1 Kings 19: 4 – 8
Ephesians 4: 30 – 5.2
Gospel: John 6: 41 – 51
The opening reading from the First Book of Kings sets the mood for our readings this Sunday. The
fierce prophet Elijah, in many ways the prototype of the biblical prophets, had drawn the ire of the
notorious Queen Jezebel, who promised to dispatch him in the same way the prophet had
suppressed the pagan prophets of the god Baal.
Fearing for his life, Elijah flees south toward the Sinai desert. This is where our first reading picks
up the story. Exhausted from the heat and thoroughly discouraged, Elijah lies down under the
shade of a broom tree and asks God to take his life. But God had other ideas and an angel gives the
despairing prophet rations of a jug of water and a “hearth cake.”
The angel gently prods Elijah to shake off his despair: “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too
long for you.” Finally, Elijah perks up and, nourished in body and spirit, continues his journey “to
the mountain of God, Horeb.” Later we will learn that Elijah will encounter the living God in that
This story is obviously paired with the Gospel selection for today. We continue to hear segments
from the long discourse in Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel.
John presents Jesus as the “bread of life.” Jesus’ tender compassion, his healing touch, his
inspiring words of truth are as bread to the hungry, who like Elijah are weary and discouraged.
The Jesus of John’s Gospel recalls for his disciples the long trek of the Israelites through the Sinai
desert (the same destination as Elijah’s flight). As we have heard in previous Sunday readings, the
people become discouraged and weary, even longing to return to the “leeks and onions” of Egypt,
where they had been enslaved, rather than to die in the desert, free but suffering. So they “murmur”
against Moses just as some of the listeners to Jesus in this Gospel “murmur.”
Jesus, the evangelist proclaims, is the true bread that “came down from heaven.” What is clear
throughout this discourse is that John portrays Jesus as true “bread,” the ultimate nourishment for
the deep hungers of the human spirit. He is the “bread of life” itself.
Unlike their ancestors who ate the manna and yet ultimately died, those who eat the “bread” that
Jesus offers will never die. They should stop murmuring like the distraught Israelites in the desert
or like Elijah sulking under the broom tree. In the person and mission of Jesus, one is offered
The last line of the Gospel moves this discourse to a new moment: “the bread that I will give is my
flesh for the life of the world.” Interpreters of John’s Gospel see a connection here with the
Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, John does not describe Jesus’ words over the bread and wine at the
Last Supper. Instead, John presents the vivid example of Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples.
But in this climactic verse (Jn 6:51) we find John’s alternate version, one that reflects his
fundamental understanding of the Incarnate Word’s mission to the world. Jesus “gives his flesh,”
which is his very life and being, “for the life of the world.” The words recall the phrasing of one of
the powerful statements of John’s Gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
At a time when there is a lot of threat and anxiety in our world — the spike in the pandemic;
conflicts in our public life and in our church as well; the raging of fires and floods, to name a few
symptoms — where do we put our ultimate trust? Where do we find “bread” that will sustain us on
what can be a weary journey?
For us as Christians, that bread for the journey of our lives is ultimately found in our faith in Jesus,
in the God of providence and love he has revealed to us.
We hear echoes of God’s revelation to Moses (Exodus 3:14). When he spoke to Moses in the
burning bush, he revealed his name: I AM who am. God is the One who is, who holds all existence
in his hands and whose word is effective: it does what it says. This reference would not have been
lost on Jesus’s listeners. Twice he repeated in this passage, “I am the bread of life.” Where in my
own heart do I need to let Jesus speak these words of truth and life? Into what dusty corners, closed
depths, or discouraged heartaches does he wish to breathe his life and draw me to him?
This frustration comes to mind when Jesus is confronted by his fellow Galileans in John 6:41–51.
After having fed them with a multitude of loaves and fish in John 6:1–15 and after sharing the
news of his generous gift of self as the Bread of Life in John 6:24-35, the crowds start to murmur
about Jesus, akin to the start of a negative thread unrolling on Twitter.
They begin by questioning his credentials and family heritage, putting doubt in others’ minds about
the veracity of Jesus’ words and actions. The text notes that the crowds talk about him behind his
back, in a seemingly anonymous space without confronting him face to face.
Jesus calls them out. He stops the divisiveness in its tracks and responds by invoking their shared
cultural heritage—“Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert” (John 6:49)—to remind them what
unites them is more important than what divides them. He then reiterates the compassionate
message of the Bread of Life, that his mission is to give his life and love to the world, even to those
who would beat him down.
In this way, Jesus gives us a model for our divisive and divided world. He asks us to step out of
anonymity, remember our shared story, and proceed with selfless compassion for one another.
St. Paul echoes this wisdom, saying that “all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be
removed from you, along with all malice” (Eph. 4:31). He then goes on to say what should replace
these elements: “…be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has
forgiven you in Christ” (Eph. 4:32).
St. Paul’s summary should be our mantra, too, when we next open our mobile apps or are tempted
to engage online. This simple yet profound message of boundless and selfless love, modeling the
Lord’s example in the gospel, is truly enough, O Lord, to counter all that assails us today.
When we eat of the Bread of Life, we become people of life and love for the world. The world we
are living in has become deeply divided, polarized and wounded. As Eucharistic people, we need
to ask ourselves what difference it makes that we are fed at the table of Jesus. After more than a
year of spiritual communion, we are grateful that many of us can return to Mass and receive the
Sacraments. And to what difference? Did all the years of church-going before the pandemic, the
spiritual communions in isolation, and finally the homecoming change anything? Do our
neighbours experience the life-giving love of Jesus through their interactions with us? Does our
receiving Jesus in Holy Communion make us more like him? In our divided and wounded world,
may we be open to receiving through the Sacraments the sanctifying grace that will empower us to
cooperate with God’s plan for our lives so that we might be credible witnesses of reconciliation,
agents of peace, builders of relationships, and relentless pursuers of justice for all.
For the grace to be and become even more Eucharistic people bearing life and love in the world,
we pray to the Lord.
Lord Jesus, Living Bread of Life, we pray that you help us taste and see your goodness. Nourish
and strengthen our relationship with you and our neighbours. Draw us together as one body and
one heart to transform our world.
Lord Jesus, you come to me in the Eucharist and you come to me in these moments of prayer. I
know that it is your Father who draws me to you. Help me to renew my faith in you. You know
each of my doubts and struggles. Yet, rather than harbor them in my heart, I name each of them
before you and place them at your feet, knowing you want me to and you wait for me. You wish to
bring me life by giving me your own Body and Blood. Help me to receive your grace in this and
each moment of prayer, and in every reception of Holy
God bless. Have a blessed day.