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I am the bread that gives eternal life

The final scene of last Sunday’s gospel marks, according to human criteria, the pinnacle of Jesus’ success. A huge crowd cheers him and, moved by an irrepressible enthusiasm, try to take him to make him king. 

What looks like a triumph is, however, for Jesus, the most disappointing of results. His gesture, the sign, is misunderstood. He proposes sharing and they understand as  comfortable multiplication of food.

To reflect on the way in which to introduce the crowd in understanding the signs of bread, Jesus withdraws to the mountain (John 6:15), but the next day they catch up with him in Capernaum and  asks, “Master, when did you come here?” 

Jesus does not answer the question put to him, but to the real one, the one that all would like to ask, “Will you repeat the miracle today? Will you guarantee us bread forever?” He goes right to the heart of the problem: “You look for me, not because of the signs which you have seen, but because you ate bread and were satisfied.

Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life.” He realised that they sought after him because they hoped to have food in abundance, for free, without working.

In the first part of the passage (vv. 24-27), Jesus begins to disperse the confusion that has been created. He did not come to turn, with the magic wand, the stones into bread, but to teach that love and sharing produce bread in abundance. 

In the misunderstanding of the people of Capernaum, the evangelist wants that every Christian sees, as a watermark, one’s own incomprehension. He reminds each one to ask oneself of the motive of seeking the Lord, taking refuge in him, praying and practising religion. 

Many, such as those who have witnessed the miracle of the loaves, should admit to being moved by the secret hope of obtaining from Jesus the food which perishes: special graces, miracles, health, success, wealth, protection against misfortunes. 

The proliferation, in certain sectors of the Church, of practices related to magic to achieve healing and secure the favour of the Lord, proves that the misunderstanding on the “bread” that Jesus offers is always present. Even the Samaritan woman did not understand that the Master was giving her a water different from that of the well.

So what is the food “which endures to eternal life”?

It is only the bread that remains. On the boat—Mark notes—the disciples “had only one loaf with them” (Mark 8:14), Jesus, whose word is all the food that God has given to his people. Who has him does not need other bread, has no need of other revelations.

λ Father Jijo Kandamkulathy cmf


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