The Bread of Life

This coming Sunday and all of the Sundays of August we will be listening to the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. John at Mass. During this we will hear about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and then Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life that He delivered in the synagogue in Capernaum. 

In the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (at #1336) we are told, “The first announcement of the Eucharist [which this was] divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ (Jn 6:60). The Eucharist and the cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. ‘Will you also go away?’ (Jn 6:67). The Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only He has ‘the words of eternal life’ (St. Peter in Jn 6:68) and that to receive in faith the gift of His Eucharist is to receive the Lord Himself.”

This is a great thing to meditate on during these summer months, when many people have more free time than during the rest of the year. It might move you to go to Mass more often, maybe even daily, to receive Our Lord worthily and make this an act of Thanksgiving (as the word “Eucharist” means in Greek) for all the blessings you have received from God. It might be an opportunity to take more time for prayer with Jesus, either in the Tabernacle or exposed on the altar for Adoration.

In the Our Father we ask God to “give us this day our daily bread.” In the “Catechism” (#2836) we are taught, “This day is also an expression of trust taught us by the Lord (Mt 6:34; Ex 16:19), which we would never have presumed to invent. Since it refers above all to His Word and to the Body of His Son, this ‘today’ is not only that of our mortal time, but also the ‘today’ of God.”

Then, quoting St. Ambrose, the paragraph continues, “If you receive the bread each day, each day is today for you. If Christ is yours today, He rises for you every day. How can this be? ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten you.’ Therefore, ‘today’ is when Christ rises.”

In the following paragraph (#2837), the “Catechism” adds, “‘Daily’ (epiousios) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of ‘this day,’ to confirm us in trust ‘without reservation.’ Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence. Taken literally (epi-ousios: ‘super-essential’), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the ‘medicine of immortality,’ without which we have no life within us (St. Ignatius of Antioch). Finally in this connection, its Heavenly meaning is evident: ‘this day’ is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the Kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the Kingdom to come. For this reason it is fitting for the Eucharistic Liturgy to be celebrated each day.” And if it is celebrated each day, why not try to make time to attend it (if humanly possible)?

The “Catechism” then quotes St. Augustine: “The Eucharist is our daily bread. The power belonging to this Divine food makes it a bond of union. Its effect is then understood as unity, so that, gathered into His Body and made members of Him, we may become what we receive. This also is our daily bread: the readings you hear each day in church and the hymns you hear and sing. All these are necessities for our pilgrimage.” The late bishop of Hippo described well the benefits we can enjoy by attending Mass daily.

Next, St. Peter Chrysologus is also quoted. “The Father in Heaven urges us, as children of Heaven, to ask for the Bread of Heaven. [Christ] Himself is the Bread Who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from Heaven.”

On the feast of Corpus Christi in 2017 Pope Francis spoke about Jesus being the “Bread of Life.” “The ‘Living Bread, come down from Heaven’ (Jn 6:51) is the Sacrament of memory, reminding us, in a real and tangible way, of the story of God’s love for us. Today, to each of us, the Word of God says, remember! Remembrance of the Lord’s deeds guided and strengthened His people’s journey through the desert; remembering all that the Lord has done for us is the foundation of our own personal history of Salvation. Remembrance is essential for faith, as water is for a plant. A plant without water cannot stay alive and bear fruit. Nor can faith, unless it drinks deeply of the memory of all that the Lord has done for us.”

The Holy Father continued, “Remember. Memory is important, because it allows us to dwell in love, to be mindful, never forgetting Who it is Who loves us and Whom we are called to love in return. Yet nowadays, this singular ability that the Lord has given us is considerably weakened. Amid so much frantic activity, many people and events seem to pass in a whirl. We quickly turn the page, looking for novelty while unable to retain memories. Leaving our memories behind and living only for the moment, we risk remaining ever on the surface of things, constantly in flux, without going deeper, without the broader vision that reminds us who we are and where we are going. In this way, our life grows fragmented, and dulled within.”

As stated previously, summer allows most of us the luxury of some more time to remember the many blessings that God gives us.

“[I]n our fragmented lives,” the pope preached, “the Lord comes to meet us with a loving ‘fragility,’ which is the Eucharist. In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making Himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory, wounded by life’s frantic pace of life. The Eucharist is the memorial of God’s love. There, ‘[Christ’s] sufferings are remembered’ (II Vespers, antiphon for the Magnificat) and we recall God’s love for us, which gives us strength and support on our journey. This is why the Eucharistic commemoration does us so much good: it is not an abstract, cold and superficial memory, but a living remembrance that comforts us with God’s love. A memory that is recollection and imitation. The Eucharist is flavored with Jesus’ Words and deeds, the taste of His Passion, the fragrance of His Spirit. When we receive it, our hearts are overcome with the certainty of Jesus’ love.”

May we remember and be moved to love Jesus in the Eucharist and in our neighbors.

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