Once again we return to John’s discourse on the Bread of Life, with the thought that, all too often, we refuse to rise above our presumptions and prejudices in dealing with others. All too often we reject what is being said to us because it doesn’t fit in with what we think should be said !
So it was with Jesus and the Jewish crowd. Jesus presents himself as “the bread come down from heaven”, which raises the discourse to another level. The implication is that his origin is divine. The extraordinary signs which he works are meant to corroborate this. But the Jews refuse to accept that Jesus has come from heaven. After all, they say, we know his father and his mother. So how can he claim to have come from heaven’ ?” They refuse to accept that Jesus is talking not of his natural origins but of something deeper than that.
“Stop murmuring among yourselves,” says Jesus. “No one can come to me unless my Father first draws him to me, even as the prophet Isaiah foretold.” The person who believes is someone who has first listened to promptings of God’s grace in his own heart. This is why he is ready to accept Jesus as God’s Son. This is the meaning of being “taught by God”.
Jesus goes further: “I am the bread of life,” he says. Not like manna in the desert, which the Jews of that time ate and died all the same. This is the “living bread” come down from heaven, and those who eat it will live forever. “Moreover the bread which I give is my own flesh for the life of the world.”
These words of Jesus go to the core of the mystery of the Eucharist. It is not just ‘bread’ which nourishes, but also ‘flesh’ which is offered as sacrifice. The Eucharist makes us share in God’s life of grace, “eternal life”. The Eucharist is also offered in memory of Jesus who gave his life for the redemption of the world.
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