Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Bread of Life

In this, the third week of Easter, we are working our way through Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John at the daily mass readings. This is the chapter of the Bread of Life discourse, the great Eucharistic teaching of Jesus. Today's reading is this:

The crowd said to Jesus: "What sign are you going to perform for us to see so that we can put faith in you? What is the 'work' you do? Our ancestors had manna to eat in the desert; according to Scripture, 'He gave them bread from the heavens to eat.'" 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." "Sir, give us this bread always," they besought him. Jesus explained to them: "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." (John 6:30-35)

Like the crowd, we beseech Jesus to give us life, to satisfy our hunger, to end our thirst. And he answers this prayer, in a way that is baffling to our senses and intellect, and challenging to our faith. But as Jesus told Pilate before his crucifixion: "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth" (John 18:37). So what he is telling us is the truth, however mysterious it is. And he was coming to this from the very beginning. The name "Bethlehem," where Jesus was born, means "House of bread." He was laid in a manger, where animals feed. He is truly the bread of life.

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