A Gospel Reflection
by Deacon Kurt Heinrich
Thursday, April 30
, 3rd week in Easter
Jesus said to the crowds: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.”
Dear Friends and Family,
Let us listen more deeply at sacred scripture and hear how God uses bread in salvation history. As we listen we discover the great weight in which this teaching is proclaimed. Jesus is Jewish and the crowd that he is speaking to is Jewish as well. He elevates the gift of bread that he is offering above that of the God given manna that fed the Jewish people in the desert for 40 years. If that was not shocking enough to those that were listening, he then tells the Jewish crowd, that embraces the dietary restrictions of the Jewish Law, that to have eternal life in the kingdom of heaven, they must eat the Flesh of Jesus. This should shock anyone who hears it.
Are we similarly affected by this revelation? It’s such a bizarre statement, that we should still be shocked by it 2000 years later. Our creator is choosing to humble himself by becoming the very substance of bread for our consumption. So that when we eat of it we will live forever with God.
Again the context in which this is stated is everything. The manna follows the unleavened bread of the Passover that the people were instructed to make prior to the Exodus. The Passover meal has essential elements; unleavened bread and a roasted lamb. It’s the meal and how they celebrate that meal that saves the Hebrew people from the final plague that strikes Egypt. The lamb is sacrificed and the blood of the lamb is used to marks the doors of the home. The roasted flesh of the Lamb is eaten by those in the home. The unleavened bread is the bread of haste; it is eaten in preparation for the journey from slavery to freedom that they will take the next day. The Passover meal saves them from death and it sets them free from their enslavement. But the meal must be eaten, that is the point. God gives them the instructions for their liberation but they must follow them and share the meal. This history prepares us for the salvation that Jesus offers.
Jesus also gives us the instructions for our salvation, but we too must be willing to follow them and share in the meal that Jesus offers us, his very flesh. Just as God heard the cry and the hunger of his people in the desert, he hears our hunger and our longing today. Let us pray that as we long for the return of the Eucharist, we may appreciate the great gift that the Eucharist is and in faith allow that gift to liberate us from sin and grant us eternal life.