We who have heard the words of Jesus explaining that he is himself the bread of life can hardly perceive how Jesus’ teaching must have sounded in the ears of those who first heard him give it voice. Jesus calls himself the bread of life and claims that those who eat this bread will never again be hungry. In other words, he is claiming that he alone is the answer to all human hungers and thirsts.
We live in a world which hungers for peace and justice. Yet as individuals and as a society we tend to feed our human hungers without regard for others. We live in a society that consumes far more than its fair share of the world’s resources. Our hunger and our thirst seem to be insatiable. However, the real problem is that we fail to realize that the world and all its resources cannot fill our empty lives. Only God can do that. So we continue to pursue material food and drink and try to fill our lives with the dry husks of this world.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen becomes the first to give his life for his faith in Jesus. This episode is one of the best examples of the parallelism that exists between St. Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. We cannot read it without being reminded of Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin. Though he dies at the hands of the Jewish men themselves rather than the Romans, he mirrors Jesus’ death by forgiving his persecutors and calmly handing his spirit back to the Father. He had been chosen to care for the needs of the widows so that the apostles could be free to preach the Gospel. However, he himself has also been giving witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Because he has eaten the bread that Jesus gave us in the Eucharist, he is welcomed into heaven with a vision of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God.
As we come to the altar today, we, like Stephen, are fed with the Bread from Heaven. We pray with him in the words of Psalm 31: Into your hands, I commend my spirit.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator