Then the Jews began to complain about Jesus because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
Last Sunday, Jesus told the crowd that he was the bread that had come down from heaven. This meant more than that he was the prophet or Messiah. Being steeped in Judaism and its scriptures, the crowd realized this and objected. Many people among the crowd knew Jesus came from Nazareth and was the son of Joseph and Mary. Their knowledge about Jesus as a human being prompted them to ask how could he have come from heaven.
To answer their question, Jesus told them to accept Jesus as being what he claims required the grace of faith, which is a gift from the Father. This gift seems to have been offered them but instead of accepting it and responding to it they objected and murmured against Jesus’ claim. To support his teaching, Jesus cited what was written in the prophets that he who accepts God’s offer of faith will get further revelation from God (Is 54:13).
He told them that God is invisible to human eyes. The Son has seen the Father and it is only through the Son made man, that man can see the Father through the eyes of faith.
Jesus illustrated the fact that the manna that the Jews called bread from heaven gave physical life only as their ancestors who ate the manna and eventually died; while the bread which is Christ will give real eternal life. All the synoptic gospels and John’s gospel clearly connect the bread of life with the redemptive death of Christ. This connection is also stressed by St. Paul.
How can one eats the bread of life will be given real eternal life? There is a process. First, a man eats of this bread of life by faith in Christ, by accepting him as being from God, who is the Messiah and Son of God who alone has seen the Father; and secondly by receiving him in the Eucharist. This man will be put on the road to eternal life because Christ became man and died and rose from the dead for that very purpose. The last verse of today’s gospel is the climax where the Eucharist is foretold.
Therefore, the main point of today’s gospel in part of Jesus’ discourse is the necessity for believing in Jesus, who is the Christ, has come down from heaven. This is explicitly stated by Jesus in the last verse of today’s gospel that he is about to give his own very body and their spiritual food to those who believe in him.
The reasons for the unbelief among the crowd in Jesus’ time are the same today. Man is proud of his intelligence, which he did not give to himself. Whatever he could not grasp within the limited confines of that intellect, he treats as non-existent as far as he is concerned. So, man’s limited, finite mind remains the sole judge and arbiter of all truth.
Do we Catholics believing in a loving God, and in his divine Son, Jesus Christ, who came on earth to bring us to heaven, and in the Holy Spirit who completes the work sanctification in us? Because of our Christian faith which has come to us from Jesus, we know where we came from, we know where we are going and we know how o reach that destination. Of all the knowledge a human being can acquire on this earth, the above facts are the most essential and important. Any other knowledge is of temporary value. Amen.