Once again, we read from the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel. As I have for the past two days, I want to focus on the role of faith in the Eucharist. Today’s excerpt from the Discourse on the Bread of Life mentions “believing” twice.
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe.’” (John 6:35-36)
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.” (John 6:40)
The Bread of Life Discourse takes place after Jesus feeds the five thousand. They have indeed seen and heard what Jesus is about. However, they fail to believe his words. One telling detail about chapter six is the issue of demographics. The crowd begins with 5,000 people, not counting women and children. However, as Jesus reveals more and more about himself and about the One who sent him, about the gift of the Bread of Life, and about how they shall be raised on the last day, the crown gradually diminishes. By the end of the chapter, only the Twelve will be left. More about that later.
The lack of faith which Jesus cites here is caused by a number of things. First of all, the people ask Jesus for a sign (as if feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and a few fish were not sign enough). However, the sign they seek has to do with their past. They are living as a subjugated people; and like many subjugated people, they yearn for the “good old days.” Before Assyria destroyed the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the temple priests hid the Ark of the Covenant so that it would not fall into the hands of their pagan masters. When they returned to Israel after the Babylonian Captivity, no one could remember where the Ark had been hidden. So a tradition grew up that stated that the Messiah would reveal its whereabouts when he appeared. So when the people ask Jesus for a sign, this might just be what they are looking for.
Secondly, Jesus makes the claim that unlike the manna that they received in the desert, the Bread of Life will never leave them hungry or thirsty again. Of course, he is not speaking of physical hunger and thirst. Rather he speaks of their thirst for God. Unable to comprehend where Jesus is leading them, they become stubborn in their beliefs and refuse to place their faith in Jesus.
Our human nature always seems to want more. We never seem to have enough. The pursuit of more fills our media and our imaginations. Our more involves bigger and better. It has become so much a part of our lives that we now have to build structures to store the things for which we do not have room. The more we acquire, the less room there is for God, for faith. Faith in Jesus is all we really need. In the light of this faith, we do not need anything else. Jesus is enough for us.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator