Probably that would not be a good habit to get into, and Jesus does urge his listeners not to hanker after the food that will not last. After all, he had fed the crowd on the hillside and could see that they were wanting a repeat performance. He tells them to “work for food that endures to eternal life.”
Jesus is speaking to us here of what God provides for us in order to feed not only the body but also the soul. When the people of Israel were on the move after being freed from slavery in Egypt, they found themselves yearning for the kind of things they would at least have been able to eat during their time and slaves. They also rebelled in spirit and began to ask why they had been taken from a life that was at least predictable, to wander out in the desert, with no clear destination. In the midst of this, God provided manna, which is described in the book of Exodus; something that satisfied their bodily hunger but which also appears to have been spiritual food.
When we say in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread”, we are not only asking God to provide for our bodily needs, but for our spiritual needs also. As the people of Israel looked back nostalgically to the place where they were held as slaves, we might look back in a similar spirit to our lives before the pandemic. Just as they had to learn themselves, God does not lead us back into the past, but forwards towards the promised land. We do not like uncertainty or feeling as though we are never really sure of what comes next. It can cause us to grumble and to rebel and to forget that in the past, not everything was perfect. But what we are promised in the wilderness is bread from heaven.
St Augustine spoke of the Word of God as being sacramental, because of the way in which it nourishes our hungry spirit. As Jesus said when he himself was tempted in the desert: “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) It is not only the words that Jesus spoke that are bread from heaven but above all, Christ himself, as he says in John’s gospel:
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.”
When we live by that Word, we walk in the path of life.
We know also that in the Sacrament of the altar, Jesus has given us his Body and Blood as a lasting memorial of his presence among us and as the pledge of eternal life. This is food for our journey and it sustains us, no matter how hard that journey might seem. The Church itself is not just a religious fellowship, but it is the Body of Christ on earth. Brought into being by baptism and nourished by the Eucharist, it grows into the place where we can be incorporated as very members of the body of Christ. The Eucharist builds the Church. It is the way appointed by Christ in which the world itself is re- membered through the growth of his body.
What we receive in the Eucharist breathes hope into our lives and gives us a glimpse of a world transformed by the death and resurrection of Christ. In this, our own lives are renewed, so that we live not only for ourselves but for the good of our brothers and sisters and for the world of God’s creation. We leave behind whatever is deadening to our human spirit. In the words of the letter to the Ephesians:
“You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.”
We live in a world that holds out the offer of a quick fix when what we need is something deeper and more lasting. We are used to what can be bought and sold, but what God wants us to receive is something freely given. We cannot possibly earn it and in truth we are unworthy to receive it, but God is inviting us to take and to eat. Jesus is the bread of life and when we open our lives to his gift, we eat the bread of heaven, raising us up, body and soul, to eternal life.