The Bread of Life

08-05-2018Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

From our first reading, we learn that things were not going that well for the Israelites in the desert after God had set them free from Egypt. Following their pattern, when things got bad, they complained to God. He heard them and sent them foodstuffs, quail, and manna from heaven. They, however, were not satisfied and questioned God. Moses, smartly pointed out to them that the manna was the answer to their prayers.

Our Gospel from John begins the discourse on the Bread of Life. Notice how food leads the people to the Lord, and not faith. Sadly they did not realize that the eating of the bread was a sign of a much greater reality. Clearly, they were hungry, and they wanted bread. Jesus tried to move the crowd to recognize a deeper hunger within them. The Lord spoke to them of lasting bread, bread that nourishes not just for life, but for life eternal. Thinking that they had to do some “work” to get that bread, they asked what they had to do. Jesus simply said, “Believe.”

The people did not expect so simple an answer and so they asked for a sign like manna to earn their faith. Jesus then reminded them that manna was only perishable bread, while the bread he offered was eternal. Even though they did not comprehend, the people jumped at his offer. And so Jesus delivered the shocking sentence: “I myself am the bread of life.” Sadly, the people still did not recognize that the one for whom they’d been asking for centuries was standing before them.

Like the Israelites in the desert some four thousand years ago, like the great crowds who followed Jesus some two thousand years ago, we also continue making the same mistake. We ask for bread, but fail to recognize it when we get it. This Sunday, when someone presents you with bread and says, “The Body of Christ,” remember, this is the bread you’ve been asking for. Believe it.

Father Brian