Homily for the nineteenth Sunday of the Year - Year B - Jn. 6:41-51


by

Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
 
 

" The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, «I am the bread which came down from heaven.» They said, «Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, "I have come down from heaven?"» Jesus answered them, «Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, "And they shall all be taught by God." Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.» "




Homily:


" The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, «I am the bread which came down from heaven.» They said, «Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, "I have come down from heaven?"» "


We will set aside reading from the Gospel of Saint Mark for a few Sundays in order to devote ourselves to the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Saint John. This chapter is one of most important that Saint John ever wrote, for it conveys to us all that Jesus himself explained concerning the Eucharist, which he calls "the bread of life, the bread which came down from heaven".


Some refuse to see any reference to the Eucharist here. In fact, in this discourse, what is being spoken of is not bread and wine such as that which we see being used during the Eucharistic Supper. Nevertheless, this is a false problem. For, during the Eucharistic celebration, the minister repeats the words of Jesus: "This is my Body" and "This is my Blood" (or rather: "This is the cup of my Blood"); while here, in Saint John, Jesus says: "I am the bread of life." (Jn. 6:48) Now, all of this is but the expression of a single - mysterious - reality presented under two different aspects. The first aspect consists in saying that this food is the Body of Christ; the second aspect, that the Body of Jesus is this food.


Thus, in Saint John there is an inversion, another presentation of the Eucharistic mystery. And this is what leads some to believe, incorrectly, that the sixth chapter of Saint John is not a commentary on the Eucharist. On the contrary, it is the best such commentary, that which comes closest to the reality, for it is presented and commented on by Jesus himself. But, in one sense or the other, the Eucharistic mystery - like any other mystery - requires faith. Thus, one understands the astonishment of the Jews to whom Jesus addressed his words, for, without faith, it was impossible for them to accept the words of the Master.


" Jesus answered them, «Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, "And they shall all be taught by God." Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father.» "


Faith! What a great virtue! Thanks to it, wonders were carried out throughout the ages! Thanks to it, today we ourselves believe! But faith, true faith, is nothing without love. It is love which is the driving force of faith, it is love which pushes the men and women living on this earth to believe, with all their heart, in God the Father who is in Heaven! Now, the only thing which can lead to making love act is love itself: for only love draws love. The Father, almighty God, God all-love, it is he and he alone who can draw our love, and, in this way, activate our faith which leads us to Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him."


" «Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.» "


Faith and love do good work: together, they lead man towards God, towards that food which is the Word of God. Faith and love are the means which make it possible for man to receive within him the life which belongs to the Word of Life, the very Life of God: "He who believes has eternal life." However, even if faith makes it possible for love to live eternally, it is only a beginning of eternity which is given to the man who loves God: for faith is a trial which lasts until the end of a man's life on earth, a trial which one must undergo, a trial one must endure to the end, with perseverance.


A strong faith, a powerful faith, a faith supported by the very power of the Love of God, such a faith gives man the power to not die in eternity, even if he must die in time, at the hour chosen by God. The object of this faith and love, the Eucharist - the bread of eternal life - gives the man or woman who receives it worthily the power to not die in eternity! "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever."


Let us ask Mary, the Mother of Fairest Love, to help us to commune of the Body of Christ with strong faith and with love without end, in the hope of the eternal life which will manifest itself in the risen Jesus when he appears on the last day!



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