41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." 42 They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, `I have come down from heaven'?" 43 Jesus answered them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
Meditation: God offers his people abundant life, but we
can miss it. What is the bread of life which Jesus offers?
It is first of all the life of God himself - life which sustains
us not only now in this age but also in the age to come. The
Rabbis said that the generation in the wilderness have no part
in the life to come. In the Book of Numbers it is recorded
that the people who refused to brave the dangers of the promised
land were condemned to wander in the wilderness until they died.
The Rabbis believed that the father who missed the promised land
also missed the life to come. God sustained the Israelites in the
wilderness with manna from heaven. This bread foreshadowed the
true heavenly bread which Jesus would offer his followers.
Jesus is the "bread of life"
Jesus makes a claim only God can make: He is the true bread of heaven that can satisfy the deepest hunger we experience. The manna from heaven prefigured the superabundance of the unique bread of the Eucharist or Lord's Supper which Jesus gave to his disciples on the eve of his sacrifice. The manna in the wilderness sustained the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land. It could not produce eternal life for the Israelites. The bread which Jesus offers his disciples sustains us not only on our journey to the heavenly paradise, it gives us the abundant supernatural life of God which sustains us for all eternity.
The food that makes us live forever
When we receive from the Lord's table we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ, who makes us sharers in his body and blood and partakers of his divine life. Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 A.D.), an early church father and martyr, calls it the "one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ" (Ad Eph. 20,2). This supernatural food is healing for both body and soul and strength for our journey heavenward.
Do you hunger for the "bread of life"?
Jesus offers us the abundant supernatural life of heaven itself - but we can miss it or even refuse it. To refuse Jesus is to refuse eternal life, unending life with the Heavenly Father. To accept Jesus as the bread of heaven is not only life and spiritual nourishment for this world but glory in the world to come. When you approach the Table of the Lord, what do you expect to receive? Healing, pardon, comfort, and rest for your soul? The Lord has much more for us, more than we can ask or imagine. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist or Lord's Supper is an intimate union with Christ. As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens us in charity and enables us to break with disordered attachments to creatures and to be more firmly rooted in the love of Christ. Do you hunger for the "bread of life"?
8 Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.
16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.
17 I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.
20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Studying the Scriptures with humility, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"My ambition as a youth was to apply to the study of the Holy
Scriptures all the refinement of dialectics. I did so, but without
the humility of the true searcher. I was supposed to knock at the
door so that it would open for me. Instead I was pushing it
closed, trying to understand in pride what is only learned in
humility. However, the all-merciful Lord lifted me up and kept me
safe." (excerpt from Sermon 51,6)