That we may have and give life

Al Cariño
18th Sunday in OT
Reproduced with Permission

A story is told of two long lost friends who bumped into each other in a restaurant. Excitedly they got a table and ordered some food and drinks. They reminisced on their daring exploits in their youth and the secrets they shared together. Then they got serious and one said to the other, "You know, for many years now, I have been doing scholarly research, specifically on religion. In the end, I came to the conclusion that God does not exist, and, consequently, there is no life hereafter. Thus my rule of life now is: `Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow I die.'"

Many would wish that this were true. For if there is no God, then everything goes, that we can do what we want without being accountable to anyone, without being saddled by moral do's and don'ts in the end. However, our better self tells us something else. Deep within us, something tells us that our quest is for true and lasting happiness. This is especially true since our experiences of happiness are far apart and shortlived. Furthermore, deep within us we know that only God can make us truly and fully happy.

We see in the gospel that when the people wanted to make Jesus king after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, He fled from them. But they followed Him to the other side of the lake (Jn. 6:24-35). Jesus saw through their enthusiasm for Him: "You are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." Nonetheless, He took the opportunity to teach them to seek for what is truly significant: "You should not be working for perishable food but for food that remains unto life eternal, food which the Son of Man will give you."

Reacting to this statement, some in the crowd recalled to Jesus the manna God gave as food to their ancestors in the desert and which they expected God to give to them again. Jesus did not disappoint them though He told them to seek a new manna, "the true bread from heaven" which "gives life to the world." This bread was not a something but a Someone since it gives life. And when they said, "Sir, give us this bread always," Jesus declared, "I myself am the bread of life. No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall thirst again."

Jesus knows that we are looking for lasting, in fact everlasting, happiness. But we do not know where to find it. Not finding it within us, we seed it outside of ourselves -- in vain. Now Jesus is telling us that it is not money or pleasure or fame or all of them put together -- things outside of us -- that can make us happy. Rather, it is "to believe in the one he (the Father) has sent."

The first prerequisite in receiving the "true bread which gives life" is to believe in Jesus Who has offered us a share of His body, broken on the cross, and of His blood, poured out in death -- the Bread of Life. And for us to share in His divine life, we are to partake of Him and then offer ourselves in the service of others. This is Jesus' prescription for our true happiness. Obviously, this entails pain and suffering as it is a call for the gift of self. But what self-giving does not? The dictum "No pain, no gain" applies more so in the service of others.

One way of testing this is by recalling some moments when we felt really happy. Is it when we have received much or when we have given something of ourselves? When is a mother happiest? Is it when she receives much or when she gives not only of what she has but of herself to her family and loved ones? For example, when her child gets sick say with dengue fever which is getting prevalent again, she spends sleepless nights beside him and attending to his every need -- feeding him, applying a cold compress on his feverish forehead, singing him to sleep, etc. And what happiness she experiences when her child is finally restored to health!

It is people who share what they have and of themselves who are happy. Even in this life, those who do so are blest with gratitude, love and true friends. On the other hand, those who seek only their own satisfaction, those who believe that money can buy everything including happiness, are not only unhappy but are also often lonely. For they are perceived as hard, demanding and self-centered. Thus they are avoided rather than sought, feared rather than loved. Indeed, they are without true friends.

Jesus gave His life that we may have life, eternal life. He became bread for us and later told us, "Do this in memory of me" so that after we partake of Him, we too may become bread for others by sharing what we have and of ourselves, by being "bread of life", broken and shared to and for others. In short, we are to become Eucharist so that through us others may have life, too.