Have you ever felt small and insignificant? When we look at ourselves in light of the vastness of our universe, we realize that we really are quite small. For example, NASA estimates that there are somewhere between 200 to 400 billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. Our sun is just one of those many stars. NASA also estimates that there may be as many as 200 billion galaxies. A study by Yale astronomer Pieter van Dokkum estimated the total number of stars in the universe to be 300 sextillion. That’s the number 3 followed by 23 zeros. Our own sun is just one of those stars; and we live on a small planet that orbits around our sun. So in the grand scheme of things, we, as individuals, are really very small.
But as small and insignificant that we may appear, it is absolutely fascinating to think that the Creator of this incomprehensibly vast universe would come to this little planet of ours and become one of us. Why would He do that? You simply have to look up into the night sky to realize that we are nothing more than a speck of dust within the vastness of space.
Jesus came to earth and took upon Himself our humanity simply to assure us that we are not insignificant. On the contrary, He said that we were incredibly valuable. He told us that we were all sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. He assured us that even the hairs of our head have been numbered. He said that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without His Father’s consent, and that we were far more valuable than those sparrows. And He said that our ultimate home is not here on this planet or even within this universe. He said that we were destined to live eternally with Him and His Father, in a Kingdom that exists outside of this material world, in another dimension. And He said that only one thing was necessary for our admittance into that Kingdom and that this one thing is our faith, our faith in Him and our faith in His message. And He said that we were to live our life of faith, here on this earth, in communion with Him.
But what exactly does it mean to live our life in communion with Jesus? Before I answer that, I have to explain the fact that I like acronyms because they help me to remember things. You know, acronyms, like NASA, which stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. So in discussing what it means to live in communion with Jesus, remember the word NURSE, an acronym for the words Nourish, Union, Remember, Share and Eternity. Just as a mother nurses her newborn infant to prepare it for its life journey, so too does our Heavenly Father nurse us to prepare us for our journey to eternal life. To be in communion with Jesus is to allow ourselves to be Nursed by God.
“N” for nourish. In today’s Gospel Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” (Jn 6:48) We all know how normal food nourishes our bodies. The food we eat literally becomes us. Nutritionists remind us of this fact by saying, “You are what you eat”. But the Bread that Jesus offers is quite different. Saint Augustine once had a vision of Christ in which Jesus said, “You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me.” (Confessions of Saint Augustine, VII, 10, 18) Jesus nourishes us by His eternal presence, offering us the life-giving words of God reminding us of the ultimate purpose and meaning of our lives.
“U” is for union. In today’s Gospel Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draw him.” (Jn 6:44) We are not here today by accident. We are not a member of this community of believers by mere coincidence. We have been called. We have been drawn here by our Heavenly Father. Jesus used the example of a grapevine, saying that He was the vine and we were its branches. We are called to live our life in union with Christ, trusting in Him not only for our survival but also for our contributions to this world. Apart from Him we can do nothing. Apart from Him we would be as useful and productive as a branch cut from the vine.
“R” is for remember. In today’s Gospel Jesus said, “They shall be taught by God.” (Jn 6:45) That is an incredibly strong statement. Saint John Chrysostom once wrote, “Do you not see the dignity of faith? It is not of men nor by man, but by God Himself that they shall learn.” (Saint John Chrysostom Homily #46) Throughout our life we experience, we learn and we remember many things. But for those who respond to the call of their Heavenly Father and come to Jesus, their teacher is God Himself. By the grace and inspiration of God we remember Christ’s love, His unselfishness, and His life of sacrificial love for others.
“S” is for share. In our Gospel Jesus said, “Whoever believes has eternal life.” (Jn 6:47) This life in Christ, and the eternal life that it offers us, drives us to share this Good News with the rest of the world. I once read a story about a restaurant in London that was owned and operated by a man named Emil Mettler (Emil Mettler was a close friend of Albert Schweitzer and managed Schweitzer‘s business matters while he was in Africa as a medical missionary and humanitarian). Mr. Mettler would never allow a Christian pastor or missionary to pay for a meal in his restaurant. On one occasion, Mr. Mettler happened to open his cash register in the presence of the secretary of the London Missionary Society. The secretary was surprised to see that among the bills and coins was a six inch long nail. So the secretary asked, “What is that doing there?” To which Emil Mettler replied, ”I keep this nail with my money to remind me of the price that Christ paid for my salvation and what I owe Him in return.” We are called to share, not only the Good News of Salvation but also that which God has placed in our stewardship.
“E” is for eternity. Jesus said, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (Jn 6:51) The eternal life that Jesus offers is a free gift. It doesn’t cost us anything because the price has already been paid. All we have to do as individuals is to accept and embrace this life with Jesus that He offers. Walk with Him. Talk with Him. Share our life with Him. And trust in his eternal presence within us.
We may be a tiny speck in the vastness of space. But we are all beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. We will never be able to fully comprehend the mystery of the Trinity, but we do know that our God came to earth and became one of us, simply to NURSE us through this earthly life in order to prepare us for the eternal life he offers. May we all walk this earthly life of ours by faith in communion with Christ.
REVEREND MR. DONALD COX is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. On June 9, 1979, Deacon Don was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, an important American Father of the Second Vatican Council. He is currently assigned to St. Cornelius parish in Dryden, Michigan. Married and the father of three children and grandfather to four children, Deacon Don was born and raised in Detroit, and educated at St. Brigid Elementary School, Mackenzie High School, and Lawrence Technological University. His theological training was taken at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary.