After having feasted on five loaves and two fish the people go in search of Jesus. It looks like they were all looking for miracles and more food and Jesus recognizes that. He makes use of the opportunity to preach about the bread of life that he is going to give. The bread that comes from God and feeding us to be worthy of eternal life. He calls himself ‘the bread of life’. We all need food to grow and have life, whereas, Jesus gives us food that nourishes us and fills us with divine grace.
In the last sentence of today’s gospel Jesus tells us, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” People who had come to have some free food and see miracles got confused and wondered, “What kind of food is this?” I am sure we all would be confused if we heard someone say, “I am the bread of life”. Jesus has shown us by his life, death and resurrection how He became bread of life for us. In 1 Cor. 11:24, Jesus, after taking the bread, broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.” We all know he was referring to His cross while he said this. Think of that moment, what it must have felt for Jesus to break that bread referring to His own body and the suffering that he is about to undergo. Think of that cup, which he raised and referring to His own blood that would be shed on the cross for our sake.
Some time ago I was suffering from severe back pain and that morning, while offering mass, I was not even able to raise that cup I had to hold on to the altar with my other hand in order to raise that cup. Think of that last supper while Jesus raised that cup that reminded him of the suffering He was going to face in consecutive days. How painful and heavy that cup must have been. Jesus himself had referred to His passion as ‘cup of suffering’. He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
We all are interested to know the recipe of the foods we like. I never ask for a recipe nor do I refer to any book. You know why? It never turns out to be the way it is intended. In order to avoid regrets I try to allow whatever it wants to become and that way, and every time, I have something original and new. All of us are interested to know what recipe Jesus followed to make the bread of life. He made himself into that bread. The content of this bread is Jesus Himself. And the process is the cross and the suffering. He made this heavenly bread ready for us by suffering that cross and giving up His life. The blood that we drink is made up of Jesus Himself and the process is by shedding his blood on the cross till the last drop of blood. This sacrifice is not over, this is the one and the only sacrifice, eternal sacrifice, he offered for our sake. He ended all inhumane, cruel sacrifices that were needed in the pagan world by offering Himself on the cross. Some time ago a boy in Bhopal saw a vision and saw Mother Mary weeping with tears of blood. On being asked, “Why are you weeping?”, her answer was, “Why are the people persecuting my son?” He is suffering for us when we sin. We crucify Him by our sinfulness. And every individual enduring the suffering contributes to the cross and in the making of the ‘Bread of life that comes down from heaven’.
Today we have freedom and enjoy the fruits of the faith due to the sufferings of so many who are giving life for their faith. Each time we celebrate the Eucharist it should remind us of that sacrifice Jesus offered for our sake on the cross. We can alleviate that suffering by our practice of faith and by our prayers. Every time that bread is broken and cup is raised think of the sacrifice of Jesus, the sacrifice of so many martyrs and faithful who suffer for his sake. In order to protect the sanctity and holiness of that sacrifice, so many have given life and even today to keep the faith alive, so many face death every day. Let the eternal sacrifice that Jesus gave us take away all the suffering, cruelty to animals as well as humans, and help us in bringing peace on earth.