"The Promise of Heavenly Bread"

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

1 August 2021



“And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.” Jn. 6:35


This Sunday we continue Jesus’ revelation of the Holy Eucharist which we began last Sunday. After the “Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes,” Jesus and His disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee, to Capharnaum. The disciples went first by boat and Jesus followed during the night by walking on the water. When the people discovered that Jesus had left, they got into their boats and sailed to Capharnaum. It was in Capharnaum that Jesus revealed His intention of giving His own flesh in the Holy Eucharist. The enthusiasm of the crowd in their pursuit of Jesus was to make Him their king. Upon meeting them again in Capharnaum, Jesus said: Amen, amen I say to you, you seek me, not because you have seen miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto life everlasting, which the Son of man will give you.” Jn. 26-27 St. Augustine comments on these words: “You seek me for worldly motives, not for spiritual ones. How many people there are who seek Jesus solely for worldly ends! ...Rarely does someone look for Jesus for the sake of Jesus.” (St. Augustine, Commentary on St. John’s Gospel, 25, 30)


“Labour not for the meat which perisheth”

Jn. 6:26

Jesus knew why the Jewish people were following Him, and He wants to bring them to a fuller understanding of His purpose in feeding them with the loaves and fishes by revealing to them the mystery of the true bread from heaven that He would give them. He wants them to believe in Him: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he hath sent.” Jn. 6:29. Ironically, many of the Jews, even after witnessing the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, still ask for a sign: “They said therefore to him: What sign therefore dost thou shew, that we may see, and may believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Jn. 6:30-31 Today’s First Reading from the Book of Exodus (16:2-4, 12-15) speaks about Yahweh (God) manifested His providence by sending down manna from heaven to feed them. This manna is a symbol of Holy Eucharist which Jesus announces to the people: Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.Jn. 6:32-

True Bread from Heaven

When the Jews tell Jesus that Moses had given them the bread of heaven, Jesus replies that it was not Moses but His Father who had given them the true bread of heaven: For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world. They said therefore unto him: Lord, give us always this bread. And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.Jn. 6:33-35 St. Augustine tells us how Jesus is superior to Moses: “The Lord presents himself as superior to Moses. Not even Moses had had the audacity to claim that he himself gave the food which never perishes, which lasts unto eternal life. Jesus promises much more that Moses. Moses promised a kingdom, a land of milk and honey, earthly peace, numerous sons, physical health and all the other earthly goods....Thus you will fill your bodies here on earth with perishable goods. In contrast, Christ promised a food which would never perish but would last forever.” (St. Augustine, Commentary on St. John’s Gospel, 25, 12) The Jews knew that the manna was a symbol of messianic goods, but they had no idea that it was indeed a figure of the great messianic good of the Holy Eucharist. This is why they asked for a sign. Jesus tells them that the manna was not the true bread from heaven because those who ate of it died. Jesus says that the Father will give them the true bread of heaven. They reply: They said therefore unto him: Lord, give us always this bread.” Jn. 6: 34 Jesus then replies to them: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.” Jn. 6:35 Our Lord leaves no room for doubt that this bread is a reality. He repeats the verb “eat” to eight times. Christ will become food so that we might gain a new life, the life which he has brought to us; this is not a bread from the earth, but it is a bread from heaven: “Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world.” Jn. 6: 32-1

“I am the bread of life...” Jn. 6:35

In the Holy Eucharist, according to St. Cyril of Jerusalem, ”we become “flesh of his flesh and blood his blood.” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis, 22, 1). St. Paul in today’s Second Reading from the Epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 4:17, 20-24) sums up the essential meaning of Jesus’ message to the Jews at Capharnaum: To put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind: And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.” Eph. 4:22-24 Jesus has given the Jews the promise of His greatest miracle and His most important teaching which is that He is the Eucharistic “bread of life”: And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.”Jn. 6:35