In today’s Gospel God himself, the Son, has come to encourage the faithful, and today he tries to teach them that he is the Bread of Life who will sustain them in their pilgrimage toward eternal life. It’s difficult for the crowds to understand this teaching: they know Jesus, where he is from, who he parents are, so it’s hard for them to believe he has come down from Heaven. Their earthly knowledge and reasoning are not enough: it’s time for faith.
In today’s First Reading Elijah is dejected and ready to give up when it seems his mission has failed and his life is in danger. Forty days and nights before reaching Horeb Elijah had worked a powerful sign showing the Lord was God, had overthrown a veritable army of false prophets, and witnessed the end of a long punitive drought that was imposed on the unfaithful Israelites. Despite this, his life was in danger and it seemed the evil and infidelity in Israel was as strong and powerful as ever, spearheaded by Jezebel, who pledged to kill him after he’d humiliated her prophets and pagan religion.
The Lord takes the initiative and encourages him, sending him food and drink, persisting when Elijah was not ready to get up and continue on to Mount Horeb to consult the Lord. That nourishment and encouragement sustained him for a long journey, just as Our Lord, through the Eucharist, nourishes us and encourages us in the journey of life. Elijah needed encouragement to keep believing, and sometimes we need it too.
In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that faith in Our Lord and all the benefits that come from it is not a question of a moment, but, rather, a process. In today’s Gospel Our Lord tells the incredulous crowd that the Father called and prepared them even before he was sent so that they would believe that he truly is the Bread of Life. It’s that faith that begins a process in the believer of leaving aside bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling, and malice so that he or she can live a life of kindness as a child of God, imitating Our Lord in his service toward others, even when it is costly. This process of faith, conversion, and purification is then “sealed” by the Holy Spirit to help us never consider turning back to our fallen past and way of life.
In today’s Gospel God himself, the Son, has come to encourage the faithful, and today he tries to teach them that he is the Bread of Life who will sustain them in their pilgrimage toward eternal life, just as Elijah needed help in today’s First Reading. It’s difficult for the crowds to understand this teaching: they know Jesus, where he is from, who his parents are, so it’s hard for them to believe he has come down from Heaven.
Their earthly knowledge and reasoning are not enough: it’s time for faith. It’s not just a faith born in a vacuum: they’re receiving grace to help them believe and be open to the Heavenly Father’s messenger. If they open their hearts to the Father, the Father leads them to take the next step. They must believe in his Son, not just as a sure guide in their pilgrimage to eternal life, but as their nourishment to be able to undertake the journey and as their “sponsor:” his self-offering makes the journey possible at all.
A lot of people stick with the minimum necessary: Mass every Sunday. If the Bread of Life is so helpful on life’s journey, why not “stock up” once in a while? Consider going to Mass on a weekday or two or participating in Eucharistic adoration at your parish.