In years when the Church reads the Gospel of Mark, which is the shortest of…
Opening the Word: Bread of Life discourse — Part 3
Over the last two weeks, we have been contemplating the Eucharistic mystery in John 6. Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 and his walking on water reveals him as the God-man who has come to re-gather the tribes of Israel. He has announced that if they want a sign of God’s marvelous power, they need look no further than him.
He is the bread of life.
This pronouncement results in the crowds’ murmuring. Murmuring is the traditional response of Israel to God’s wondrous deeds in Exodus.
They bitterly announce that they know who this guy is. He is Jesus, son of Joseph. Who does he think he is, telling us that he is the bread of life?
|August 8 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time|
1 Kgs 19:4-8
Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
The crowds’ incredulity may also be an insult. We know his father and mother, they announce. But do they? Is there some rumor still circulating about the scandal of his highly unusual birth? Who is this guy — not really the son of Joseph after all — to tell us that he is the bread of life?
Jesus interrupts their murmuring.
He notes that their incredulity is the source of their unbelief, their incapacity to see Jesus as the Son of the Father. Only Jesus, of course, has seen the Father. But if they look upon Jesus aright, believing in him, they will see him for who he is.
He is the bread of life, descended from heaven. Unlike the manna from heaven, to feast upon Jesus means eternal life. Eternal life does not mean only heaven. Living forever starts now for the one who feasts upon the words of Jesus.
And yet, as Jesus claims, it is not only his words that are the bread of life. It is his flesh for the life of the world. The living bread from heaven is the very presence of the Father’s love.
Jesus is pointing here not only to the Eucharist (which he references later in John 6) but his death and resurrection. His flesh, his bleeding and wounded flesh, is the life of the world. When Jesus is lifted up high upon the cross, then the Father draws us anew to himself.
Behold the Lamb of God.
Behold the wood of the cross.
Behold the bread of life.
Unlike the original crowd, we know all this. We do receive Jesus Christ as the bread of life in the Eucharist. In the Mass, we behold with the eyes of faith the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
But like the original crowd, do we not murmur? Rather than rejoice in what we behold, we complain.
About the Mass times at our parish, which are inconvenient.
About the children at Mass who bother our sacred quiet.
About the homilies of this or that priest.
About mask regulations and hand sanitizers and bishops who (to us) were too obedient to those secular authorities.
About all the conservatives or liberals who are ruining the Church.
About the crowds in the parking lot.
I am the bread of life.
Jesus interrupts our murmuring and announces to us that he is the bread of life, descended from heaven. His flesh, given for the life of the world.
Rather than feast on Jesus, we bicker and complain. We fight and hate.
Most of all, after COVID-19, after much internal bickering and fighting in the Church, after scandals that seemingly never end, maybe what we most need is to rejoice that Jesus’ flesh is given for the life of the world.
And in my parish church, hidden from the gaze of the powerful, we behold this gift of wondrous love.
Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is the director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.