My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Before we begin to reflect on our Gospel reading for today, it will be good for us to remember that we are in the middle of a five Sundays in which we are going to hear almost the entire sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel in our Gospel readings.
St. John, Chapter 6 is one of the most important chapters in all of the Gospels. Because in this chapter, Jesus reveals to us in a beautiful way the central mystery of our Catholic faith — the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, the Bread of Life.
So we started this series of readings two Sundays ago. First we heard about the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.
Then in last Sunday’s Gospel, we heard how Jesus tried to use that miracle as a way to get the crowds to think about an even greater gift of God — the gift of the Eucharist. We heard Jesus tell the crowd that he is the Bread of Life, and that he is the true bread from heaven, the Bread of God that will give life to the world.
That’s where we start in the Gospel we just heard this morning. The people are rebelling against Jesus’ words. The Gospel tells us that they are “murmuring” about Jesus.
They can’t believe that he is talking like this. They can’t believe that he could possibly be who he claims to be.
To the people in our Gospel today, Jesus is just another man. He looks liked them. They know Mary is his mother. They know Joseph, his father. These people have seen Jesus do some amazing works — like healing people and multiplying the loaves. But still they think he is only a special man, maybe another prophet or a kind of new Moses. They can’t believe that he has come down from heaven.
This is the challenge of faith, my brothers and sisters!
Faith is what Jesus is asking from the people in the Gospel today. Amen, amen I say you: Whoever believes has eternal life.
And faith is what he is asking from each one of us today.
My brothers and sisters, Jesus is calling us to have greater faith. Faith in him. Faith that he is the One who comes from God. Faith that if we eat the bread that he gives us, we will live forever. Faith that the bread he gives us is his flesh for the life of the world.
We had a beautiful manifestation of faith last Sunday at the Guadalupe Celebration. We had about 75,000 people coming to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. You can see the faith of the people coming in a hot afternoon under a bright California sun, just to pray and sing and have a spiritual time with God and others. It was powerful and it really shows that in Los Angeles we are people of faith, men and women of faith!
Jesus tells the people in the crowd today:
I am the living bread ...
Whoever eats this bread will live forever.
And the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.
What an amazing and beautiful promise!
In Jesus Christ, God wants to draw near to each one of us on our journey of life through this world. He comes to walk with us as our friend. He comes to be our daily bread.
That’s why we heard that first reading this morning — the beautiful story of how God’s angel brought the prophet Elijah bread and water on his pilgrimage to the holy mountain.
My brothers and sisters, in our Christian lives we are like Elijah. We are all on a pilgrimage through the desert of this world. We are all on our way to the “mountain,” to the Kingdom of heaven.
And like Elijah — and like the Israelites on their journey through the desert — sometimes we can get tired. Sometimes we can be tempted to lose hope. To doubt that God is with us and that he cares about us and our struggles.
So we need to have greater faith in this beautiful promise that Jesus makes to us today. God will never leave us alone on our journey. In the Eucharist, he will give us the strength we need to carry out our Christian mission and get to heaven.
In our second reading today, St. Paul reminds us that our faith in Jesus Christ and the Eucharist commits us to share in his mission. “Be imitators of God,” St. Paul tells us.
We have to live with the same love that Jesus Christ has shown us in the Eucharist. We have to live with the same love he has shown us in giving his flesh for the life of the world.
My brothers and sisters, we can never keep this tremendous gift of faith — the gift of Jesus Christ — to ourselves.
He calls us to share the gift we have received with others. As he makes himself bread for us, he calls us to always share our bread with the hungry. As he gives us spiritual nourishment, he calls us to always look for ways to satisfy the spiritual hungers of our neighbors.
This coming October, we’ll start the Year of faith, a time to deepen our understanding of our faith and to renew our missionary call to share our faith with others.
It will be a good time to strengthen our faith, especially to make the effort to live it in our daily life. To be men and women of faith who, in an ordinary way, -just by the way that we are, we talk, we act- are able to make a difference in our families and society making the truths of our faith, once again, known to the people of our time.
So let us go to the intercession of Mary, our Blessed Mother, to help us to increase our faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ, her Son, in the Eucharist. Let us ask for the grace to taste this bread and wine — and to see the goodness of the Lord.
1. Readings (Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B): 1 Kings 19:4-8; Ps. 34:2-9; Eph. 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51.