All week long we have been reading from John's chapter 6, the discourse on the Bread of Life, the Eucharist.
“I am the bread of life.”
Do you want to live forever? How much would you pay for eternal life? I did an Internet search for the words “how to live forever” and got almost 52 million hits! Some people are going to great lengths to try and live forever, from having their dead bodies frozen in liquid nitrogen in hopes of future revival, to developing gene therapy that short-circuits the aging process. Perhaps a better question is: where do you want to live forever? Do you want to live forever on an earth filled with suffering and sadness, or do you want eternal life with God in the perfect happiness of heaven?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us: “This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die…. whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus is telling us the secret of eternal life, the secret that so many desperate people are paying huge amounts of money to discover. It’s ironic and a little sad to see them go to such extraordinary lengths to get something that Jesus offers us freely. It’s like excavating a field to dig up a treasure that was sitting in plain sight. As Jesus tells us in this Gospel, faith is the key that unlocks the door to this treasure: “. . .whoever believes has eternal life.”
It takes faith to believe that the bread Jesus gives us is actually his Body and Blood, his “Flesh for the life of the world.” But when we receive the Eucharist with faith, Jesus gives us a pledge of eternal life. If we want to live forever, we don’t need to have our body frozen after death, or to undergo gene therapy. We only need to turn to Jesus with faith, eat his Body and drink his Blood, and after death he will meet us with open arms.