19th Sunday (B)

I am the living bread came down from heaven. There is no bread here on earth that gives immortality. This is why Christ has descended from Heaven to satisfy the hunger for Heaven. Christ is the extraordinary bread that satisfies the extraordinary and immense hunger of the man who is capable, even eager, to be open to infinite aspirations (Cf. Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, 1, 1).

On Holy Thursday 2003 Saint John Paul II published an Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, which says the Eucharist is at the center of the Church (§3). The Church was born at Pentecost but a decisive moment in the shaping of the Church was the institution of the Eucharist in the Upper Room during the Last Supper (§5). What more could Jesus have done for us? In the Eucharist Jesus shows a love, which goes to the end and knows no measure (§11). Our relationship with Christ begins at baptism and is strengthened by the Eucharist (§22). Whenever Mass is celebrated we are led back in spirit to Calvary (§4). The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to it or multiply it but makes Christ’s sacrifice present in time. The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice (§12). The consecration at Mass changes the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ and the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood and the Church calls this change transubstantiation (§15).

Jesus makes a series of unique claimsin today’s gospel passage: 1) “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”  2)”I am the bread of life.”  3) “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” 4)“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  5)“I will raise him on the last day.” 6) “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God.”  In short, Christ Jesus reveals himself as God and as the “breadof life from heaven” sent by the Father for our salvation.

People could hardly graspthe importance of this profound teaching, when Jesus claimed to be the “bread of life” (v. 35) who “came down from heaven” (v. 38).  They knew his father and mother (v. 42), and thought of him as just another hometown boy – a carpenter by profession without any formal training in Mosaic Laws and Jewish Scriptures.  They could remember when he had moved from Nazareth to Capernaum with a band of unknown disciples, mostly fishermen.

Jesus knew that the Jews were upsetabout his explanation that the multiplication of bread and fish signified that he himself was the heavenly bread that gives eternal life. Jesus challenged the Jews to take a journey of faith by seeing him, not as the son of Joseph, but as the one who came down from heaven. Saying, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.”Jesus told his listeners, and tells us, that everyone who has become his follower has done so because God the Father has called him or her to Jesus.  It is an act of God that has brought us to follow the way of Jesus.  Faith is a gift.  To follow Jesus is to live by faith; to believe means to make those necessary changes to one’s lifestyle that being a believer demands.  Then Jesus offered the ultimate reassurance to every one of us who believes: “I will raise him up on the last day” (cf. vv.39, 40, 44, 54). This persistent theme serves to remind the reader/listener that only Jesus, the true bread of life, can impart the gift of eternal life to the faithful.

Faith in practice: “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” Here Jesus clarifies that listening to God, and learning from God are key factors in our seeking Jesus and in our growing into strong believers and faithful servants of Jesus.  The Good News is that God is willing to be present in our midst and to teach us.  Jesus asserts this point quoting scripture, “And they shall be taught by God.”

The bread from heaven is also the word of God: In the Bible, bread appears several times as an image of wisdom, or divine revelation:Isaiahsays “You who have no money, come, receive bread and eat”(55:1-3); Proverbsstates that all should “Come, eat of my bread”(9:1-6), and Sirachsays, “Whoever fears the Lord and holds to the law will obtain wisdom… She will feed him with the bread of learning.”(15:1-3).  Thisshould make a lot of sense to us, because we read books and watch movies and television to learn about life (hopefully) and to increase our knowledge.  In the same way, we need to read, reflect and pray over the Word of God privately so that it can nourish our souls and be our true “soul food”.

We need to appreciate God’s love for usexpressed in the Holy Eucharist. Saint John Paul II taught: “The Eucharist is the sacrament of the presence of Christ, who gives himself to us because he loves us.  To celebrate the Eucharist, “to eat his flesh and drink his blood”, means to accept the wisdom of the Cross and the path of service.  It means that we signal our willingness to sacrifice ourselves for others, as Christ has done.”

We eat that bread by absorbing into ourselves the spirit, the truth and integrity, the love and compassion, the generosity and peacefulness of Jesus.  And how do we know we have truly eaten this bread? By the kind of people we become, by the ways in which we behave. The Second Reading (from Ephesians) gives a few examples: not having grudges against others; not losing our temper and shouting at people; not calling people names; not acting spitefully and getting our own back; being friendly, approachable, kind, forgiving, especially to strangers and outsiders.  Yes, today, let us taste and see and experience how good the Lord is. Let him be the primary food and nourishment of our lives.