Summary: Most important; however, is the need to be thankful for the spiritual food and the blessings it brings. We must always allow these blessings to draw us closer to God in faith, hope and love.
When I was doing the research for my homily, I came across a story that I think fits in quite well with this morning's Gospel reading, so I'd like to share it with you. It might also serve as a warning to those of us who preach sermons!
An elderly minister was searching in his closet for his collar one Sunday morning before church. In the back of the closet he found a box with three eggs and a stack of $1 bills. He asked his wife if she knew anything about the box. She said that she did, and in fact she had hidden it there for their entire 30 year marriage. The minister asked "Why". She replied, "Every time I heard you preach a bad sermon, I put an egg in the box". The minister felt that 3 bad sermons in 30 years wasn't anything to feel bad about, so he asked her about the stack of money. She replied, "Every time I got a dozen eggs, I sold them to the neighbours for $1 ".
Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life". Does that phrase cause images of cannibalism to run through your mind? It might.......if you are a person who, like most fundamentalist preachers, takes a literal interpretation of what the Bible says. However, as our former Rector Father Ken once said, you can't take the Bible literally. You have to remember the context of the times during which the books of the Bible were written.
Although the Jews took the phrase "bread of life" literally, it actually refers to the spiritual food offered by Christ. By eating the spiritual food, we will have eternal life because we gain faith through the spiritual food He offers. This spiritual food is offered through Christ's human nature, which He gave up on the Cross to pay the price for the sins of the world. Man needs to receive the Grace and Spirit of Christ in order to ensure salvation. Spiritual happiness on earth and in heaven are expressed by eating and drinking. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:13 that those who partake of the Holy Spirit are made to drink into (or of) the Holy Spirit. Christ is the Living Water which sustains all of us spiritually. If we drink that water, we will never be thirsty spiritually.
There is an interesting comparison that can be made here to the Holy Eucharist. The physical food of bread and wine represents the spiritual food that Christ offers when we have faith in Him, especially when we remember the words of the Prayer After Communion as printed in the Book of Common Prayer-"...the spiritual food of the most precious body and blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, assuring us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us". By consuming the bread and wine, we are in effect partaking of His divine nature, so therefore we live in Him and He lives in us. When we eat Him and feed on Him and His words, we enjoy spiritual freedom.
When we find that God really cares about freedom, we are then free to care about the freedom of others. The love of God satisfies our hunger and thirst for love when we have faith in Him. When that hunger and thirst are satisfied, we begin to experience a glorious love for others, and we can then follow the Golden Rule-"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". When we partake of the spiritual food in faith, we can then go out and do our part to fulfill the Great Commission-"Go forth into the world and make disciples of all the nations". We fulfill this role by sharing God's love in practical ways such as volunteering in our church or community, or by helping the less fortunate as we do when we donate non-perishable items to the local food bank. When we are satisfied with God's love, we have assurance of eternal life, and when we eat the spiritual food, we are energized and charged by the love of God.
The phrase "bread of life" is an echo of the phrase " the living God", a reflection of Christ's divinity. There is support here for self-giving like Christ gave His life for us, but the life He offered for us on the Cross can only come from God. God is love, so the spiritual food God wants to give is the Love of God. Jesus is the love of God made visible. Like John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...". To ensure eternal life, we must do three things:
• Continue to feed off of His body-that is, to keep partaking of the spiritual food He offers