Eternal Life is found in Jesus Christ:19th Sunday
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni –
Theme: Eternal Life is found in Jesus Christ-Just believe in Christ you have eternal food
Point of reflection: The second Scriptural reading says: walk in love just as Christ. In this life what am I walking with? What am I living with? Where do I turn to nourish my faith and love? What is my bread of eternal life? The Scriptural readings of today point to such reality that Jesus Christ is the eternal bread of life:
First Reading: 1 Kings 19:4–8
Psalm: Psalm 34:2–9
Second Reading: Ephesians 4:30–5:2
Gospel: John 6:41–51
Sermon (Reflection): The Biblical reflection of the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Sunday continues to reflect on the Bread of Life as the nourishment of life. But today’s Scriptural readings is reminding the people of God that as we are on this earthly journey we need eternal bread and the Eternal Life is found in Jesus Christ.
There is only one requirement, thus, just to believe in Christ and follow His teaching. In our Christian daily living, we need the bread of life to nourish our faith.
The first Scriptural reading (Cf. 1 Kings 19:4–8) presents the prophet Elijah at the point of a breakdown. While Elijah gave up on God, on his mission, and on himself, God did not. In our Christian life too, in one way or another, we have reached the point of breakdown and given up as Prophet Elijah, but as faithful Christians, we should not give up because God does not give up on us. God is with us throughout our entire life.
In the reading passage, the angel brought bread and water to the despondent prophet, who was commanded to eat and drink. His restoration began with the strengthening of his body. But physical strength alone was insufficient, and Elijah returned to his gloomy slumber. In his second appearance, the angel again brought food, but also commanded the prophet to undertake a journey to God’s holy mountain.
Our bread and water as Christians is Jesus Christ as He said “I am the bread of Life”. Our holy mountain today is our places of worship, it is our Churches and our chapels. It is by going to Church and reading the Word of God that we revitalize our bodies and energise our spiritual life.
The recount of the first reading story highlights how God sustained and renewed the prophet. This renewal began with the provision of ordinary food for the body, continued with the awakening of a new hope, and concluded with the divine encounter which restored the prophet’s faith and gave him a new purpose. God restored the prophet to life through nourishing his body, and by giving him hope and faith. Today too as Christians, we need to awaken our hope and receive Jesus as the eternal bread of life.
The second Scriptural reading from Ephesians (Cf.Ephesians 4:30–5:2) continues to focus on remaining faithful to the unique Christian identity, which requires a clear and decisive choice. Once made, that choice must be upheld in the face of adversity and challenges coming in various forms. Life in the community poses just such a challenge.
St Paul names six forms of harmful behaviour which damage relationships between the community members. Bitterness, wrath, anger, quarrels, slander, and malice, all severely weaken the community, and make life difficult for its members.
This is a point of reflection to our own communities in which we live, it may be our biological families or religious families, what kind of behaviours do we have that can help us receive Jesus Christ as the eternal bread of life? Is it bitterness, wrath, anger, quarrels, slander, and malice? This is a soul searching question to our Christian families and communities.
St Paul tells us that, they “grieve” the Holy Spirit, whose “seal” is the mark of a true Christian. As Christians, what are we grieving for? The wrongs that undermine the harmony in the community weaken Christian identity of its members.
Such a situation grieves the Holy Spirit because it undermines the work of the Spirit in its midst. As Christians we need to have a true mark of a true Christian, thus, walking in love of Christ.
In the Gospel of today (Cf. John 6:41-51), we encounter two important phrases: “the bread from heaven” and “I am the bread of life”.
First, Jesus claims to be “the bread from heaven”, and the listeners “murmured”; like the disgruntled Israelites in the desert, they were unhappy. Jesus responded citing the prophetic word stating that God’s true people are taught by God. He implied that His listeners were either not God’s people, or that they resisted God’s instructions.
All those who hear God’s voice recognise Jesus as coming from the Father. Those who do not, obviously do not allow themselves to be “drawn by the Father” to Jesus. Where do you belong? Food for thought and reflection.
