Jesus Christ; the bread of life.
This week the Gospel takes us to the beginning of Jesus’ discourse on the bread of life. Very conscientiously the Evangelist has divided this discourse into two parts; the bread which is the teaching and the bread which is Eucharistic. Both are transformative, and if we think about it clearly, we see a similar division which marks out the two parts of the mass; the first part being the liturgy of the Word and the second part being the liturgy of the Eucharist. However before we start exploring this teaching, we need to know something which the lectionary omits. After the feeding of the multitude, Jesus manifests himself to the disciples as the “I AM”. His walking on the water is a clear evocation of the Exodus when God parts the waters of the Red Seas and we must have this and its baptismal overtones in our minds if we are to understand the meaning of the discourse.
Jesus begins his discourse by reminding us of how we can become enslaved and over attached to the things of the world. Consequently we can easily end up fixated by our preoccupation with ensuring our material surety. This is a powerful exposé to us of our constant redress to the false certainties of the world and the apparent physical and material anchors which we rely on to assure our own status and position. But we know it’s shaky stuff, the world is fickle and capricious, and likely to come and bite us on the bottom. If all that is important and necessary to us is our material possessions and status then responsibility and morality are just means to an end. Jesus calls us to think again and he calls on us to work for food that will endure to eternal life. It is as if once we have crossed through the water to the other side then our awareness of our selves in relationship to God and to our faith must be realigned. So the question is asked: what must we do and the answer given is startling.
Jesus explains that the bread of life which he gives is ongoing and not something from the past, but rather a present reality which provides a constant source of nourishment of feeding and of sustaining us as we seek to put into practice all that we have been taught. The Prologue tells us that though the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus. The bread of life which Jesus offers encapsulates that grace and truth and we see in these gifts the treasure of our Christian vocation, thus enabling us to become free of our attachment to the things of the world through recognising the beauty of our relationship to one another in Christ. In this relationship we see our purpose as bearers of the Good News which informs our lives in both good times and bad times.
So we come to Christ knowing that he will not leave us hungry or thirsty, because his word, his teaching, his wisdom draws us in. We see in this teaching our pathway to his grace and truth as it challenges us to stand firm in our belief. The offer is an enormous one because it is saying that the material attractions of our lives, which we are naturally drawn towards, simply don’t equate with what Jesus offers. Why? Because they are earthly and ephemeral, and will be short-lived, but the pathway along which our true eternal lives are to be trod, lies in the eternal food, the true bread of life, Jesus Christ.