May 10, 2011

Tuesday - No thirst, No hunger

Bouveret - Bread of Life

John 6: 30 - 35

The crowd said to Jesus:
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to Jesus,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

As the saying goes, “Man does not live on bread alone.” These same words were Jesus’ retort to the devil at the first temptation in the desert. The Scripture above, the Gospel for Mass this Tuesday, implies the same. The crowds are restless and demand more than just words. They want proof to verify the words Jesus has spoken. Essentially, as always in John’s Gospel, whether it be the Apostles or the crowds, the leap of faith it would take to go from the material world to the world of the spirit is not easily accomplished.

Time and again Jesus is forced to explain the meaning of his words: the woman at the well and “living water” (Jn 4: 5-42), the explanation of blindness and Jesus as the “light of the world” (Jn 9: 1-41), to Nicodemus in the meaning of “born again” (Jn 3: 1-21). These are among examples where Jesus brings us from ignorance to knowledge or “light.”

The bread of life image is a particularly beautiful one, I believe. Not only does it imply nourishment but it also implies hope. We Christians are not people of darkness, death, despair. We hear this particularly in our inspiring funeral liturgies. God desires life, eternal life, for us. Yet, we live in a society which values the short term, the quick and easy, the shallow, beauty, youth, physical attraction, etc. While these things are not in and of themselves bad, they are passing. They are temporary and when they are gone we seek to replace them with more of the same.

Jesus “bread from heaven” which he speaks of in this passage implies a gift that has lasting value. He is this bread, “my Father gives you the true bread . . .” He states, “I am the bread of life . . .” It is his teaching, his presence, his own word that sustains us.

For our Catholic ears it takes its greatest meaning in our Eucharist. That bread which sustains us spiritually but also provides the connection with Christ and our brothers and sisters in the faith as we recognize our unity around the altar of the Lord.

Along this continued Easter journey, it is always a good thing for us to reflect where, for what, and with who we are spending most of our energy. In the midst of our very busy lives are we pursuing the “bread of life” or just bread alone? If we find our life somewhat flat, short ended, humdrum maybe my spiritual life or lack there of is the reason.

“. . . whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”