New life for Christians, as Pope Benedict XVI said, takes a eucharistic form. We can see that happening year by passing year when we greet people at the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday itself.
We can feel how, raised from the dead and charged with the infinite vitality of his glorious life, the risen Jesus shares his love and spiritual energy through the Eucharist with all the faithful: the newly baptized, cradle Catholics, young and old.
"Life" is a magic word. We all want to live and live fully.
Innumerable advertisements promise customers a richer, more satisfying life. Buy this cell phone and "live beyond frontiers". Pay for this sports channel and "live the legend". Colour supplements present us with the glittering lifestyles of glamorous celebrities and try to make us desperate to follow them.
Advertisers know that we all hunger for a full and utterly worthwhile life. But what we buy, own and consume will never provide us with the true fullness of life and may leave us as dissatisfied as ever.
In his book "Jesus of Nazareth", Pope Benedict commented on the rich glutton in the parable of Dives and Lazarus: "His carousing was only an attempt to smother the interior emptiness" of his existence. Where is real life to be found? What will deliver us from our emptiness and truly satisfy us?
St. John identifies Jesus as the bread of life, even "Life" itself. That theme runs right through his Gospel. Just in case any reader may have missed the point, the Gospel clearly states its intentions at the end of the chapter in which the risen Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other disciples and conferred on them the vigorous power of the Holy Spirit:
"But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name" (Jn 20:31).
When Jesus showed himself gloriously alive to Mary Magdalene, Peter, Thomas and the rest, he transformed their existence. He changed their attitudes from despair to radiant hope and enlisted them in his mission of love and service to the whole world.
For us to experience the risen Jesus now in the Eucharist is to experience one who offers us dynamic life in abundance. He is the fullness of life, "Life" itself.
The promises made by commercials cannot be fulfilled. What we buy and own is not going to fill the emptiness of our hearts. Yet the commercials have the merit of reminding us vividly that we all yearn for life and the fullness of life.
Real life comes through experiencing Jesus in the Eucharist, receiving from him some of the vitality of his risen life, and sharing that with others.
Years ago Franco Zeffirelli directed the classic film "Jesus of Nazareth". One of its masterly features was the way Zeffirelli brought together for dramatic effect separate episodes from the life of Christ. He combined, for instance, the feeding of the 5,000 with Mary Magdalene finding Christ.
A memorable camera shot picked her out in the crowd as she bit on a hunk of bread before bursting into tears of joy.
With her hands tightly grasping the bread and her moist eyes fixed on Jesus, she knew that she had found the one who is life itself. Her hungry heart had found the one who promises: "Whoever comes to me will never hunger. I am the bread of life."
That scene from Zeffirelli’s film matched perfectly a line from a prize-winning hymn: "You satisfy the hungry heart." Yes, Jesus does satisfy our hearts fully and forever. When we come to him, we will never hunger. At every Eucharist and, above all, in our Easter liturgies, the risen Jesus shows himself to be utterly satisfying and totally fulfilling. He is charged with infinite vitality and a spiritual energy that can sweep away our lethargy.
This is what Jesus promises us: eternal life. It is his to give, because he is Life itself. With him and through him we can truly "live beyond frontiers" and live forever! -By Father Gerald O’Collins, SJ