Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Bread of Life

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.’” John 6: 35

Did you notice that every time we eat food, we get hungry again? Every time we drink, we are thirsty again? Even after a good night’s sleep, we still get tired again? The temporary of this world, even the good things, always leave us wanting.

But Jesus claims to be the bread that will never leave us hungry again and the drink that will never leave us thirsty. Of what was He speaking? Some people say He was speaking symbolically, but the Catholic Church has maintained for 2,000 years that Jesus was speaking literally. Unfortunately, even most Catholics do not understand this teaching. In a recent Pew Research Poll half of the Catholics surveyed got this question wrong and said Holy Communion was symbolic.

So it is probably safe to say that many people out there struggle with this teaching, and perhaps many young people. And if you are one of them, then you are not all that much different than most of the people who heard Jesus give this teaching 2,000 years ago as recalled in the Gospel of John, chapter 6. When Jesus said He was the bread of life, the Jews present took Jesus literally and were confused as to how He could give them His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. If Jesus had been speaking symbolically, and He recognized that people were taking Him literally, He would have had a moral obligation to set them straight. But He didn’t. Rather than correct their assumption, Jesus goes on to say four more times in four different ways that He IS speaking literally and that He does mean that we have to eat His Body and drink His Blood.

At this point, even His own disciples began saying that this teaching was hard and that they didn’t know how they could accept it. And yet, once again, Jesus does not back down. The result? In verse 66 it says that many of His disciples left Him and returned to their former way of life. Again, if Jesus was not being literal, He would have had to stop those people and correct their misunderstanding. Think about it, why would He be willing to lose so many followers over a misunderstanding?

Finally, as His disciples were going away, He turned to His twelve apostles, His hand-picked, best friends. The ones he had spent every day with during His public ministry. And what did He say to them? “Hey guys, boy, did they all really miss what I was saying”. No! Jesus turned to His apostles and said “Do you also want to leave?” He was willing to lose EVERY disciple and EVERY apostle over this teaching. EVERY one of them!

As we are confronted with the Truth of Jesus’ words, may we come to believe in Him and in His Real Presence with us in the Eucharist. As St. Peter said, “…You have the words of eternal life.”

I believe Lord, help my unbelief so that I may receive Your Body and Blood worthily and never hunger or thirst again. Amen.

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