Readings: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-23; Ephesians 4:17, 20-14; John 6: 24-35
Last Sunday we began chapter six of St. John’s Gospel. Those who like to reflect on the Mass Readings beforehand may have noticed that a switch has just taken place in the readings. This year we are listening to Mark’s Gospel. But in these next four or five weeks we will find we have this section from Saint John instead. We need to pay special attention to this change.
Except for the accounts in the Gospel of the Last Supper of Jesus the night before he died, this chapter of Saint John’s Gospel is the only place in the four Gospels where Jesus teaches about the Eucharist, the sacrament of his Body and Blood. Because belief in the Eucharist is so crucial to our Catholic Faith, the Church interrupts Saint Mark’s Gospel to inset this unique New Testament teaching here. Follow what happens now.
Last Sunday we heard the account of the multiplication of loaves; five or six loaves of bread fed over five-thousand people. Twelve baskets of leftover fragments were collected after all had eaten. Today’s Gospels goes on to say that the crowd who were fed by Jesus chased after him, in order to get more free food to eat, to see more signs. Jesus accuses the crowd of just wanting to fill their bellies, and they retort that Moses fed their ancestors in the desert during the Exodus from Egypt. We heard this read in our First Reading today.
So Jesus takes their own words from out of their mouths to make them comprehend how God is offering something much more important than perishable bread. Within us is a God-given hunger every person suffers that no mere food can satisfy.
Step by step, from one Sunday to the next, we now listen to Jesus unveil to his followers a whole revelation from God, something utterly unheard of, a revelation to feed not our stomachs but our souls. Today all Jesus tells us is not to look for any more material bread from him. His multiplication of loaves got everyone’s attention. But he wants us now to see past that to something deeper. Something more necessary than human life itself. Our eternal life. The crowd demands of him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus answers them back, “I am the bread of life.”
To say that his reply was not what the crowd was expecting to hear is something of an understatement: “I am the bread of life. Anyone who believes in me will never hunger again.” That makes absolutely no sense to them. And here the Gospel for today ends.
We are examining a very important subject in our Masses for these coming weeks. Incredible as it may sound, there are people who consider themselves Catholic who do not know what the Eucharist is, who do not know what this Gospel means. Or if they do know what the Church hands on to us from Jesus about the Sacrament of his Body and Blood, they declare that they do not believe it.
What a horrible loss for anyone! We get upset when we see malnutrition in small children. It sickens us to see physically abused and starving kids, or even neglected dogs or horses. Remember those photographs of the skeletal survivors from Nazi concentration camps. God have mercy on us. And that is just bodily malnutrition. What about the malnutrition of our souls? Can that be any less horrible? There are Catholics today who don’t ever give thought to their souls. Do they even believe that their souls exist? What do they care about their future life? One day we all will care.
Please ponder these words of Jesus to us. “I am the bread of life. I am the living bread come down from heaven. The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world. If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you live in me and I live in you.”
This is the word of God to us. Jesus taught us this so that we all may live. Who is listening to him? Blessed are you who do not see and yet who believe!