1) Opening prayer
you draw all people to you
who believe in your Son Jesus Christ.
Faith, Lord, faith it is that we need.
Give it to us, we pray you,
a living faith that we can encounter today
Jesus Christ, your Son,
in your word that you speak to us
in the bread that you offer us,
and in the food that we can give
and can be to one another,
in Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit
now and for ever.
2) Gospel Reading – John 6,44-51
‘No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God; everyone who has listened to the Father, and learnt from him, comes to me. Not that anybody has seen the Father, except him who has his being from God: he has seen the Father. In all truth I tell you, everyone who believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’
• Up until now the dialogue had been between Jesus and the people. From now on, the Jewish leaders begin to enter into conversation and the discussion becomes tenser.
• John 6, 44-46: Anyone who opens himself to God accepts Jesus and his proposal. The conversation becomes more demanding. Now, it is the Jews, the leaders of the people who complain: “Surely, this is Jesus, son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know. How can he say: I have come down from heaven?” (Jn 6, 42). They thought they knew the things of God. But, in reality, they did not know them. If we were truly open and faithful to God, we would feel within us the impulse of God which attracts us toward Jesus and we would recognize that Jesus comes from God, because it is written in the Prophets: “They will all be taught by God; everyone who has listened to the Father and has learnt from him, comes to me.
• John 6, 47-50: Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead. In the celebration of the Passover, the Jews recalled the bread of the desert. Jesus helps them to take a step ahead. Anyone who celebrates the Passover, recalling only the bread that the fathers ate in the past, will die as all of them did! The true sense of the Passover is not to recall the manna which falls from heaven, but to accept Jesus, the new Bread of Life and to follow the way which he has indicated. It is no longer a question of eating the meat of the paschal lamb, but rather of eating the flesh of Jesus, so that the one who eats it will not die, but will have eternal life!
• John 6, 51: Anyone who eats of this bread will live for ever. And Jesus ends saying: “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live for ever and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Instead of the manna and the paschal lamb of the first exodus, we are invited to eat the new manna and the new paschal lamb that was sacrificed on the Cross for the life of all.
• The new Exodus. The multiplication of the loaves takes place close to the Passover (Jn 6, 4). The feast of the Passover was the prodigious souvenir of the Exodus, the liberation of the People from the clutches of Pharaoh. The whole episode which is narrated in chapter 6 of the Gospel of John has a parallel in the episodes related to the feast of the Passover, whether as liberation from Egypt or with the journey of the people in the desert in search of the Promised Land. The discourse of the Bread of Life, in the Synagogue of Capernaum, is related to chapter 16 of the Book of Exodus which speaks about the Manna. It is worth while to read all of chapter 16 of Exodus. In perceiving the difficulties of the people in the desert we can understand better the teaching of Jesus here in chapter 6 of the Gospel of John. For example, when Jesus speaks of a “food which does not perish, which endures for eternal life” (Jn 6, 27) he is recalling the manna which produced worms and became rotten (Ex 16, 20) Like when the Jews “complained” (Jn 6, 41), they do the same thing as the Israelites in the desert, when they doubted of the presence of God in their midst during their journey across the desert (Ex 16, 2; 17, 3; Nb 11, 1). The lack of food made the people doubt about God and they began to complain against Moses and against God. Here also, the Jews doubt about God’s presence in Jesus of Nazareth and begin to complain (Jn 6, 41-42).
4) Personal questions
• Does the Eucharist help me to live in a permanent state of Exodus? Am I succeeding?
• Anyone who is open to truth finds the response in Jesus. Today, many people withdraw and do not find any response. Whose fault is it? Is it of the persons who know how to listen? Or is it the fault of us, Christians, who do not know how to present the Gospel as a message of life?
5) Concluding Prayer
Come and listen, all who fear God,
while I tell what he has done for me.
To him I cried aloud,
high praise was on my tongue. (Ps 66,16-17)
This has been another fine reflection by the Carmelites at ocarm.org