The Father’s Gift
May 4, 2022 (readings)
- Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
- Janet Scanlan
Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from Heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant me simplicity of heart. Help me to know how much you love me and how much you desire for me to live with you forever.
Believing: John 6, also called The Bread of Life discourse, is one of the most theologically complex chapters in the Gospel, and yet we must understand it to know who Jesus is! Jesus is the Father’s gift, the greatest gift. He sustains us in this life and makes eternal life possible. He invites us to feed on him, learn from him, and allow Him to transform our lives. In this passage, Jesus had just performed a great miracle by multiplying the loaves and fish to feed the five thousand (John 6:1-15). Then he walked on the stormy sea (John 6:16-21) where he declared I AM (John 6:20), harkening back to the stormy chaos of the beginning of the book of Genesis and the Exodus where God revealed himself to Moses as I AM. After a brief introduction (John 6:22-31), where the people were “seeking Jesus,” he began his most challenging sermon of all in John 6:35, where he declared, “I am the bread of life.” This teaching was not just philosophically challenging to first-century Jews—it was utterly disgusting. Their laws were clear. You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood (Leviticus 3:17). For us, more than two thousand years later, the teaching of the doctrine of the “Real Presence” can still be difficult, as is evidenced by the August 2019 Pew Research Study stating that just one-third of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. Dismal statistics, indeed; yet, as Vatican II reminds us, “He is really, truly, and substantially present to us in the consecrated elements.” The Father works on people’s hearts and moves them to faith in Jesus. May he deepen our appreciation of the Eucharist.
Reconciling: St. Paul (Colossians 1:20) says that God’s whole purpose is to “reconcile all things” to himself. Jesus is the great gathering force for which the early Jews were waiting. He is the suffering servant, coming only to do his Father’s will, to defeat death, to open the gates of Heaven for us, to bring us home. Just as a hen gathers its chicks under its wings, Christ comes to set things right, to bring us back in line, or as the old song says, to “Gather Us In.” We can be confident when we pray and intercede for others that the Lord’s desires are even stronger than ours to “gather them in.”
Living: We’re all born with an immortal soul, which will live forever. Christ here helps us see with clarity what’s needed to gain eternal life and live forever with him: faith. That’s what he asked of Martha when she approached him after her brother Lazarus’s death. Jesus promises eternal life to those who believe. He, in his flesh, fulfills all the Old Testament prophecies. He is the Word, the wisdom of God, made flesh. He gives God a face. He makes the invisible visible. All this he does for us so that our faith will grow.
Conversing with Christ: Through faith in the Eucharistic mystery, help me to love and imitate you, to receive you Body and Blood reverently and frequently, and to boldly witness to the gift I have been given and the promise of eternal life.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace help me to grow in holiness and love, to make you the center of my life, by making the Eucharist the center of my life.
For Further Reflection: Read St. John Paul IIs last encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (The Church Comes from the Eucharist), to understand that the Eucharist is the very soul and life of the Church.
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