(Adults, the full Gospel this week is complicated. This reflection for the 6-9 year olds focuses on the last four verses beginning with "I AM the bread of life." You could begin by reading the four verses aloud to the child.)
John 6.48-51 (abbreviated)
[John 6.41-51 (full)]
For the last few weeks, we have been listening to the Gospel of St. John. Many times in this Gospel we hear Jesus say, "I AM the..." We can recall some of these I AM names. I AM the Light of the World. I AM the Good Shepherd. I AM the True Vine. Each time, Jesus reveals a little more about who he is and what he does. Last week we heard Jesus say, "I AM the bread of life." In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus says it again.
I am the bread of life.
We know that if Jesus repeats himself, he really wants us to pay attention. This is something important. What does he want us to know?
We can think about what we know about bread. This is very simple.
Bread is food; it feeds us.
We need food to live.
Bread supports life.
We notice that Jesus doesn't say, "I AM bread." Just as he is not any shepherd, in the same way he is not any bread. He is the bread of life. What does this mean for us? Is he talking about bread we bake, or bread in the grocery stores, or bread we eat with our meals? Can we find bread of life anywhere? The bread of life is Jesus. We know this means there is no other bread like this.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
Jesus reminds us of the manna, that mysterious bread that God gave in the desert wilderness so long ago.
Manna was food; it fed the people.
The people needed manna to live.
Manna supported life in the desert wilderness.
When the journey was over, the manna stopped appearing. The people finished their lives on earth. They died. Was the manna the bread of life? Was the manna Jesus?
This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
What is Jesus pointing to when he says, "this is the bread that comes down from heaven"? Is he still speaking about manna? Jesus seems to be making a comparison; he is showing us a difference. When Jesus speaks of bread that comes down from heaven, he is not speaking about manna. With the bread that comes down from heaven there will be no more death.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven
With another "I AM" Jesus makes it clear who the bread from heaven is. Jesus is the living bread, the bread who lives, the bread of life.
Whoever eats of this bread will live forever
What does Jesus mean "Whoever eats of this bread will live forever"? Does he mean they will not die? Everyone dies. Jesus himself dies. If he is the bread of life, how can he die? What is Jesus telling us about death? What kind of life is he talking about? What does Jesus know?
We know Jesus dies on the cross and is buried in the tomb, but what else? On the third day, God raises Jesus from the dead. God fills Jesus with new life--Risen life.
What does Jesus know about death? It is not the end. Jesus has gone through death. He is Risen. In his new Risen life, there is no more death. Jesus can never die again.
Jesus says those who eat of this bread of life will live forever. They will have the life that Jesus enjoys. They will be Risen as well. There will be no more death.
We want this, don't we? We want to live forever with Jesus, never separated, never far away. We want to have the Risen life that Jesus enjoys. We want no more death. We want Parousia. How can we have this?
the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
What is flesh? If we say someone is flesh and blood we mean they are human, they have a body. Jesus who is flesh and blood, Jesus who is human like us, says the bread that he will give is his body. How does Jesus give his body?
Jesus gives his body at the Last Supper, when he blesses the bread and says, "This is my body," and gives it to his friends.
Jesus gives his body on the cross, when he offers his life to God, when he offers it as gift for us all.
Jesus gives his body each time we come to him, when we gather at Mass and hear--as if for the first time--those special words, "Take and eat, this is my body."
His body that has died. His body that is Risen.
This is the living bread that comes down from heaven.
This is the living bread that is food; it feeds us.
We need the living bread--we need Jesus--to live.
The living bread supports this life we enjoy, by giving us a taste of the Risen life that Jesus enjoys.
The bread of life is Jesus. There is no other bread like this.