1 Kings 19:4-8, Ephesians 4:30-5:2, John 6:41-51
In the country of the Philippines, the staple food is rice. Rice is loved, cherished and eaten by almost everybody. No day will pass without them eating rice. Rice is eaten in the morning, afternoon and night. So, one day I decided to ask one of them the reason they love rice so much. He said to me “we cannot do without rice, it is very essential to every Filipino.
Therefore, rice is basic to their daily needs. Another one told me “rice is our staple food and a basic food for every Filipino, no Filipino hates rice”.
Hence, to understand what Jesus means by being the bread of life, we need to look into the importance of bread in the life of any jew.
Just like the Philippines take rice as their basic food, the Jews consider bread as their basic food item. It is a staple food known to satisfy their daily hunger and desire.
Bread is such a basic food that someone can survive only on it for a longer time. In the land of the Jews when someone gives you bread, it shows love and hospitality, it is a sign of welcome (Genesis 18:5-6, Genesis 19:3).
In 1 Samuel 9:7 David promises to show Mephibosheth kindness because of his father Jonathan and promises that he would eat bread at his table continually. So, Bread is a sign of love and serves to solve their basic human need.
The understanding of this is needed as we continue to journey through the readings of John 6. Therefore, when Jesus uses “bread of life” to describe His identity, He is invariably telling the Jews that just as bread is necessary for their physical life, He is very necessary for their spiritual and eternal life.
And just as bread is a sign of love, hospitality and care to the jews, He is giving His life as a sign of His love, hospitality and care to them. In essence, if they want to achieve eternal life, they cannot do without Jesus; who is the Bread of Life.
God Cares For His own.
1.Today’s gospel is from John 6 and to understand it we need to start from the beginning of the chapter. So, the gospel begins its journey with Jesus feeding the crowd after seeing how they look like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus satisfies their hunger.
Then gradually, He tries to explain to them the need not to rely only on the physical food but the spiritual food which He Jesus can give.
2.Therefore the physical and spiritual food are signs of God’s love for us. As what the bread represents, when Jesus says that He is the bread of life, He is invariably telling the people how God loves them and wishes to give them eternal life.
What this reveals is that God cares for His own. He cares for our physical and spiritual well being.
3. The care and the love of God are also evident in the first reading. In the first reading we see how Elijah went into the wilderness, on a day’s journey, and sitting under a bush, Elijah began to wish himself dead.
The point here is that Elijah was running away from Jezebel who was planning to eliminate His life. This is Elijah who called down fire from heaven and killed all the prophets of Baal. The same Elijah could not withstand the attack of Jezebel. He ran away to save His life.
In essence, despite how strong we are, we also have our low and weak moments. It was at the point of his weak moments that Elijah cried to the Lord to take away His life. But instead of taking away His life, God sends an angel to Him to give him food to eat and water to drink. Elijah also ate the baked bread two times and got so strong that He was able to walk for forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb.
The bread that Elijah ate strengthened Him again to walk. The Mount Horeb that Elijah went to is called the Mountain of God. Therefore, we are on the journey of life to see God face to face. We are on the journey to eternity. The spiritual strength to do this can only come through Jesus the Bread of Life.
Hence, Jesus came that we may have life and have it in abundance. It is through Him that we can walk through the challenges of this life until we reach our destination in life.
4.Just like the bread is very important to an ordinary Jew, is also how Jesus is very important for our salvation. Just as Bread is needed to sustain an ordinary Jew or as rice is needed to sustain an ordinary Filipino is also how Jesus needed to sustain our journey to eternity. Yes, he satisfies our physical needs but without him, we cannot be saved.
This is a sign of God’s love for us, who offered His Son for the salvation of the world. This Is why He says in John 6:33, that the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
The Bread for the Journey of Life.
In the first reading, Just as Elijah went through the desert, there are times we also wander through the desert, through problems, challenges and low moments of our lives. The journey of Elijah is also like the journey of life.
In this journey, we will encounter a series of challenges. Just as God intervened in the time of Elijah, we always need the grace of God to wander through the desert of life.
Desert, here means lack. There are those times when it seems you are lacking the spiritual strength to do your work, the spiritual strength to be close to God, the strength to pray hard. There are times it looks as if you lack God’s grace, hence the way to rejuvenate us again is through Jesus.
He says in the last Sunday gospel “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). Hence, we need to come to Him and believe in His Mighty Presence during these times. Immediately Elijah ate the baked cake, he walked forty days and forty nights. Therefore, the spiritual strength that one needs to walk through the desert and journey of life must come from the bread of life: Jesus Christ.
When We Do Not Understand.
1.The gospel of today begins with the Jews who were complaining to each other about what Jesus said. Jesus said ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven’. They begin to ask ‘Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph. We know his father and mother. How can He now say, “I have come down from heaven”?
These people know the family of Jesus. They know when Jesus was born and presumably know when He was still a kid. Therefore, to come now and say that He comes down from heaven sounds to them as rubbish talk.
