The Bread of Life Discourse
Napoleon Bonaparte was an artist in war and his long succession of victories were the marvel of the world. One day some of his generals were discussing and comparing their master’s great battles, and one of them ventured to ask him which was the happiest day of his life. They wondered if he would think of the bridge of Lodi perhaps, the scene of his early triumph with the Army of Italy, a young general of twenty-six wrestling Lombardy from the Austrians. Or more likely of the ‘glorious sun’ of Austerlitz, the shattering victory which made him master of Europe.
The Emperor looked thoughtful: “Ah, the happiest day of my life? That was the day of my First Communion. I was near to God, then.”
The Jews always considers the manna in the desert as the bread of God (Ps. 78:24, Ex. 16:15). There is also a strong rabbinic belief that when the Messiah comes He will give manna from heaven. Jesus claims that He is the Messiah and the Jewish leaders, in today’s gospel passage, demand that Jesus will produce manna from heaven as proof to His claim to be the Messiah. Jesus responds by telling them that it was not Moses who gave the manna, but God. And the manna given to Moses and the people was not the real bread from heaven, but only a symbol of the bread to come. Jesus introduces Himself as the Bread of Life. That ‘anyone who comes to Him will never hunger and anyone who believes in Him will never thirst.’ That He is the One who can fully satisfy our deep longing for more, more than what the world offers us. The bread which Jesus offers is none else than the very life of God. This is the true bread which can truly satisfy the hunger in our hearts.
One time when I was in Cagayan de Oro City I was invited to say a High School Graduation Mass at 7:00AM and the venue was in a gymnasium. It was Sunday. I was surprised to see a long line of people at the side of the gymnasium. I was thinking that they would attend the graduation Mass. And so I was a little bit excited and also kinakabahan looking at those people who would attend the Mass. I thanked God that even if it was too early so many people willing to attend. But only to find out that those people who lined up, they were going to buy a lotto ticket which on that day too was the draw and the prize was so big.
I was a little bit sad because they were there not for the Bread of Life who is Jesus but just for the bread and no more.
How about our children, what kind of bread are we feeding them? In many homes, the most affordable bread is that which comes from the television. Here is a modern-day translation of Psalm 23 which I got when I surf the internet that says: “The TV is my shepherd, I shall not want. It makes me lie down in the sofa; it leads me away from the faith; it destroys my soul. It leads me in the path of sex and violence for the sponsor’s sake. Yeah, though I walk in the shadow of Christian responsibilities, there will be no interruptions, for the TV is with me. It prepares a commercial before me in the presence of my worldliness; it anoints my head with humanism and consumerism. My coveting run over, surely laziness and ignorance shall dwell in the house and I shall be watching TV forever.”
Do we hunger for God and for the food which produces everlasting life?