‘[T]he one who eats this bread will live forever’ (John 6:58)
Most of us harbor a fair amount of fear deep within us. It’s almost as though we’re worriers by our very nature. Life might be good right now, but what if all our friends suddenly wise up and take off? We work hard and we save, but what if the Great Depression suddenly comes back with a vengeance? What if we lose our jobs and we never find others? What if we’re the victims of road rage or identity theft or swine flu? What if we’re abducted by space aliens? Many of us live with constant anxiety over all the bad things that might happen to us.
Psychologists tell us that regardless of how it’s immediately manifested, the real source of much of our anxiety is uneasiness about our mortality. Our worries about bad things that might befall us, that is, are actually fear of the worst that can possibly happen to us — we’re going to die. And indeed, over and over again in the scriptures, fear is the result of people knowing that their time on this earth is short.
In today ‘s gospel, Jesus addresses our fear of dying head on — and he provides a solution to it. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever,” he assures us, “and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51). “Very truly, I tell you,” the Lord continues, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day” (6:53-54). He concludes with this absolute assurance: “[T]he one who eats this bread will live forever” (6:58).
All who partake of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist receive a powerful antidote to the constant anxiety in which others are constrained to live their lives. We who are nourished by the risen Savior already share in his risen, eternal life. For us, therefore, the “worst” that can possibly happen in any situation is that we inherit eternal life in the kingdom. And that’s not a bad prospect at all. In fact, it’s rather compelling. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews puts it like this: Christ rose from the grave in order to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death” (2:15). And so he has. Nourished regularly by his resurrected body, we need only to live out that truth.
Look it Up
Where can you find in the scriptures examples of people’s fear being related to dying?
Think About It
What is the value of celebrating the Eucharist at a Christian funeral?