Sunday, August 19
By Bernadette Gibson
I suspect I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed and falls in to the checklist of responsibilities that has become our lives. We might be fine and busy, getting our work done, meeting deadlines and commitments, fulfilling obligations, volunteering our time, and loving and caring for our families, but there is a difference, a vast difference, between doing life and having life within us.
Doing life or having life; that’s the issue Jesus is concerned about. That’s the focus of today’s gospel. It is important enough that it has been the subject of the last several Sundays of gospel readings. Each week has brought us closer to the unspoken question behind today’s gospel: Is there life within you? The question pushes us to discover the hunger within us and the life Jesus wants to feed us. That’s what Jesus has been after these last few weeks. Three weeks ago, 5000 hungry people showed up. They were fed with five loaves and two fish. They didn’t understand. They thought it was about loaves and fish. It was really about life and where life comes from. Two weeks ago Jesus challenged us to consider the bread we eat. Is it perishable bread or does it endure to eternal life? Last week Jesus declared himself to be the bread of life, the living bread that came down from heaven.
Today he says, “Eat me. Drink me.” This is the only way we ever have life within us. Jesus is very clear and blunt about it. His flesh is true food and his blood is true drink. Jesus thought that talking about that most basic and necessary of foods, bread, would give them an idea of how knowing and believing in him as the Son of God would feed their souls and repair their broken relationship with their Creator.
Jesus is talking about more than just physical or biological life. He’s talking about that life that is beyond words, indescribable, and yet we know it when we taste it. We get a taste of it when we love so deeply and profoundly that everything about us dies, passes away, and somehow we are more fully alive than ever before. Sometimes everything seems to fit together perfectly and all is right with the world; not because we got our way but because we knew ourselves to be a part of something larger, more beautiful, and more holy than anything we could have done on our own. We were tasting life. There are moments when time stands still and we wish the moment would never end. In that moment we are in the flow, the wonder, and the unity of life, and it tastes good.
Most of us spend a fair amount of time, energy, and prayer trying to create and possess the life we want. In spite of our best efforts sometimes we live less than fully alive. Sometimes the outside and inside of who we are don’t match up. We ask ourselves, “What am I doing with my life?” We wonder if this is all there will ever be. We must realize that to receive Christ is to allow him to act first. Therefore, we must be willing to trust Christ and open ourselves to receiving the gifts he provides. This is much easier said than done because this trust calls us to surrender control of our lives to God. We have a constant desire to be in control of our lives in order to protect ourselves, but we must recognize that Christ has no room to enter into our lives if we do not release this need for control. In the Eucharist, bread and wine are the elements that provide our spiritual nourishment and nurture our faith in God.
The God who loves us doesn’t want to be held at arm’s length. But rather the very opposite. God wants to be seen. Jesus is to be eaten and drunk. The very opposite of obscuring him is the amazing intimacy with which this language expresses what is a proper relationship to him. “We have come to know and to believe the love which God has for us. God is love and the one who abides in love abides in God. And God abides in him.”
The remedy for a busy life is for all of us to rest in God. In these last days of summer let us contemplate God in the beauty of the sunrise, the voice of the Scriptures, and the nourishment of the Eucharist. One of the greatest challenges that we encounter is our inability to see and to listen to God. Ultimately cultivating silence and slowing down is simply about nurturing our souls. Perhaps we would do well to slow down, to hand it over to God, to trust in God’s promises, and to allow God to feed us.
Bernadette Gibson is the Director of Pastoral Care at Old Saint Pat’s.