For the Life of the World
‘Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. (…) I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
Welcome to the seventh reflection in this series on purpose!
Over the years, I have heard several accounts of ‘near-death experiences’ (NDE). Someone dies, or is dying, but then regains consciousness and can relate what they have seen and heard. My response to these accounts has ranked somewhere between agnostic and sceptical. But it feels different when a friend has such an experience.
Jeremy’s health had been deteriorating for a while but one day his wife found him slumped over a chair, not breathing and without a pulse. She called for an ambulance and the medical crew were able to resuscitate him. ‘When I was dead’, Jeremy recounts, ‘I saw amazing scenes’. One of them was a dark, stony, barren terrain. On the horizon, he could see a mighty wall with an enormous gate standing ajar. In the gap stood a lamb, which he recognized as the Lamb of God. From that lamb flowed a light and energy full of goodness. He felt the urge to run towards the lamb. But at the point, he found himself in a ward at his local hospital.
Happily, I find I am not preoccupied trying to work out if Jeremy’s visions could possibly be ‘true’. This is because, as a friend, I trust him. But it is also because the NDE has clearly ignited Jeremy’s sense of purpose. This is remarkable because in the hospital he needed to undergo major surgery that has terminated his career.
Although Jeremy’s life will now be very different, he is already working out how he can still serve others because (as today’s reading above reminds us) God offered up his own life ‘for the life of the world’. He will one day die again, like those who ate manna in the wilderness. But having eaten of the bread of life, Jeremy’s aim is to share that bread in ways that will nourish the life of the world. Whatever exactly happened to him after his collapse, Jeremy has found what on earth he is here for.
Peter S Heslam, Assistant Priest.