Scripture: Lectionary # 274. Acts 7:51-8:1. Psalm 31:3-4, 126.96.36.199.21. John
Before receiving Communion, we pray the Lord’s Prayer. John’s entire
chapter six is centered on the multiplication of the loaves and fish and
theologically on the mystery of Christ as the true Bread of Life. It is
John’s profound reflection on what the Synoptic Gospels develop in the Last
Supper. The miracle is seen as a sign that leads people to believe and
Jesus keeps reminding them through his dialogue and monologue in chapter
six about the sacred (sacramental) meaning of Communion. We may find an
echo of the Lord’s Prayer in the reference to the bread in the paragraph
from John read in today’s Eucharistic liturgy. The phrase that comes to
mind is “Give us this day our daily bread.” This refrain is seen where
Jesus tells the people that he is the living bread come down from above. He
is their Manna that nourishes them in the desert of living one’s life and
needing the bread from above to sustain that life.
The words of Jesus are alive with Wisdom and help us to probe into the
meaning of the sign of the multiplication of the loaves and into the
symbolism of the Manna that fed the people in the desert. It is God, the
Father of Jesus, who gives us his son Jesus as the Bread of Life symbolized
by the heavenly manna that the people knew from the Exodus narrative. They
were fed with bread from heaven and so are the Christians who receive the
Bread of Life, Jesus.
The daily possiblity of receiving the Bread of Life is contained within the
Our Father: “Give us our daily bread.” We are to do the works of God by
not working for bread that is perishable but for the Bread that comes down
from heaven to which the sign of the multiplication of the loaves beckons.
The work that God looks for is the active and lively faith of the heart
believing in Jesus as our true Bread of Life. Jesus gives us his first “I
AM” statement (ego eimi) in saying , “I am the Bread of Life!”
We learn much from the Exodus about the Eucharistic wisdom of Jesus in this
chapter six. The Old Testament pseudepigraphy writing in 2 Apoc. Baruch
has the understanding of the manna pointing to the Messiah. “the treasury
of manna shall again descend from on high and they will eat of it in those
years.” In another apocryphal work we read that the devout person “eats
blessed bread of life and drinks blessed drink of imortality and is
anointed with the blessed oil of imperishability.” (Joseph and Aseneth).
This is so close to Jesus’ words and thought in John that Christians may
have interpolated it into these works.
Jesus will in the Johannine mystical approach keep ascending and developing
the same thought as we move through the entire series of discourses on the
Eucharist offered to us in this marvelous chapte six that complements what
was said about Baptism in chapter three; here it is the Eucharist as sign,
symbol, and sacrament given life through the words of Jesus as well as the
sign of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. No wonder
that the fish became an early Christian symbol of Jesus . The Greek word
IXTHUS symbolizes Jesus, the Christ, Son of God, and Savior by taking each
of the Greek letters for one of these titles of Jesus. Amen. Alleluiah.