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The bread of life discourse

Gospel Reading: Jn 6:24-35

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:/ He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Reflection: Believe in the one God sent

There are two themes in Jesus’ discourse on the “Bread of Life”: the sapiential theme and the eucharistic.
The Gospel deals with the sapiential. Jesus tells the Jews not to look for bread that just answers the human need for food; they must “work” for food that satisfies the person’s deeper hunger. This bread is Jesus’ word, which is the revelation of the Father. The word of Jesus is the bread for the world. It assures human beings of God’s love for the world, the love manifested by God’s sending of his Son to save the world.

In the sapiential books that comprise the third part of the Hebrew Bible, the Kethubim (Writings), the divine Wisdom (Hokmah) is often compared to a Lady who prepares a rich table and invites everyone: “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live” (Prv 9:5-6).

Jesus, in turn, offers the bread “come down from heaven.” He himself is the bread, and his words are words of eternal life. Jesus invites the people to “communion” of this bread through faith – to believe in the One whom God has sent: Jesus himself. Faith here involves total trust in Jesus and holding on to his revelation.

In the Mass, the faithful are nourished at two tables: the table of the Word and the table of the Eucharist. We will understand and appreciate better our communion of the Body and Blood of Jesus if we listen attentively to the Word of God that makes our hearts burn. Then, the “signs” in the celebration of the sacrament “will begin to speak” in our hearts and in our lives (cf John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine, 14).

Sometimes, people ask what part of the Mass they must catch to make it “valid” as fulfillment of their Sunday obligation. Is it all right to arrive after the homily or after the offering basket is passed around? Rather than be “legalistic” about it, the faithful should be present at both the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. Better still, people should come even before Mass starts and make their personal preparation in silence and in prayer.

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2018,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.

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