Thursday of Week 3 of Easter – Gospel

Commentary on John 6:44-51

We continue to read John’s sixth chapter about Jesus as the Bread of Life. Today’s passage largely repeats what has been said already but at the end a new element is introduced. Jesus reminds us that it is not we who find Jesus, but rather it is the Father who finds us and leads us to Jesus as the Way to God. Here Jesus quotes from the Old Testament:

And they shall all be taught by God.

Words to be found in Isaiah (54:13) and reminiscent of words spoken by Jeremiah:

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
(Jer 31:33)

We see a lovely instance of that in the First Reading today about the eunuch who was led to Jesus by the deacon Philip. What was important here was the readiness and openness of the eunuch to be drawn to the truth.

Jesus again repeats that he is the Bread of Life, using that formal expression ‘I AM’ which points to divine origin. Unlike the manna that the Jews’ ancestors ate in the desert, this Bread comes directly from God:

This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.

Jesus’ challengers were asking for a sign like manna, but Jesus says that it did not give real life:

Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.

The Bread that Jesus will give will bring a never-ending life to those who eat it. Jesus is the Living Bread because he is the very Word of God and because he offers up his Body and Blood in a sacrifice of love, bringing life to the whole world.

And this Bread is his flesh, life-giving flesh. This flesh will be given for the life of the world – a looking forward to Calvary. Giving eternal life will cost the human life of the Giver.

With these words the chapter moves into its eucharistic meaning. The word ‘flesh’ (sarx) introduces the link between Eucharist and Incarnation. Jesus is the Word made flesh and that Word is the food that we all need to ‘eat’. To ‘eat’ here, while involving actual eating and drinking, really points to the total assimilation into oneself and into a gathered community of the very Spirit of Jesus.

The Eucharist, as we shall see tomorrow, is the great sign of the Christian community by which we both affirm and celebrate our union with Jesus. By our eating of the Bread-that-is-flesh we affirm our total adherence to all that Jesus is and stands for.

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