Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
(Acts 8:26-40; John 6:44-51)
“I shall not live until I have seen God, and when I have seen him, I shall never die.” The seventeenth century mystic John Donne wrote these words to profess not only his belief in the resurrection of the dead but also his wariness about earthly life. Here, he goes on to say, we see but appearances; in seeing God we will know all things as they truly are. In today’s gospel Jesus draws a similar distinction between the manna which the ancestors of the Jews ate in the desert and the true bread of life.
The Jews seek sustenance. They tire from getting up every day to perform back-breaking work just to put bread on the table. They remember the story of the Israelites being fed with manna and see in Jesus a comparable source of food. Of course, Jesus knows that they chiefly desire to satisfy their hunger so he challenges them to see all food as only a sign of what gives eternal sustenance. You have to eat my Flesh, he says, to really have your eternal needs met. He means that they have to believe in him – to accept that he has come from God and to love each other.
We come to receive the Eucharist. When it is offered to us, we say, “Amen,” I believe. We must understand that we are committing ourselves to him. We believe that he is God and that heeding his command to love – not just in words but with deeds – will lead us beyond our wants into eternal life.