For about three Sundays now, the liturgical readings from the gospel of St. John are about the theme of the “Bread of Life.” Jesus points to Himself as the Bread of life. This is one of the great passages of the New Testament , and one of the most difficult text to understand, just as the Jews have difficulty in understanding Jesus’ saying of the Bread of Life because it is so allusive and use of symbolism is not familiar to us.
But this is why the liturgy has carefully matched these excerpts with stories from Hebrew scriptures that shed light on the sayings of Jesus, and later its special relation to the Eucharist will be quite obvious.
For most Christians this narrative of John brings us to the gradual understanding of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the center of their religious observance. It is a special moment in the week, perhaps in the day, perhaps less often, but nevertheless in the Eucharist they find their faith and hope engendered. It is not just a time set aside but it is an action that sets them apart in the whole of their lives.
To take pat in the Eucharistic celebration is always an act of allegiance, of self-identification and commitment, however slight.
For many decades now, many liturgical reforms and changes have taken place, and has made possible a simpler yet classic, accessible ritual for the faithful to participate. The Vatican II Constitution on the Liturgy has guided the believing community to make the Eucharistic celebration the peak or summit of their daily Christian experience of Jesus, to which everything was directed and from which everything flowed. Some of the changes in liturgical matters have often been distressing or disruptive, yet if the liturgical changes were theologically and pastorally well based, the faithful will no doubt integrate their faith towards a meaningful celebration.
Some question maybe pertinent – has the Christian gospel anything to say in response to the social questions of our day? (That is, the questions that arise out of urgent and widespread human suffering today, like the world problem of hunger.)
The Bread of Life is full of implications beyond immediate physical nourishment. But the message that man does not live by bread alone really only acquires a human experiential meaning when seen as the complement to the message that man does not live without bread. There is an obvious, though not literal sense in which we claim to be bread of another, and beyond the strictly physical sense, one person in fact is the sustenance of another whenever one rescues another from despair, hopelessness and after something to which to live.
Our encounter with Jesus, the Bread of Life, is our encounter with hope, light, and salvation.