Gospel: St. John, Chapter 6, verse 24-36.
Today we meet another ‘I AM’ moment,- ‘I AM the Bread of Life’.
Two things help us to read and understand St. John’s Gospel, in any of its words.
First, the frequent I AM moments, all through the Gospel. For the community around St. John, -most of whom were Jewish converts to Christ,- ‘I AM’ rang all sorts of bells, because it reminded them of the answer the Lord gave to Moses at the burning bush, when Moses asked ‘Who are you?’: ‘ I AM WHO I AM.’
And here, today, Jesus says to us: ‘I AM the Bread of Life!’ Later in St. John’s Gospel, ‘I AM the light of the world’, ‘Before Abraham was, I AM! ‘ I AM the Good Shepherd’ ‘I AM the resurrection’, ‘I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life’. I AM the true vine.’ When Jesus said ‘I AM…’ he was claiming to come from God and to be God.
Secondly, in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus gave SIGNS,- he did things and said things that pointed to Who Jesus Is,- the I AM, the Anointed of God, the One Sent by the Father to us.
And at the end of St. Johns’ Gospel, in what was the first conclusion to his Gospel, he writes: ‘These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.’ (John 20:31)
So, all the signs,- including the feeding of the 5000,- and all the I AM moments are written for us so that we too, in our generation, ‘may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this (we) may have life through his name.’
Read the Gospel for today again:
‘You are not looking for me because you have seen the signs’, Jesus said to them, but rather because Jesus seemed like a very promising Bread Van, with plenty of handouts. They had not read the ‘sign’ of what happened when he fed the entire multitude with a small boy’s lunch-basket, and had twelve baskets-full of leftovers. . They were stuck at the level of loaves of bread, but he wanted to lead them to something much more lasting and satisfying and filling,- and that was Himself!
‘Don’t work for food that doesn’t last…work for the kind of ‘food’ that the Son of Man is offering you’,- why? ‘because on him, the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’
‘My Father gives you… the true bread…which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ And when they asked for that ‘bread’, he answered them: ‘I AM the bread of life, and if you come to me you will never be hungry, if you believe in me you will never be thirsty.’
This whole conversation, where Jesus leads his hearers (us) from one kind of bread that is unsatisfying to another kind of bread that is much more nourishing, is typical of the stories in St. John, where Jesus begins with something very physical (water for the Samaritan Woman, eye-sight for the blind man, life restored for Lazarus) to something much deeper,- pointing always to himself, the One Sent to us by the Father.
‘These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.’ (John 20:31)
If we are hungry in our lives, or thirsting for something more, can we come to Jesus himself, whose very person will answer all our hearts’ cravings? ‘I AM the Bread of Life!’
Seamus Devitt C.Ss.R.