June 11, 2020
Last Sunday, we saw, that “God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son” (John 2:16), and therefore the Son, Jesus, came into the world so that nothing may be lost, so that the world would be saved through Him.
Today’s solemnity speaks to us again of this love, the one with which God so loved the world as to give His Son.
And it tells us, above all, that love is something very concrete, we could say corporal.
John the Evangelist has this theme very much at heart. He repeats it in his first letter, where he says that we cannot love with words, with language, but only with deeds and in truth (1John 3:18). But we could say that the entire Gospel of John revolves around astonishment at this God who, for love of us, took a body, took our flesh. Therefore, John says, we were able to see, hear, touch … (1John 1:1-3). God did not love with words but made himself flesh, He “needed” a body to give himself to humanity, to save it.
In today’s Gospel passage (John 6:51-58) we are brought to the heart of this mystery of salvation.
We are in Chapter 6 of John, the great discourse on the bread of life. The chapter begins with Jesus who, looking up, sees a great crowd and asks Philip where bread could ever be bought for all these people. And Philip simply notes what is a given reality: we do not have sufficient means so that everyone can receive a piece a bread (John 6:5-7). Then Jesus takes what a boy makes available, gives thanks, distributes the loaves, and feeds the entire multitude.
After this sign, Jesus retires to pray, and then gathers His disciples who are trying in vain, on account of the strong contrary wind, to reach the other side of the lake. And, reaching Kfar Nahum, He speaks at length in the synagogue about the real bread, which feeds the deep hunger of man.
In the verses that we hear today, the terms that recur most often are those that refer to the semantic of living, of life: Jesus says He is the living bread, so whoever eats him will have life.
With that, the evangelist tells us that Jesus possesses a quality of life different from that which is simply biological, natural. The latter bears the signs of death and is destined to end. It must nourish, but the nourishment is not sufficient to avoid death. The life Jesus gives, on the contrary, knows not death.
It also needs to feed on something, on someone, because every life needs to be nourished, needs nutrition. Life bears within itself signs of this fundamental truth, the life given to us, and continually lived by gift.
So, Jesus feeds on the relationship with the Father and lives on Him (John 6:57). And we need the relationship with Christ, to feed on Him.
God’s love for us comes this far. Not only did He make Himself close, but He also became a brother who walks with us. Much more. He offered Himself to us as nourishment for life, and through the symbol of nourishment invites us to become one thing only with Him, to make His very life ours, to live with Him, as He lives with the Father.
Why this, for what purpose?
We often find, in the writings of the Old Testament, expressions as “I am the Lord, your God”, or “You will love the Lord, your God”, …
Here, the entire history of salvation bears within it a great promise: the promise by which God becomes your God, our God, the God of our life.
Not an external reality, to adhere to, but Someone who lives within us, the fountain of our very life that, from within, enlivens and transforms us. The promise of having the very life of God in us.
Jesus fulfills this promise, this great expectation of man, our deepest desire.
He does it in the only possible way, that of offering Himself as food to us, asking us to recognize our real hunger and to believe that, in this hunger, we are given, daily and freely, a living bread.