Mission Society of the Philippines



Jn 6: 41-51

THE GOSPEL OF John uses a technique of ‘misunderstanding’. The conversations of Jesus with Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well are among the examples. In the case of Nicodemus, he misunderstands about being born again. In the case of the Samaritan woman, she misunderstands the living water.  However, Jesus took these occasions for further explanation and revelation of Himself. This is also the case of the Jews who heard about the discourse of Jesus on the Bread of Life. In the gospel today, we hear of the murmuring of the Jews. We shall examine the important moments in the gospel.

Firstly, the Jews who hear Jesus saying that He is the bread of life (which came down from heaven) fail to understand the meaning of the phrase. The gospel passage opens with the Jews complaining to each other about Jesus. As far as they were concerned, it is the ordinariness of Jesus which was the problem, and they could not see beyond that. They asked, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” They had always known Jesus as the son of Joseph, the carpenter; they knew his family and his mother. Yet, here He was claiming to be the bread that came down from heaven. They were scandalized by the claim of Jesus. Consequently, they murmured or complained about him.

Secondly, Jesus calls for a special kind of response. It calls for an acceptance of His Word and of his Person. But for Jesus, this acceptance of Him is a work of grace. By grace, in this gospel passage, it is meant an experience of the drawing by the Father. Thus, He told the Jews, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day”. In the Holy Mass, we always hear the Word of Jesus in the gospel. But the effectivity of the Word is dependent on God’s grace, that is, the inner working of God in us. Grace is being seen in two forms: the inner work of the Holy Spirit, and the drawing of the Father. We cannot come to Jesus on our own; we need God’s assistance. Jesus teaches us that God the Father is always drawing us to Him. We also hear such theme in the Gospel of Matthew. When Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God, the response of Jesus was, “Blessed are Simon, Son of Jonah. No man has ever revealed this to you, but, my heavenly Father.” Thus, we should be aware of the inner work of grace in our life.

Thirdly, Jesus calls himself the bread that comes down from heaven and calls us to eat this bread. He says, “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.” Upon hearing this, we can think immediately about the Eucharist. However, these words have wider application. Primarily, it refers to Jesus’ death upon the cross. He gave His own life for the world or for the life of the world. Secondarily, it refers to His Word. Jesus invites us come to Him and to feed on his Word. In the Jewish Scriptures bread is often a symbol of the Word of God. Remember the quotation from the Jewish Scriptures, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. We need physical bread, but we also need the spiritual bread, that is, the Word of God.  

In the first reading, we have heard of the prophet Elijah who was on a journey in the desert. He prayed, and he ate the hearth cake. Strengthened by the food, he walked forty days and forty nights to Mt Horeb. Thus, Elijah needed both food for the body, and food for the soul during his long journey.

In the same way, the Word of God will sustain us on our journey through life. When we come to Jesus and feed on his Word, that Word will shape or mold our lives. Then, we can live the kind of life that St Paul exhorted us in the second reading: living in love, being kind, compassionate, and forgiving to one another. AMEN.

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