Jesus truthfully represents the Father because He has seen the Father (Cf. John 1:18). Therefore, to believe in Jesus Christ as the one sent by the Father means seeing in Him the promised saviour and the source of eternal life. This message lays the foundation for the second part of the gospel passage which says “I am the bread of life”.
The second part begins with Jesus’ captivating statement, “I am the bread of life”. He proceeds to contrast Himself with another type of “bread from heaven” – manna. Manna fed the Israelites in the desert, it came from trees and sustained earthly life. Jesus provides a qualitatively different kind of nourishment that comes from God and brings heavenly life.
To possess this life, one needs to “eat” this new bread, but what exactly is it? Jesus describes it as his flesh given for the life of the world. Undoubtedly, he refers to his death on the cross, which opened the way to eternal life. One must immediately remember John 3:14, where Jesus summarised His entire mission, stating that he was sent by God to die in order to bring life to the people.
Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross becomes a nourishment that makes a person alive in a new and enduring way. Thus, Jesus Himself, in His salvific mission which encompassed His ministry, death, and resurrection, is the nourishment for everlasting life. Jesus Christ is my Eternal Bread.
Christian Act in Word of God “Jesus Christ my Eternal Bread”
The body requires physical food, but human life is about much more than sustaining the body. To continue with his prophetic mission, Elijah needed the nourishment of hope and faith, which an encounter with God provided. In Ephesus, the Christian community wrestling with internal frictions, was reminded that to live out their calling they need the sustaining force of Christ-like love.
Created in the likeness of God and immortal, humanity lost this extraordinary gift. Jesus restored it by defeating death by his sacrifice on the cross. Doing so, he became the true bread of life – the nourishment that sustains life that even death is powerless to extinguish. He invites all to reach for this divine food, an invitation that could be paraphrased with the words of the Psalmist, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.”
It is easy to lose the sense of how special we are by the virtue of being disciples and followers of Jesus. Many Christians today prefer to hide who they are, or, at least, not to manifest it publicly. Yet, our Christian identity must shine through who we are, and how we behave.
As in the case of the Ephesian community, knowing what we have received and what our destiny is, can and will empower us. It will make us “make a difference” in the world by the power and working of the Spirit in us.
The question we can reflect in our hearts is that, can I make a difference? But we must not shy away from who we are, and we must be able to acknowledge it publicly. This sense of our identity and dignity, may, and will, give us nourishment and strength to grow and develop as Jesus’ disciples.
Jesus reminds us today that He himself nourishes us as “the bread from heaven”. This statement has many implications. On the very essential level, it means that we must be nourished by him in order to live a life that will lead us to heaven.
Therefore, before we undertake any task in life, or make even a small decision, we must make it thinking of Jesus, his example, and his teaching. When we do this, he will indeed play a nourishing and sustaining role in our lives. When so nourished, we will never lack the true life, a life that flourishes on earth and will bear fruit in eternal life.
As Jesus Christ is our eternal bread then we need to live by virtues. St Paul identifies virtues that build up a good Christian community. He identifies kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness as the practices that cement unity among the members. However, the author’s key exhortation is to imitate God through the practice of love.
Love crowns and encapsulates all other virtues, and makes those who practice it God’s children. Sacrificing himself out of love, Christ provided the best example of love.
Like him, the faithful ought to live a life of self-sacrifice, through which they build up themselves and their communities.
Sustaining Christian life is not a matter of mechanical observance of rules, but a matter of love. That self-sacrificial love which was in Christ and gave life to the world, sustains and nourishes Christian communities as well.
Action: I will live and proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Bread of Life.
Prayer: Almighty Father, You have given us your only-begotten Son as the only Eternal Bread of Life. Lord, open our hearts and minds to receive Christ as the Bread of Life as we progress on this earthly journey. Make us good instruments of Your Word of love to others. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever, Amen