My Dear Parishioners,
Our gospel reading for today (Jn.6:37-51) is one of the great passages of the New Testament. What did Jesus mean when He said, “I am the bread of life?” We should not regard this as simply a beautiful and poetic phrase. First of all, bread sustains life. It is that without which life cannot go on. But what is life? Clearly, by life is meant something far more than mere physical existence. It has a spiritual meaning to it. Real life is the new relationship with God, that relationship of trust and obedience and love. This relationship is only made possible by Jesus Christ. Apart from Him no one can enter into it. That is to say, without Jesus there may be existence, but not life. Therefore, if Jesus is the essential of life, He may be described as the ‘bread of life’. The hunger of the human situation is ended when we know Christ and through Him know God. The restless soul is at rest; the hungry heart is satisfied.
Second, this passage opens out to us the stages of the Christian life. We see Jesus in the pages of the Bible, in the teaching of the church, sometimes even face to face. Having seen Him, we come to Him. We regard Him not as a distant hero and pattern, not as a figure in a book, but as someone accessible. We believe in Him. We accept Jesus as the final authority on God, on human beings, on life and we accept what He says as true. This means that our coming to Him is not a matter of mere interest, nor a meeting on equal terms; it is essentially a submission. This process gives us life. It puts us into a new and wonderful relationship with God, wherein He becomes an intimate friend; we are now at home with the One whom we feared or never knew. The possibility of this is free and universal. The invitation is to all people. The ‘bread of life’ is ours for the taking. The only way to that new relationship is through Jesus Christ. Without Him it never would have been possible, and apart from Him it is still impossible. No searching of the human mind or longing of the heart can fully find God apart from Jesus. Behind the whole process is God. It is those whom God has given Him who come to Christ. God not only provides the goal, He moves in the human heart to awaken desire for Him; and He works in the heart to take away the rebellion and the pride which would hinder the great submission. We could never even have sought Him unless He had already found us.
Yet there remains that ‘stubborn something’ which enables us to refuse the offer of God. In the last analysis, the one thing which ‘defeats’ God is the defiance of the human heart. Each person was created with freewill or freedom of choice. Life is there for the taking, or the refusing. If we choose to accept Jesus’ free gift, into our life enters new satisfaction. The hunger and thirst are gone. Our heart finds what it was searching for and life ceases to be a mere existence and becomes a thing of peace and fulfillment. Furthermore, even beyond life we are safe. Even on the last day when all things come to an end, we are still secure. As the saying goes, “Christ brings us to the haven beyond which there is no danger.” The offer of Christ is life in time and life in eternity. This is the greatness and glory of which we cheat ourselves when we refuse His invitation.
Jesus is the bread of life, which means that He is the necessity for true life; therefore to refuse the invitation and command of Jesus is to miss life and die. The Rabbis had a saying, “ The generation in the wilderness has no part in the life to come.” In the story in the book of Numbers, the people who cravenly refused to brave the dangers of the promised land after the report of the scouts, were condemned to wander in the wilderness until they died. Because they would not accept the guidance of God they were for ever shut out of the promised land. The Rabbis believed that the forefathers who died in the wilderness not only missed the promised land, but also missed the life to come. To refuse the offer of Jesus is to miss life in this world and in the world to come; whereas to accept His offer is to find real life in this world and glory in the world to come.
With all good wishes and prayers
Fr. Chris Archibald