August 8, 2021 at Saint Peter, Saint Agnes, and Saint William Churches in Naples, FL
1 Kings 19, 4-8 + Psalm 34 + Ephesians 4, 30 – 5,2 + John 6, 41-51
At this point in chapter six, the crowd is unable to listen any further to Jesus. Not only are they impatient because he does not give them any more signs, but they are totally confounded by his claim to have come down from heaven when they know his clan and where they live. So, in these verses, the focus is not bread, but Jesus himself. Before he can talk about the bread and what it is, he must reveal who he is if he is the bread.
Moving into this revelation about the identity of Jesus, our own faith and understanding about the bread of life and the eucharist gets tested. The crowd is wrong. They only think they know where Jesus comes from. They look at Jesus and all they see is just another man, one of their neighbors, the son of that carpenter, Joseph. Here, Jesus challenges just what it is they think they know, and John begins to introduce the role and the consequence faith plays in those who listen to the Word of God.
The gift of faith is like the gift of sight. It expands what we know, and most of what we know comes through sight. Scientists tell us that our eyes are only sensitive to that segment of the spectrum located between red and violet which is only 5% of existing light. The remaining 95% made of cosmic, infrared, ultraviolet, gammas, and x-rays, we cannot see. That means we only perceive 5% of the real world. This is the problem for that crowd and many others without faith. It was a problem for the Corinthians to whom Paul writes those powerful words: “We walk by faith and not by sight.” In a just a few minutes, what our eyes see is a piece of bread which is walking by sight. To those who walk by faith they see the Body of Christ. We must be careful here with our expression of what we see by faith. We do not see “Jesus.” That’s what the crowd saw. We see “The Body of Christ.” They are not the same thing.
Throughout these verses, Jesus insists that there is a relationship between him and the Father. Knowing who Jesus is means knowing him as a person of relationship, and to discover his love, faithfulness, and attraction for the God he calls Father. The bread he wants to give is that relationship, and that is why we call it “Communion.” For people of father it is not bread. It is the Body of Christ which is what we become by our faithful acceptance of this gift of himself. To enter into the mystery of Christ is to enter into life – life everlasting. The truth of this, and the realization of what we are doing here ought to leave us stunned to silence as we try to wrap our minds around the enormity and the value of this gift.
The crowd that was so excited and fascinated at the beginning is murmuring now, and soon they will be shouting for him to be crucified. The limitation that they impose on themselves by insisting that they know who Jesus is and what they want from him is a tragedy we must avoid. Giving up or losing faith because God will not be or do what we want is a tragedy we can avoid if we simply walk by faith, enter into the relationship we are offered, and hold to the hope we are given by the resurrection of Christ. It is the hope that no matter what, even if death comes, we shall rise again because we have eternal life.