Homily 18th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Christ, the nonperishable Bread of Life
Throughout this month of August, or even since last week we may have noticed that the readings, particularly the gospels centered on Christ feeding the multitude. Today in John 6 Christ is not backing down and we are not backing down either from following him, seeking his love, blessings, healing, happiness and feedings- materially and spiritually. Christ is the source of all our needs. This is what he meant when he says, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” “Bread of life,” “whoever comes to me,” and “whoever believes in me,” three things!
As we journey through life like the Israelite in the wilderness each of us gets hungry, tired, discouraged, disillusioned, our faith shaken, tempted, and thirsty on the road. Naturally we long for food, we ask for drinks. Usually human food and human drinks, because we want to live and survive at least biologically!
Today’s Gospel “Bread” is beyond these human needs. It is not bread made by Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist or from any of our dinners, restaurants or bakeries. It is a nonperishable bread. Of course this reminds me of our everyday metaphorical characterization of some members of our families as "bread winners," or life wire." It does not mean that they are ordinary "wire" or winners of just ordinary "bread." I think what we meant to say is that they provide and care for our families, including food, health cost, children's school fees, transportation and other bills. Like the manna God provided in the desert for the whining Israelite (Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15), it is a heavenly bread, (Ps 78), which is embracive, provides and sustains life as a whole. In fact talking about this wholeness again some texts capture it well in their translation of “bread of life” as "uyo uwem," or“udia uwem” which means “food for life.” Christ not only came from God the Father, he is the source of all dimensions of life. He is the " life wire of our existence." He is our "bread winner." He provides and feeds us with our needs beyond what you and I can see. He beats our imagination. We do not live by physical bread alone. Christ is the Bread of Life of faith!
Recall, in Deut 8:3, when the Israelite went through that thirstiness, testing and hunger in the desert, God’s provision through Moses’ intercession demonstrates that we do not live by physical bread alone, but by every word and spiritual blessings that come from the mouth of the Lord! Jesus uttered same words when tempted by the Satan (Luke 4:4). He knew that his trusted and faithful father would always be there, for him, the Bread of life of faith.
But, in spite of whom we are, sometimes faithless and broken, sometimes we complain like the Israelites, God’s presence for us is everlasting and unshakeable; just as his presence for the faithless and whining Israelite in the desert, marked by various signs and provisions was unshakable. Indeed, even though Jesus, the new Moses knew that some of his followers were only interested in material food, his spiritual nourishment, words of love and encouragement were unshakeable. Christ recommended faith. He says,” Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life. This food is nothing else than Christ’s values, patience, endurance, forgiveness, hope, faith, love, the lamb of God and Bread of life. When you think of the components of this Mass from the beginning, with the sign of the cross, the " Lord Have Mercy (bread of forgiveness), the "Gloria," the Songs, the prayers, the readings, the homily, the Eucharistic Prayers, the Kiss of Peace, the Lord’s prayer and the communion, and the "go in peace the Mass is ended," then you have the content, the ingredients of this non perishable Bread of Life, bread of forgiveness, bread of love, bread of unity, bread of faith, bread of hope, bread of peace and bread of happiness.
Where do we look for this nonperishable bread? Where do we look for our happiness, outside the confines of the teachings of Christ and His Church? Modern difficulties may abound, mountains and deserts of faithlessness, futility and wrong choices may be there to cross, but all that the Lord requires of us is to keep on doing God’s works. And what is this God’s works? It is faith, and believing in Christ, and his real presence in the Holy Eucharist we celebrate, and the communion we receive. Each time we receive and participate at Mass, we participate and receive life who is Christ himself, the Bread of life. We receive the totality of life, blessings, healing, joy, love, and contentment which leads to true and eternal happiness.
Isn’t Christ saying to us today “Come to me, and believe in me, I am the nonperishable Bread of Life”!