This is why they begin to question among themselves what Jesus means by this. Six times in this context, Jesus affirms that He comes down from heaven (John 6:33, 38, 41, 50, 51, 58).
The point is that the Jews have not yet come to see Jesus as the Messiah they are expecting. This is why they reminded Him last Sunday that Moses fed their fathers with manna, so what signs can Jesus do, so that they will believe in Him.
The point is that they expect a messiah that will come down from the clouds of heaven and fight their enemies. But Jesus was born in the family of Joseph and Mary, so they know Him very well. They do not understand Him when He says that he comes down from heaven.
2.Hence Jesus is using this context to explain to them that He is truly the Messiah who is going to save them. Hence the jews do not understand what Jesus means. They took Him literally.
Therefore this suggests that there are things that we cannot understand unless with the eyes of faith. This is when our mind goes beyond what we see. An example is the Eucharist. When you see the Eucharist, what you see is bread and wine, but what you see goes beyond what your eyes can see.
Hence, when we do not understand this, we will always put ourselves in confusion like the jews did. We will always question the authenticity of what we see. Hence, when Jesus talks about the bread of life, He goes beyond the satisfaction of immediate hunger or physical food to mean eternal life. To understand many things that Jesus says, we need the eyes of faith.
We Need The Bread of Life.
In the gospel, the people murmur against what Jesus said. Jesus tells them explicitly that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him. Therefore, Jesus makes it clear that they must be open to God’s grace.
It is God who will surely draw them and everyone who responds to the Fathers call also responds to the son.
2. Jesus makes this statement because the jews have already seen themselves as the chosen people of God. They see God as their birthright. So, they thought that by the virtue of being a jew, they are already chosen. Hence, Jesus teaches them that they must open themselves to Him, come to Him And believe in Him. They must respond positively to God’s grace.
Therefore, they need Jesus to be saved. In essence, some of us may think that we are already saved and do not need salvation, some feel they are closer to God than others, Hence Jesus teaches that we must constantly open ourselves to God.
We need Jesus the bread of life to be saved. Just as bread is basic human food for the jews, Jesus is basic for the salvation of our souls.
3.Secondly, in our ministry, we have to understand that the work of drawing souls and inspiring people comes from God. Therefore God Is the one in charge of everything that we do, both spiritual and physical.
This is why Jesus says that they shall all be taught by God: Jesus quoted from Isaiah 54:13,
The idea is that all those who belong to God are taught by God. God will teach His people by Himself, i.e. He will teach them within their hearts. Only those who are taught in this fashion will come to Jesus.”
Therefore Jesus is telling the jews that if they are truly sons of God, they would come to Him. Their rejection of Jesus proves that they are still strangers to the grace of God. Therefore, to hear and learn from the Son is to hear and learn from the Father.
3. Jesus is the word of God. And Jesus gives life. When we hear the word and keep it because of what it is, our spiritual life increases. Therefore, we need this bread of life to grow in spirituality and remain close to God.
This is the reason Jesus tells them that whoever believes in him has eternal life already. Therefore to believe in Him Is to keep to His word. Keeping His word is already a preparation for the life to come.
4. Hence, all through the scriptures, the bread is a symbolic representation of God’s life-sustaining provision. So when Jesus says that He is the Bread of Life, He is truly revealing to us that He is the true source of spiritual life, both in this world and in the life to come.
The Bread of Life that Jesus Gives.
1. When Jesus says “I Am the bread of life”, Jesus is invariably identifying Himself as a food which the jews cannot do without.
Since the jews see bread as a staple food, a food that serves their basic human need, Jesus is also identifying Himself as a food that the people cannot do without if they want to achieve everlasting life.
“I am” denotes identity. When someone says “I am”, It means that this is what He is and nothing more. Therefore, first of all, Jesus refers to Himself as a basic human need that every person must have if he is serious with His salvation. And how to do this is to always come to Him and believe in Him (John 6:35).
2. Secondly in the gospel, Jesus says that the bread that He shall give is His flesh. Which He shall give for the life of the world.
Jesus plainly explained what He meant by bread in this context. The bread was His flesh, given for the life of the world. First He is going to sacrifice His life on the cross for the salvation of mankind when He gives His life as a sacrifice pleasing to God the Father as a substitute for our sins. Jesus is telling the jews that His death is going to be an atonement for their sins and the sins of the world.
3. This is why we see the sacrifice of the mass as a commemoration of the sacrifice on the cross. At the altar during the Holy Mass, the same Jesus is sacrificed as an oblation to the Father.
So, when we eat the flesh at the Altar, when we feed on the Holy Eucharist, we also participate in the sufferings of Christ. The Holy Eucharist is food for the souls, the food that gives us strength and prepares us for the Journey to the eternal.
The Eucharist is therefore a basic human food for every Christian, through it we receive many graces for the journey of life.
Just as Elijah wandered forty days and forty nights, the Eucharist gives us the strength to conquer temptations and walk through the challenges and desert of human life.
