Engaging the Gospel – John 6:24-35

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – John 6:24-35

Jesus reveals that He is the Bread of Life – not to give out the earthly bread that the crowd seeks, but to bring us everlasting life. This “Bread of Life” discourse, the heart of John 6, will furnish our Gospel readings for the next few weeks.

“The fundamental context in which the entire chapter belongs is centered upon the contrast between Moses and Jesus,” Benedict XVI writes in Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 1. “Jesus is the definitive, greater Moses” (p. 264).

Moses was identified with the gift of manna that sustained the Israelites in the desert: “Even the manna was not heavenly bread, but only earthly bread…or rather a food substitute” (p. 267).

But the Lord gives us much more – He gives us Himself in the Eucharist.

As the manna physically nourished the Israelites on the way to the Promised Land, so does the Eucharist sustain us spiritually on our journey to heaven.

The Eucharist is literally the “food of eternal life” (Catechism paragraph 1212):

What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ…preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion…

— paragraph 1392.

The North African Christians in the early fourth century gave eloquent testimony to the necessity of the Eucharist. When Christian worship was banned during a vicious persecution of the Church, they chose martyrdom rather than give up the Eucharist, proclaiming that they could not exist without the Sacrament (see Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 95).

Question for reflection: How do I prepare to receive the Lord in the Eucharist?