Today’s gospel begins with Our Lord’s declaration: “I am the bread of life.” As is so often the case, Our Lord identifies himself with some commonplace earthly element: He is the light, he is the shepherd, he is the way, he is the vine.
In using these images from daily life, Our Lord does two things. First of all he upends our tendency to think we know what or whom we are talking about when we talk about God. These are not images we might choose to describe an all powerful, all knowing Deity. The other thing that Our Lord’s use of these images does is to make us see these features of our common experience in a new way.
This second point seems especially appropriate for our ecologically challenged age. The cleanup of many of the world’s rivers, lakes and oceans from pollution must concern us all. The restoration of the ozone layer, which is the only thing protecting us from the scorching rays of sunlight, must involve us all. The elimination of those pesticides that threaten our food supply must engage our efforts.
Given Our Lord’s identification with water, light and vines, should we be surprised that our survival depends upon our caring for them? Concern for creation is not just a civic duty; it’s also a spiritual mission.
And so as we continue the Mass, offering the bread and the wine that the earth has given us, let us pray that mankind’s efforts to preserve the integrity of the Earth will be blessed.