When we are in lack, we can receive spiritual strength and graces through the Holy Eucharist. Beyond what we see at the altar is a mystery beyond human understanding. We need this special food for our earthly Journey.
1.Just like the jews murmur against Jesus because He said he is the bread that comes down from heaven, many of us murmur and disagree when they hear that the bread that we offer at the altar is Jesus Christ.
Just Like the jews see Jesus as ordinary, and fail to look beyond what He said, many Christians see the bread and wine at the altar as ordinary and fail to look beyond it to what it represents: the Body of Jesus Christ.
This is the reason many of us do not prepare our souls before receiving Jesus into our hearts. They receive the Holy communion because others have received it. This is why many treat the eucharist as nothing. They fail to look beyond what they see with their eyes just like the Jews fail to see beyond what Jesus is saying.
Then the question is “do you truly see the Eucharist as basic human food for our spiritual journey? If we see it, why then do we treat the Eucharist as nothing? Why then do we choose not to receive Jesus? How many years have you received the Holy Eucharist last?
2. Today, the readings show how God cares and loves us. It is because of this love that Jesus died for our sins and still offers us His flesh for the salvation of the world and the sanctification of our lives.
In the first reading, God came to the rescue when Elijah was at the low moments of His life. And Elijah responded to God’s grace and provision.
Therefore, At the low and weak minutes of our lives, God also comes to us. God gives us avenues to regain our spiritual strengths. He does this through the Word of God that we hear. God gives us His word to eat, but we pay deaf ears to it. He also calls us to come to Him through the sacramental confessions, yet we don’t want to come to Him.
God invites us to participate in the Eucharist, there we become so weak to participate and even come late for the Holy Mass.
God constantly looks for ways to bring us back and make us regain our spiritual strength. Elijah eats the food that was given to him but we do not respond positively to our provision.
Rather, we decide to stay far away from Him than staying close to Him. Therefore, it is because of the love He has for us that He has continued to provide for our physical and spiritual needs. But we pay Him back with ingratitude and negligence.
3. God responds to Elijah as a pointer to His ever abiding presence for His children in times of challenges. Then, He expects us to also be the bread that can sustain life for others, as Jesus becomes the bread of life which is a sign of God’s love and care. This is why the responsorial psalm asks us to Taste and see that the Lord is good.
In the same way, He expects us to be good to people around us, not only in solving their basic human needs but to make sure we safeguard their souls. We don’t have to make ourselves the avenues that people lose their graces from God but become the means to bring back souls to God.
This is why the second reading asks us to imitate God as children of His that He loves. Then follow Christ loving as He loves you. He gives himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. To be like Jesus, we do not have to be instruments of leading souls to hell, but instruments of touching lives.
4. To live in God’s love, we have to settle our differences. We have to make peace with others. From the second reading, Paul admonishes that we should never live in grudges against others.
We should not lose our temper, or raise our voices to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Rather, we have to encourage and help one another, be friends with one another, and live in peace.
We have to help and render kindness to people in need. Therefore, instead of living in quarrels and bearing animosity, we have to forgive each other as readily as God forgave us in Christ.
5. In the first reading, Elijah journeys for forty days and forty nights before he reaches mountain Horeb. 40 days’ journey is a journey of spiritual encounter and grace. 40 days signify a time of suffering, working, chastisement, trials etc but always end in praises, revival, a new beginning and victory.
Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24: 10-18). Before he brought the commandments.
At the time of Noah, the flood took 40 days and 40 nights. And the earth was destroyed and renewed.
In the book of Numbers, the Israelites are said to have first searched the promised land for 40 days (Numbers 13:25).
The Israelites wandered through the desert 40 years before reaching the promised land. The Prophet Jonah warned: “Yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).
Jesus fasted and was “there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan… ” ( Mark 1:13) etc. And today the Prophet Elijah fasted for 40 days and 40 nights during his journey to the mountain of God ( I Kings 19:8).
40 days always end in a new beginning and victory. The number 40 signifies completion. Therefore, it can signify the journey of life to eternity, to its full completion.
It is like the journey of life when we shall all achieve victory at the end in heaven. Elijah has to eat God’s provision to be able to have the strength to walk to the end of this journey. Hence, we also need Jesus. In Him, we can have the spiritual strength to walk through the challenges of life to its competition in eternity.
This is why Jesus says in the gospel that the spiritual bread He offers is different from the manna the fathers ate in the wilderness. What they ate gave them temporary life.
Hence, what Jesus offers is eternal life. Jesus always offers victory at the end, amid the challenges of life. Therefore, we cannot do without the bread of life. We cannot do without Jesus.
Just like an ordinary Filipino cannot do without eating rice, just like an ordinary Jew cannot do without bread, we cannot do without the bread that gives spiritual and eternal life.
Without Him, we are nothing. He says cut off from me we can do nothing (John 15:5). Only In Jesus can we be sure of our spiritual strength and eternal life.
May God always give us the grace to keep to His word, may we never be deprived of that bread that gives life. Amen.