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Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Jn. 6:51-58

Some people have dreamed about finding the secret of living forever. When we are at our best, with minds at their sharpest and our hopes highest, we might long for immortality. In those hours, there are certain qualities within our lives, certain relationships we have forged, certain dreams that we would like to see last forever.

This is the aspiration to which Jesus addresses Himself when He says, "I am the living bread come down from Heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he shall live forever." What is our Lord saying? There are two things we need to understand. One is that when He spoke of His Body and Blood, He was talking about His total life, the way that He lived and the way that He died. This is what we celebrate when we partake of the Eucharist. Secondly, when He spoke of living forever, He did not mean that we could avert the physical experience of dying. He, Himself, died; and so will we.

So what did Jesus have in mind when He said, "If anyone eats this bread, he shall live forever"? Quite obviously, He was talking about a quality of life that is so eternally real and right that not even death can destroy it. This was how He lived; this was the meaning of His resurrection. There was a quality in His life that could out last anything, even death. The beautiful thing is that we can share that life. What were those qualities in the life of Jesus that transcended death and have now endured for almost 2,000 years?

The first and most obvious is love. We need to hear that. We need to remind ourselves of that. At times it appears in our world that hatred and ill-will are the dominant and enduring themes, with terrorism an ever-present threat. What chance has love in this world?

But what chance has anything other than love?! Much more than a lovely ideal, love is our one and only hope. We may contain violence and hatred with guns for a time, but we can never wipe them out. Bullets and bombs are powerless to destroy an idea. The only answer to hatred is love. The surest and best and most permanent way to conquer your enemy is to make him your friend. This is because violence only breeds violence. That cycle must be broken and it can only be broken by love. There is only one solution to this world's dilemma of lawlessness and war, and that is for people to learn to live together as neighbours and friends. So when Jesus exhorted his listeners to “love one another and do good to those who hate you” He was more than a starry-eyed dreamer - He was a realist. In this world of ours, there is nothing else that endures, nothing else that really works.

There is one other quality in life that lasts, and that is service. One of the ironies of history is the durability of Jesus of Nazareth. Try as it might, the world has not been able to forget Him. When He was born, Augustus Caesar ruled the world. When He died, Tiberius was Emperor in Rome. They were both powerful but Jesus, a nobody from a carpenter's shop who never possessed station nor rank, almost unknown among His contemporaries and hated by the leaders of Judea who had Him die on a cross, was the One who conquered the hearts and minds of millions in the following centuries. How strange! And the only possible explanation of this is that He was Whom He said He was. The purpose of His life was to serve; He measured greatness in terms of loving and helping people.

The book written about the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount continues to be the world's best seller. What He taught still endures - and will endure forever. The only quality of life that really lasts is service.

Lord Jesus, You said, "I am the true bread come down from Heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever." Yours is the kind of life that death can never destroy, for it is built on the two enduring qualities of love and service. If we eat Your Body and drink Your Blood we can claim those qualities for our own.

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