John 6: The Bread of Life
Beginning this weekend through August 22 (five weeks) our Gospel at Mass will be John 6. With the exception of August 15, the Feast of the Assumption which falls on a Sunday this year. Last Sunday, the Gospel ended with Jesus being confronted with an enormous crowd as he got out of a boat, and he began to teach them. Mark 6 continues with the multiplication of the loaves. The miracle of the multiplication is the only miracle recounted in each of the four Gospels. The details change somewhat, for instance in John, a little boy has the loaves and fish and they are distributed by Jesus, not the disciples. The Lectionary changes pattern here because we would otherwise not hear this part of John’s Gospel in the three-year cycle, and it is a central moment in the text. This is the place where John focuses on Eucharist most pointedly. Here the familiar line, ‘I am the bread of life’ will occur.
Our reading of John six gives us an opportunity to focus on Eucharist, both in our personal relationship with Jesus, and as central to our life as Catholics. Perhaps especially this year, this focus is so important. The pandemic forced us to be without Eucharist for over a year. Many are back in church, others are not yet ready or feel safe to come. Our hunger for Eucharist, and our relationship with Jesus present to us in Body and Blood is central to our faith, and the themes of our belief and practice of Eucharist grounded in this central chapter of John.
John opens this chapter with the miracle of the multiplication. As in Mark, Jesus is faced with a huge crowd and a deserted place. The crowd reminds of us,our many needs, our great diversity, our hungers.
This may be part of the reason that each Gospel writer kept this one event. It reflects the life of the community in every age. Scholars also believe that this event happened and was remembered and treasured by the ancient community. The huge crowd is in a deserted place. Images of barren desert are evoked here, desperation, more hunger and need.
JESUS PROVIDES FOR OUR MANY HUNGERS, GIVING COMFORT EVEN WHEN WE FEEL BARREN AND LOST IN A CROWD, HE SEES US AND PROVIDES IN ABUNDANCE. That detail is central to the event, abundant. We have no way of
knowing how so many can be fed with so little, and it does immense disservice to the Gospel to conjure up explanations. The Gospel writers each retained this moment because it spoke so richly and clearly to them of Jesus’ teaching about our relationship with God and God with us. God’s love is such that we would never be left to fend for ourselves, whether in a barren place or lush garden. God’s love and relationship with us is such, that God seeks to be literally and physically one
with us in the Bread of Life, which we receive each week at the altar. God’s love for us is such, that in a desperate place in the desert, with little or nothing at hand (John indicates only a few loaves offered by a young boy) God will provide. The sixth chapter will continue with the miracle or Jesus walking on the water (we do not hear that at Mass) and then he will
begin the teaching, which will be next week’s Gospel. Read and pray John 6 at home as this series continues.
Have a good week love,