Sunday of the nineteenth week of Ordinary Time – Year B

Posté par diaconos le 4 août 2021

John 6:51 I AM the Living Bread that came down from Heaven. | Biblical  quotes, Jesus quotes, Biblical

# Manna was the food of the Jews in the desert, according to the Old Testament, Book of Exodus. According to Exodus: « The whole community of the Israelites began to murmur against Moses and Aaron in the desert. The Jews murmured against Moses because they were starving. In the evening, quails fell from the sky; the next morning, a mist or dew was poured out; when it had evaporated, « something small and grainy and fine as frost on the ground appeared on the surface of the desert » (Ex 16:14). Moses said to them: « This is the bread that the Lord gives you to eat ». And further on: « The house of Israel called the name of this food manna ».

The manna fell from heaven every day except the Sabbath; on the eve of that day twice as much fell. « The children of Israel ate manna for forty years until they came to an inhabited land; they ate manna until they came to the borders of the land of Canaan. The episode is repeated in the Qur’an in the Sura al-Baqara: « We have sent down clouds for your shade, and We have sent you manna and quails, and We have said to you: ‘Feed yourselves on the good things we offer you.

# “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35) is one of the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus. Jesus used the same phrase “I AM” in seven declarations about Himself. In all seven, He combines I AM with tremendous metaphors which express His saving relationship toward the world. All appear in the book of John. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus and His disciples cross back to the other side of Galilee. When the crowd sees that Jesus has left, they follow Him again. Jesus takes this moment to teach them a lesson.
He accuses the crowd of ignoring His miraculous signs and only following Him for the “free meal.” Jesus tells them in John 6, 27, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” In other words, they were so enthralled with the food, they were missing out on the fact that their Messiah had come. So the Jews ask Jesus for a sign that He was sent from God (as if the miraculous feeding and the walking across the water weren’t enough). They tell Jesus that God gave them manna during the desert wandering.
Jesus responds by telling them that they need to ask for the true bread from heaven that gives life. When they ask Jesus for this bread, Jesus startles them by saying, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” This is a phenomenal statement ! First, by equating Himself with bread, Jesus is saying he is essential for life. Second, the life Jesus is referring to is not physical life, but eternal life. Jesus is trying to get the Jews’ thinking off of the physical realm and into the spiritual realm. He is contrasting what He brings as their Messiah with the bread He miraculously created the day before.
That was physical bread that perishes. He is spiritual bread that brings eternal life. Jesus is making another claim to deity. This statement is the first of the “I AM” statements in John’s Gospel. The phrase “I AM” is the covenant name of God (Yahweh, or YHWH), revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). The phrase speaks of self-sufficient existence (or what theologians refer to as “aseity”), which is an attribute only God possesses. It is also a phrase the Jews who were listening would have automatically understood as a claim to deity. The words “come” and “believe.” This is an invitation for those listening to place their faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. This invitation to come is found throughout John’s Gospel. Coming to Jesus involves making a choice to forsake the world and follow Him. Believing in Jesus means placing our faith in Him that He is who He says He is, that He will do what He says He will do, and that He is the only one who can.

From the Gospel of John

41 The Jews complained against Jesus because he had said, « I am the bread that came down from heaven. 42 They said, « Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know his father and mother well. So how can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’? 43 Jesus spoke again, « Don’t grumble among yourselves.

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘They shall all be taught by God himself. Everyone who has heard the Father and received his teaching comes to me. 46 No one has ever seen the Father except he who comes from God: he alone has seen the Father.

47 Amen, amen, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness and died; 50 but the bread that comes down from heaven is such that whoever eats it will not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven: if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. The bread I will give is my flesh, given for the life of the world.  (Jn 6, 41-51)

The Living Bread from Heaven

Jews, is that how John usually referred to the leaders of the people; did he mean that there were emissaries of the Sanhedrin in the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus was speaking ? John called the Galileans who betrayed their opposition to Jesus by their murmuring. What scandalised them was that Jesus presented himself to them as the bread descended from heaven.

