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Father Muench Says...

Continuing reflections on John 6

Aug. 11, 2021

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, let us continue our consideration of John 6. As you remember, the Gospel readings at Mass on the Sundays of August are all from John 6, the section is called Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life. So, each and every Catholic Church throughout the whole world is studying John 6 this month, studying the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. I hope you have had the opportunity to personally read John 6 this week. If not, then John 6 is your homework.

A large part of John 6 is this discourse of Jesus, his dialogue with a crowd of people. In it, Jesus proclaims, “I am the bread of life.” After the multiplication of the loaves, this crowd of people followed Jesus and the disciples. Then follows this dialogue between Jesus and the people concerning the “bread of life.” The people remember well the story of the Exodus, the story of the Hebrew people journeying through the desert toward the Promised Land. They are saved from hunger by the manna. They see this as bread from heaven. Jesus tells them the true bread from heaven is himself. We recognize that the “bread from heaven” is Jesus coming to us in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

For us, Catholics, we believe in the real presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine at Mass – the Blessed Eucharist. For us this is our bread from heaven. To receive the gift of the Eucharist is to receive the Lord Himself.

As you remember, the word Eucharist is from Greek and means gratitude. Each time, we, Catholics, gather for Eucharist, it is a time to express our gratitude to all that Jesus has done for us, and we are a blessed people. We recognize the sacrifice and love that Jesus brought to us. This is a time for gratitude. Each Eucharist is a celebration of gratitude. Jesus is our Bread of Life, and for this we are grateful. Thank you, Lord, for your presence in our Mass, in our sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

In John 6, Jesus helps us to understand so much of his presence among us. Jesus speaks of being the Bread of Life: “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.”

At this point, the people find this too much to believe. They say, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Yet Jesus goes on to teach them – and us, his people of all time – a message that we, Catholics, believe in faith: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”

In faith, we believe in “the real presence of Jesus” in the Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist. To receive the gift of the Eucharist is to receive the Lord Himself. Through the Blessed Eucharist a spiritual bond is forged between us and Jesus. The Eucharist enables us to grow in intimacy and friendship with the Lord. We are also united to one another through mutual love, forgiveness, and concern.

Jesus comes to us in power and glory in the Blessed Eucharist, which is sent from the Father in Heaven. The Lord comes to us in love, God’s love for us through Jesus, ever present in the Blessed Eucharist.

This love that God gives to all of us is a model for how we should love one another. The Eucharist demonstrates Christ’s love through his life with us and his death for us, a saving act for us and an example to us. We are called to love one another as Jesus – the Jesus who suffered for us – loves us.

We are called to live selflessly for one another in imitation of our savior, learning to treat one another with dignity and respect. An encounter with one another is an encounter with the image of God. Do you encounter God in your interaction with others?

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