The sixth chapter of John’s Gospel contains the “bread of life discourse.” In his discussions with both the disciples and his followers, Jesus gently invites people to move from thinking about bread as merely physical sustenance to viewing bread in a more theological context of communion.
At the beginning of the sixth chapter, Jesus feeds the crowd of 5,000 with only a few loaves of bread. By the end of the chapter, Jesus is challenging his hearers to see that HE is the living bread that gives life for all eternity. In other words, Jesus invites us to move from miracle to mystery.
We like miracles. They are spectacular. They’re interesting. They’re entertaining. But miracles are merely the tip of the iceberg to whet our appetite for something deeper—the mystery that gives rise to the miracle. The marvelous action should lead us back to the one doing the action and thereby cause us to give praise and glory to God.
For some in John’s Gospel, they stopped with the action. They didn’t want to delve any deeper. For some who did go deeper into the mystery, they found it too much and eventually left the company of Jesus. But for those who truly embraced the mystery of the real meaning of the bread of life, they found true communion with Christ himself.
This is our invitation over the next few weeks: to immerse ourselves in Christ through communion in the Eucharist. The bread become Body and the wine become Blood becomes for us the source of life eternal. The action of the Holy Spirit transforming the gifts from mere physical sustenance to communion with Christ should be an occasion of great worship and awe. While we may marvel at transubstantiation (the changing of the substances from bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Christ), our consummation of the Eucharist should be an occasion of transformation of ourselves as well. That which I consume should have an impact on my life as a person and as a Christian.
For the next several weeks, I invite each of us to reflect upon the following questions:
What does the Eucharist mean to me personally? What does the Eucharist mean for our parish communities? And lastly, what does the Eucharist mean for the world?