19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel – John 6:41-51
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
As we continue our journey through the Bread of Life Discourse, this week’s Gospel has us witness further interactions between Jesus and the crowd following him. As they discuss Jesus’ words “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” they are baffled. Their presumed knowledge of the truth of Jesus’ identity (son of Mary and Joseph) prevents them from seeing the truth that Jesus is the one sent by God.
He instructs the crowd that he has been sent to bring life through his own faithfulness to God and his own unity with God. Jesus links this unity with his identity as the one who has seen and who knows God. Those who listen to God, he says, will recognize that he is the one who has been sent. Yet, the crowd was not able to consider that one so familiar to them could convey God’s presence and power, could embody God’s unconditional love and could be the fulfillment of the promise of salvation, as he gives his “flesh for the life of the world.”
In our own lives today, we may experience some of the struggles the crowd experienced. Do we believe Jesus’ words? Do we believe in Jesus’ presence among us in our world? Is our own sense of awe and wonder blunted by familiarity? What are our barriers in recognizing God at work in the world through people and creation?
Perhaps during a walk or while sitting quietly, we can reflect on who or what has conveyed God’s love to us today and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for that gift. Or, perhaps we can “give our flesh” by giving of ourselves in loving service to someone in need.
Linda, this gospel is always difficult for me to “get into.” Your suggestions for action help me to look at the “bread of life” gospel in a new way, a meaningful way. Thank you,