In their ignorance they saw a contradiction between this statement and their knowledge of Jesus’ family. They murmured among themselves, without openly expressing their opposition to the words they had just heard. Jesus did not respond to the objection of his listeners by revealing to them the mystery of his supernatural birth: because the miraculous origin of Jesus could only be accepted by the already believing heart. These scruples were not the cause of their unbelief; it was their unbelief that gave rise to these scruples; Jesus did not seek to remove them.

He insisted on the necessity of a work of divine grace that must be accomplished in every man who would come to him and believe in him. No one could do otherwise. This work, which he described in these words : « All that the Father gives me will come to me », he characterised it as a plan of the Father towards Jesus.  God gives him souls by drawing them to himself.

God has, in his powerful hand, a thousand ways of exercising this action of his mercy on souls. Sometimes it is the painful experiences of life, suffering, the thought of death, that make them feel sadly the need of a comforter, of a Saviour; sometimes it is the bitter feeling of sin that awakens in them and inspires this cry of anguish : « What must I do to be saved ?  « And as soon as Jesus appears, they recognise Him as the One they have been waiting for.

But God’s great means of attracting people to Jesus is his Word and his Spirit, who acts ceaselessly in our humanity and seizes favourable moments to accomplish his work. Only experience, the great reconciler of contrasts, can instruct us in this regard ; it teaches the humble to say with a reformer : « We will, because it is given to us to will », and with the Apostle Paul : « It is God who works in you the will and the execution, according to his good pleasure, despite the apparent contradiction: ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ » (Phil 2:12-13).

However, as soon as a poor sinner was drawn to Jesus in this way, he took charge of completing the divine work in him to the end : « And I will raise him up on the last day ». And I will raise him up at the last day. » Jesus said with joyful certainty: « Whoever has listened to the Father in this way and has been taught, comes to him and finds his saviour in him. The teaching which men have received from God is only preparatory, intended to lead them to the Son, who alone has seen the Father from all eternity, because he comes from God.

« In him, then, who is the image of God, the splendour of his glory, believers see God » (Jn 1:14). Jesus said : « I am the bread of life.  » After this profound instruction, provoked by the murmuring of the Jews, Jesus returned to his teaching on eternal life, which he communicated to believers by giving himself as the bread of life. Jesus returned to the Jews their objection : « The manna that fed their fathers in the wilderness did not keep them from dying. But there is another bread that frees from death, the one that came down from heaven and gives eternal life. »

Jesus summed up all that he had just said by saying : « I am that living bread » and therefore life-giving, since it gives eternal life to those who appropriate it through faith and living communion with him. « The bread of life and the living bread, that which is the divine life realised in a human person, which came down from heaven in a general sense and which came down from heaven in a historical and concrete sense, in the person of Christ; the negative expression: not to die, and the great positive affirmation: he shall live forever » (Meyer).

With these words Jesus presents his thought under a new aspect and moves on to the last part of his discourse. In the previous part he had spoken repeatedly of the bread of life, of a bread that came down from heaven and gives eternal life to those who eat it; he declared that this bread that gives life is himself, and that the way to live by it is to believe in him. « To give his flesh and blood » cannot mean anything other than his death, and a violent death, in which his blood was shed. For flesh and blood is living human nature; to give it is to surrender oneself to death; to give it for the life of the world, of this world which is in death, is to redeem and save it.

The way for us to appropriate the fruits of Jesus’ death is to enter with him, through faith, into an intimate and personal communion.  This is what Jesus expressed in his words: « Eat his flesh and drink his blood ». This has been the interpretation of most exegetes. Another interpretation is to see in this passage not the death of Jesus specifically, but his person and his life in general, which he offers to those who believe in him, as the source of their spiritual life.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

◊ Father Hanly :click here to read the paper → Homily for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

◊ The institution of Corpus Christi : click here to read the paper →History

  Homily by Bishop Richard Chartres :  »The living bread that came down from heaven »

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