Moses said to the people: "Remember how for forty years now the Lord, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep His commandments. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord."
"Do not forget the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery; who guided you through the vast and terrible desert with its seraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground; who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers."(P) The word of the Lord.
Glorify the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion. For He has strengthened the bards of your gates; He has blessed your children within you. (R)
He has granted peace in your borders; with the best of wheat He fills you. He sends forth His command to the Earth; swiftly runs His word! (R)
He has proclaimed His word to Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel. He has not done thus for any other nation; His ordinances He has not made known to them. (R)
Brothers and sisters: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the word."
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
There is a story about a grandfather who was teaching his grandson an important lesson about life. The grandfather sat his grandson down, and began to tell him about a battle, a fight. He said, "There is a fight going on inside me. It is a terrible fight. It is a fight between two wolves. One is evil - he lives only by anger, greed, arrogance, ego, resentment, lies, self-pity and sorrow. The other is good - he lives by humility, kindness, compassion, generosity, truth, hope, love, joy and peace. The same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too. The grandson thought about it for a minute and then looked intently into his grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which wolf will win, grandpa?" The grandfather smiled and said quietly, "The one you feed."
The story relates well to today's gospel, John (6:51-58). But first let us look back and explore the context to better understand the text. This preaching took place shortly after Jesus had fed about five thousand people with the five barley loaves of bread and two fish. After the miracle, the crowd wanted to take Jesus by force and make Him their king. But this was not what Jesus or God the Father had wanted. Knowing their plan, Jesus went up to the mountain alone to pray, John (6:1-15).
The next day, many of the people whom Jesus had fed, looked for him at many places, and finally found him in Capernaum, and asked him how he got there. Jesus did not answer their question for if he had answered, it would have caused some jaws to drop. It was because after He had come down from the mountain the previous evening, Jesus walked on the water to join the disciples in their boat to go to Capernaum, John (6:16-22). So, instead of telling them how He had arrived there, Jesus confronted them on their motivation.
Even though they had taken a good bit of trouble to find Him, they were seeking Him for the wrong reasons. First of all, they sought Him because they wanted a political leader to bring peace and prosperity to their nation, and secondly, they saw the possibility of having free food. But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, chided them for seeking and working for temporal food, and told them that the Son of Man, referring to Himself, could give them the food that endures forever. The Jews listening to Jesus immediately cited from their history, an incident in which Moses gave their ancestors "bread from heaven to eat." However, Jesus hinted that the bread of life that God gives through him is far more than the manna that God had provided for Moses and the Israelites in the desert. As soon as Jesus had said that God's gift to the world is He, himself, which excels what He had given through Moses, the Jews quickly and excitedly asked Jesus to supply them with that bread always.
But Jesus was interested in more than just meeting the physical hunger and physical needs of the people. He was also concerned with satisfying their spiritual needs, so he continued his discussion by saying, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty", John (6:25-35). By this time, as we can imagine, they were all pretty confused, and grumbled about Jesus, and were talking among themselves whether this was the same Jesus whose father and mother they knew, John (6:41-42). Sensing their discontent, Jesus urged them to stop wrangling among themselves and instead to believe in his message of eternal life. He further said to them that their ancestors had eaten the manna in the desert and yet they died; but whoever eats the bread that comes down from heaven will not die, John (6:44-50).
Then Jesus moved his conversation with the people to the next level. This is what we read it in today's gospel. He explained, "I am the living Bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world", John (6:51). When Jesus had described himself as "the one who had come down from heaven" and compared the eating of bread to eating his flesh, the Jews debated among themselves as to how he would be able to offer his "flesh" for them to eat. But Jesus was not talking about the literal "bread", but about "the Word of God". "Eating his flesh" and "drinking his blood", therefore, mean believing in the teaching of Jesus Christ. But the people were not really interested in a lesson about bread being a symbol of a spiritual reality. They were focusing only on their physical needs.
Without being told, Jesus knew that they were grumbling about this, so, he gave them a choice whether to participate in "eating his flesh" and "drinking his blood. It was an invitation to a full relationship and participation in the life-giving power of Jesus. Just as Jesus had satisfied their physical hunger, He can satisfy their spiritual hunger as well. But the choice of following Jesus' instruction is a choice each individual will have to make. He said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life", John (6:53-54). Moreover, Jesus continued to point out to them the effects of "eating his flesh" and "drinking his blood".
If they "eat his flesh" and "drink his blood", He said that they can expect to have:
What is the message for us?
Bread has been one of the most basic food for centuries in many countries. So, when Jesus says, "I am the Bread of Life" He means that He is the most basic need which fills our spiritual hunger or the emptiness in our life. Besides the promises that the Holy Eucharist, the bread and wine we consume as the body and blood of Jesus Christ, nourish and strengthen us, it is with the Word of God, that Jesus can fill us up, and sustain us in a way that makes living possible despite all the hardships and suffering. He can draw us to himself because He has shared in our suffering.
If we "eat his flesh" and "drink his blood", that is, if we consume His Word, if we allow Jesus to live in us, we may not become "perfect" human beings but instead we will become more and more aware of our sin - our ego, selfishness, desire, pride, greed, arrogance, hatred, anger, and fear. That's to say, like the grandfather in the story said to his grandson, if we diligently and constantly feed ourselves with God's word, we will certainly be filled with hope, understanding, light, wisdom, joy, peace, and eternal life. However, God gives us free will, and that means we can feed whichever one of the two wolves we choose. We can feed evil, or we can feed good.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!