Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle B

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

bread & word.jpg

 John 6.41-51

“Everybody who believes has eternal life”

Today's reading is the third of five consecutive readings from chapter 6 of St. John's Gospel. The multiplication of the loaves was a sign pointing to something much deeper than bodily food. Jesus explains that it is God who gives the real bread that has come down from heaven, and that Jesus himself is that bread. In reaction the crowd started “complaining to each other about Jesus”. They can’t accept him as having come from God because of his humanity; they know where he has come from because they know his parents. He is only one of us, even if he has fed us with bread in the desert.

John’s Gospel, from the very beginning, insists on this humanity of Jesus: “the Word became flesh”, entered physically into our world, truly ‘one of us’. It is in his very humanity that he is the Bread of Divine Revelation, the Word of God addressed to us. People need more than physical bread - they need to be fed by divine instruction and Jesus is the divine Word. He embodies God's revelation, God's wisdom, and with this he will feed the people. So his invitation is to faith - believe and you will be ‘fed’; believe and you will have eternal life. Jesus who feeds us with his Body in the Eucharist is the same Jesus who feeds us by his Word.

The Church's tradition has always spoken to us about the twin tables at which the faithful are nourished: the table of the Word, and the table of the Eucharist. In today's gospel Jesus declares that ‘to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me’. It is worth recalling that when he took pity on the large crowd, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, ‘he set himself to teach them at some length’ - before feeding them in the miracle of the loaves. Our celebration of the Eucharist echoes this order: we are first nourished by his Word and thus prepared for the nourishment of his Body. Christ is present to us in both Word and Sacrament to give us eternal life.