The Gospel follows John’s account of the multiplying of the five loaves and two fish which we heard last week. The word spreads and though Jesus and his shipmates have sailed to the other side of the sea, those who had eaten their fill follow him. This can sound wonderful; he is gaining new followers. When they meet up with Jesus, he offers them their truth. They were following, but not in the same sense, as he desired. They came to see if he were handing out more bread or doing something else for their enjoyment. They failed to see the bread as ”Sign”, but merely as a crusty “thing”.
Then begins a long discussion centering around the double-meaning of “bread”. The Jewish people have in their religious memory how Moses brought about the miracle of bread in the desert. Here, they are talking to Jesus in terms of a continuation of bread being served for their eating. Jesus knows this and turns the word “bread” into a meaning for “himself”. Jesus is not playing with the minds of the Jews, but leading them to a faith-leap in him, who like bread, gives life to those who eat.
“Eating” for Jesus means taking in the whole “loaf”, the entirety of him as the one “sent” and “sealed” by his Father who is at this very moment giving Jesus as “bread” for eternal life. Believing is “eating” and for Jesus, and “eating” means more than saying “Yes, I believe”. It means living out the life which “The Bread of Life” came to give. My young nephew, while sitting in the back seat of his mother’s car with a hamburger in one hand and fries on his lap, just having pulled out of McDonald’s, asked his mother, “Where are we going to eat after we eat next?” I have a younger brother who is honestly, quite worried about there being “enough” food at his home or the home of those who invite him for dinner. Our Jewish ancestors had their similar worries. Will God be faithful? Will we survive? Will God get us out there and abandon us? Will there really be “enough”?
“Our daily bread” contains many grains of nourishment. It is about doing God’s will by receiving what God is giving us at any one moment and sometimes it can seem like crumbs, or crust, or quite stale. We too ask God many times, about where we will eat after we eat next. “Our daily bread” is God’s love, shared through the Eucharist, but eating more of the life of grace, the life of God’s love, after we eat the Eucharist next time. That Holy Bread, containing in Him all “sweetness” is God’s pledge that we will not be abandoned or left to go our own way grumbling that we did not get enough.
“You have given us, o Lord, bread from heavenendowed with all delights and sweetness in every taste.” Wis. 16, 20.
By Fr. Larry Gillick