Bread of Life

The crowd said to Jesus:
“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 Jesus,
“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.”
(John 6:30-35)

Scripture Study

6:31 He gave them bread: A reference to Ex 16:4. ● Jesus is challenged to match the provision of manna by Moses. He responds by stressing that although the manna had a heavenly origin (6:32), it did not bring the Israelites to their heavenly destiny (6:49). Manna is rather a food that perishes, since it melted away every morning (Ex 16:21) and turned foul if it was stored overnight (Ex 16:19–20).

6:32 the true bread: The wilderness manna was not false bread; it was merely a sign of the imperishable eucharistic bread that the Father sends down from heaven in Jesus (6:51; CCC 1094).

6:35–59 The Bread of Life discourse. Interpretations of this sermon often take one of two positions. Some think of the discourse as an extensive invitation to faith, so that eating the bread of life is seen as a metaphor for believing in Jesus. Others interpret the discourse along sacramental lines, so that eating the bread of life means partaking of the Eucharist. Both of these views are true and can be correlated with a natural and symmetrical division of the sermon into two parts. (1) Invitation to Faith (6:35–47). The first half of the discourse opens with the statement “I am the bread of life” (6:35). This is followed by a string of invitations to come to Jesus and believe in him for salvation. The metaphorical import of Jesus’ teaching is so obvious that it stands out in the response of the Jews, who ask him, not why he calls himself bread, but how he can claim to have descended from heaven (6:42). (2) Invitation to the Eucharist (6:48–58). The second half of the discourse likewise opens with the statement “I am the bread of life” (6:48). This is followed by a string of invitations to eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood. Here the literal import of Jesus’ teaching is so obvious that it, too, stands out in the response of the Jews, who ask how it is possible to consume his flesh (6:52). In the end, these two halves of the sermon work in tandem, since without faith we can neither be united with Christ nor recognize his presence in the Eucharist. If eating is believing in 6:35–47, then believing leads to eating in 6:48–58 (CCC 161, 1381).

Scripture Reflection

These people know that the manna—food which the Jews collected every day during their journey through the wilderness—symbolized messianic blessings; which was why they asked our Lord for a dramatic sign like the manna. But there was no way they could suspect that the manna was a figure of a great supernatural messianic gift which Christ was bringing to mankind—the Blessed Eucharist. Jesus is trying to bring them to make an act of faith in him, so that he can then openly reveal to them the mystery of the Blessed Eucharist—that he is the bread “which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” St Paul explains that the manna and the other marvels which happened in the wilderness were a clear prefiguring of Jesus Christ. The disbelieving attitude of these Jews prevented them from accepting what Jesus revealed. To accept the mystery of the Eucharist, faith is required. “It this ‘mystery of faith’ that Distinguished Fathers and Doctors of the Church in unbroken succession have taught and professed . . . therefore, we must approach this mystery, above all, with humble reverence, not following human arguments, but in steadfast adherence to divine revelation” (Mysterium fidei).

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.