(JOHN CHAPTER 6: 22-36)
By Fr. Charles Schneider SVD
In the 6th Chapter of St. John's Gospel where Jesus Christ reveals Himself as the Living Bread come down from heaven. We have witnessed those two wonderful signs: the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the miracle of Christ's walking on the sea and calming the storm. Now the crowd of thousands of people seeks and finds Jesus in the town of Capernaum.
First of all Jesus points out to the people that they are not seeking Him for the right reasons. They do not know Him or understand Him. They are looking to Him for material goods and advantages. He tells them clearly that He is offering them a special food from God the Father in heaven. They should not seek for food that perishes, but for food that endures unto eternal life. This is the kind of food that He wants to give them.
So the people ask what they are to do to get this spiritual food. Jesus tells them that if they want to receive this spiritual food, they must believe in Him. Now they ask Him to give some sign to prove that He is a Prophet like Moses who gave their fathers the manna in the desert. Then Jesus tells them that they must come to know who He really is. He asserts that He is a Person greater than the Prophet Moses and that He is offering them Bread or spiritual food that is much greater than the manna their Fathers ate in the desert.
Jesus said to them: "I solemnly assure you, it was not Moses who gave you bread from the heavens. It is my Father who gives you the real heavenly bread. God's bread comes down from heaven and gives life to the world... ....I myself am the bread of life. No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry; no one who believes in me shall thirst again "
With these words we come to know the essence and the nature of our Christian faith. Our faith is not merely giving assent to a whole range of teachings that God has revealed. Faith summons us to a personal relationship with Christ whom we look upon and trust as our Way, our Truth and our Life, that is, our all and everything. So when Jesus says: l am the Bread of Life, he's telling us that He as a person is absolutely necessary for us and our all-embracing need. Simply put, Jesus is the sustaining and nourishing food of the Christian life.
We are being challenged by Jesus to move beyond the physical hungers of everyday needs to the deeper quests of the human spirit, that is, to search for the true and lasting Bread. This word of Scripture is a call to faith: to believe in Jesus; to enter into an enduring relationship with Him that involves leaving behind the old, corrupt ways of thinking. Faith means dying with Christ to self-centered thinking and to journey to God's Kingdom with Him. Without this Bread that is Jesus, our lives will fall apart. This is what Christ's homily is all about: making the connection between our personal relationship with Jesus and the experiences of our everyday life. And the primary source of what we believe is the sacred Word of Scripture.
(JOHN CHAPTER 6; 41 - 51)
The Jews started to murmur in protest because Jesus claimed- "l am the bread that came down from heaven." They kept saying: "Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? How can he claim to have come down from heaven?
"Stop your murmuring," Jesus told them. "No one can come to me unless the Father who Sent me draws him. I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets: 'They shall all be taught by God'. Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father — only the one who is from God has seen the Father. Let me firmly assure you. HE WHO BELIEVES HAS ETERNAL LIFE. I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, for a man to eat and never die. I MYSELF AM THE LIVING BREAD COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, foreman to eat and never die. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
I can only say, this gospel you just listened to is terrific! Jesus says: He who believes has eternal life. Then He says: I am the Bread of life. Then He repeats saying even more emphatically: I am the living Bread come down from heaven. No wonder the people murmured. These are words that only a God could say. In explaining to them Jesus tells them that they do not really know him. They know him only as the son of Joseph, a poor and simple carpenter. They must get to know him and believe in him as a divine Person.
My friends, the bread, the food in our spiritual lives is the Word of God in the Scriptures, Scripture, the living and life-giving Word of God has a way of showing us how God enters into our lives and acts on our difficult human situations. There are many ways in which we can take up Holy Scripture and make it the daily bread of our spiritual life. Many of our Catholics today assemble weekly in little groups to share and study the Scriptures. They are nourished thereby and their lives are transformed by the word of God. And Mother Church offers us a magnificent menu of this spiritual food and drink in the readings of Holy Scripture that she places before us from day to day in Holy Mass. You will also find these readings in a daily Missal, Take up these readings. As Jesus says, you will be taught by God and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me.
In this gospel when Jesus speaks of Himself as the bread of life, He is referring to Himself as God's revealing Word. He is the Bread to satisfy our deepest hungers of life and the insatiable thirsts of the Spirit. Later on in His instruction He will speak of His presence in the Bread of the Eucharist. He feeds our faith with the bread of His Word before He nourishes our souls with His own Flesh and Blood. Therefore we have two tables in our Holy Mass: one for the liturgy of the Word; the other for the sacrificial meal.
When we read the Scriptures we must make the connection between the Word of faith and the experiences of our everyday life. That is connecting God's story with our story. This enables us to read the book of our everyday life in the light of the revealed book, the Bible. Thus in our Holy Masses we first attend to the table of the Word. The story of God's marvelous deeds is retold. Our memory is activated and our faith is nourished with the Bread of God's Word, In this way Jesus is for us the living Bread that came down from heaven, Jesus will go on to tell us that we must eat His Bread and drink His Blood in the Eucharist.
(JOHN CHAPTER 6: 60-69)
Many of the disciples of Jesus remarked: " This sort of talk is hard to endure! How can anyone take it seriously?" Jesus was fully aware that his disciples were murmuring in protest at what he had said. (So Jesus asked them): “Does it shake your faith? What then if you were to see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words I spoke to you are spirit and life. Yet among you there are some who do not believe." (Jesus knew from the start, of course, the ones who refused to believe, and the one who would hand him over.) He went on to say: "This is why I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father."
From this time on, many of his disciples broke away and would not remain in his company any longer. Jesus then said to the Twelve: “'Do you want to leave me too?" Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, to whom shad we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe, and we are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
Thomas Merton, the noted spiritual writer, says that the reading of Scripture should have a disturbing effect on us. By this he means to say that we are to take the biblical words seriously so that they truly affect our way of living and acting. Christ's teaching of Himself as the Bread of Life and the Eucharistic Bread that is to be eaten, certainly had a disturbing effect on His hearers. His teaching causes division. Some find His teaching hard and intolerable and so they reject it. Others believe and accept it. In our present day the same thing is constantly taking place. Many people cannot accept Christ and walk away from him.
Jesus hears their murmuring and complaining and, as He watches them walk away, He makes a final plea for their understanding. "Does this disturb you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend where he was before?" It is as if Jesus said: "If you cannot believe what I am saying now, how will you be able to believe when you see me suffer and die, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven." This will be a much greater obstacle to faith in Jesus.
Then Jesus continues: "It is spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” With these words, do not think that Jesus is now changing His teaching about eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood - as if His words were to be taken as merely symbolical. To judge according to the flesh is to judge by external features. The point Jesus is making is that without the help of the Spirit a person is only 'flesh', and cannot open himself to faith in him. To believe, we must have the grace of the Spirit; for as Jesus said previously: "No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father."
The drama of this gospel scene continues. Jesus himself challenges His Apostles and asks them directly to decide whether they truly believe in him now that He has given them this revelation of himself, or whether they also want to walk away. They were His closest companions. Peter is the spokesman for them all, and makes a powerful profession of faith: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we believe. We have come to know that you are the Holy One of God." In replying Jesus demonstrates that He is aware of the fact that one of the Twelve does not believe in him. It is the evangelist who tells us that this one is Judas.
Like Peter we now stand before Christ and declare: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. You are the living Bread come down from heaven. We believe that we eat your Body and drink your Blood under the appearances of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist. And we believe and proclaim your true, real, and living presence here in the Blessed Sacrament of this altar. Amen.