by Father Mike Stubbs
Where are you on the food chain?
The prey gets eaten by a predator, which in turn gets eaten by the next one up on the food chain. Eventually, everyone gets eaten, except presumably the one at the top of the food chain.
Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jn 6:51-58, outlines another kind of chain: the chain of life. It is very different, even though it also involves food.
In this chain, the order of events moves downward and ends with us on the bottom. And it all starts with God.
God is the source of life, because God is living. As the Gospel points out: “the living Father sent me.” Next, the Gospel tells us that Jesus is living because of God: “I have life because of the Father.”
In turn, that enables Jesus to be “the living bread that came down from heaven.” Finally, this living bread gives life to the one who eats it: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
The Eucharist links us to this chain of life. That is why it is so important. It leads us to God’s own life.
In considering this chain of life, we should remember that God is the one who takes the initiative. God reaches out to us through Jesus Christ to bring us life. It is up to us to respond to that offer, to accept that gift. It is ours for the taking. But it all begins with God.
It is possible to place obstacles that prevent this transmission of life to us. If we do not direct our hearts toward God, if we take God for granted, we can interfere with the flow of grace.
Eating the Eucharist is not magic. It requires our prayerful attention for it to be fruitful and productive for us.
Above all, it requires our faith. As Jesus said in the Gospel reading on Aug. 5: “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
We should also note that this life that God offers us involves far more than the indefinite extension of our biological life.
We sometimes think of eternal life and the resurrection from the dead in those terms. But this Gospel passage makes it clear that the life that God offers us means a sharing in God’s own life, the life that the Father and the Son enjoy.
Our physical selves yearn for biological life. On the other hand, our spirits yearn for something more — the very life of God.
And that is what the Bread of Life gives us.