Tuesday April 16, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Easter
Reading (Acts 7:51-8:1a) Gospel (St. John 6:30-35)
Our Lord tells us this morning that the bread of God is that which comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world. Then He goes on to say, "I Myself am the bread come down from Heaven." He is the One who gives life to the world. The people, realize now, had just seen Him multiply the loaves. He had fed them and walked across the water. Then the people come to Him and say, "What kind of sign are you going to show us? What are you going to do so that we can believe? Our fathers had manna in the desert." They had just had the multiplication of the loaves and had their fill. But the Lord had already told them that they were not seeking Him because they saw "signs and wonders", which is a technical term. It is not just an idea that something important had happened, but it goes back to the Old Testament times, particularly the ten plagues. Those were called signs and wonders - they were from God. So when Our Lord says, "You are seeking Me because you had your fill of the loaves, not because you saw signs and wonders," they were looking merely on a natural level. They were completely missing what God had done.
Now He tells them, "It was not Moses who gave your fathers manna in the desert; it was God who gave them manna in the desert." But they completely missed that as well. God is once again feeding them with bread from Heaven, but they do not see it; all they see is something which is natural. It is the Lord. That is what we have to be able to see: that it is Jesus Christ, and Him alone, Who gives life to the world generically, and Who gives life to each one of us individually. There is no life apart from Him. He makes that very clear: "I am the vine and you are the branches. You have no life in you if you are not connected to the vine." He even goes so far as [to say] (which we will read in the next couple of days), "Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." He is the One who has come down from Heaven to give life. He came that we would have life and have it to the full.
But that is not what our society recognizes. Our society says life to the full is more materialism, more money, more ease, more comfort - more self. That is all we are interested in: self, self, self. That is the problem. That is what these people had. They had their bellies filled. They totally missed God because they looked at themselves. What about us? Jesus makes it very clear: "I Myself am the bread come down from Heaven." And He is the One who gives life to the world.
It is not that we deny Him present in the Eucharist. The question is "Do we deny that He is the One who gives life to our souls?" Not, again, denying the theological principle, we all know that it is true and we would all acknowledge it. But practically speaking, do we recognize it? Practically speaking, "Do we live it?" is what the real question is. We know it is true, but does it really make a difference to us? Or are we just like the people that Stephen was talking to today? He said, "Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They foretold the coming of the Righteous One and you killed them." If we refuse to accept the life that Jesus offers, all we are doing is killing Him; we are not accepting Him in our lives. Intellectually and objectively, we accept the truth, but if we do not accept this subjectively and really allow Him to be the life of our soul - that He is the One who gives us life and that it is His life that should be living in us and through us - then we are killing the Righteous One, no better than the people 2,000 years ago and all of those who lived before. So we need to look very seriously at this issue.
He is the bread that God gives so that we can eat and have life, but if we do not allow His life to be found in ours, then we have completely missed what it is that He has come for. He has come to give us life and give it to the full. Do we want that life? Do we desire that life? Are we willing to die to self so that we can live for Him? Are we willing to let our own life go, our natural life, so that we can have supernatural life? That is what is being offered to us. We cannot do this the worldly way, and we cannot do it our own way; there is only one way. It is not any man who gives us life; it is God Who sent bread from Heaven, and the bread from Heaven is Jesus Christ, Who gives life to our souls.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.