19th Sunday 12th August 2012
Bread from Heaven
Jesus said to the crowd, 'I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world...
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so who ever eats me will draw life from me.'
John 6: 51-58
Iinvite you to notice what the Eucharist has to do with your everyday life and with the world you live in.
To do this I invite you to think of a generous person you have known – not necessarily a saint, but generous and unselfish nonetheless. You may think of someone in your own family, your mother or your father. You may think of a neighbour who has always been willing to give a helping hand. You may think of someone who is heroic in the care that he or she shows to a relative who is chronically ill or has a severe disability and needs constant care. Through the media you are aware of great people who dedicate their lives to helping the most vulnerable members of society and to getting justice for them.
Jesus was generous
I ask you to think of people like this because they show you what Jesus was like. He had time for everybody. He was always ready to go where he was needed. He would willingly change his plans in answer to an urgent request. He worked late into the night when crowds came for healing.
Jesus knew that this kind of generosity would change the world, and would save the world. It would bring people closer to each other and closer to God. He faced opposition for showing this same generosity to everybody, good and bad alike. As the opposition steadily increased, Jesus had to make a difficult decision. Either he must give up his work of teaching and healing and go home to Nazareth, or he must face his opponents in Jerusalem in the full knowledge that this would cost him his life.
On Holy Thursday night Jesus was aware that he would make his greatest act of generosity next day on the Cross. He decided that he would make a similar act of generosity at the Last Supper. He gave himself to his disciples; he gave himself totally to them - body and blood, soul and divinity – in the form of bread and wine; 'Take this and eat it, this is my body... Take this and drink it, this is my blood.' This was an extraordinary thing for him to do; here I suggest one way of meditating on it.
Looking to the future
On that night Jesus was looking to the future. 'Do this in memory of me,' he said. What he did at the Last Supper, they were to continue to do into the future. They would continue to celebrate the Eucharist, changing bread and wine into his body and blood. They would do even more than this in his memory.
Just as he gave himself completely to them, they would give themselves completely to others. The love and generosity he had shown during his lifetime and most especially on the cross, they would show that same generosity to others. As his disciples increased in number and spread across the world they would show his loving generosity everywhere to everyone they met.
Jesus would do something even greater still. As his disciples received him bodily into themselves, he would live in them. What he had done in Galilee and in Jerusalem, he would continue to do in and through his disciples. It is not that they would bring his generosity to others; rather it is that Jesus himself through the Eucharist would live in his disciples, in and through them he would exercise his generosity towards others.
The Eucharist was Jesus' way of being generous; he gave himself completely to his Father and to all the people of the world. The Eucharist is still his way of being generous. In every Mass he gives himself completely to the Father as he did on the Cross. He gives himself completely to every one who receives him. Then in and through them he gives himself to others in every act of generosity they perform.
Now take a minute to notice the generosity in your own life. You may be very much aware of your selfishness, yet more than likely you are generous as well. Recognise in that generosity, the presence of Jesus living his generosity in you, and inspiring you to grow more generous.
Lord Jesus Christ,
we worship you living among us
in the sacrament of your body and blood.
May we offer to our Father in heaven
a solemn pledge of undivided love.
May we offer to our sisters and brothers
a life poured out in loving service of that kingdom
where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.