1) Opening prayer
God, our Father,
You are our faithful God,
even in days of trial for the Church
and for each of us personally;
You stay by our side, even if we are not aware of Your presence.
Give us an unlimited trust in You
and make us ever more aware
that Your Son Jesus is the meaning of our lives
and that He nourishes us with Himself,
today and every day, for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - John 6:35-40
Jesus said to the crowds, "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. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. 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 6:35-36: I am the bread of life. The people, enthusiastic with the perspective of having bread from heaven of which Jesus speaks and which gives life forever (Jn 6:33), ask: “Lord, give us always that bread!” (Jn 6:34). They thought that Jesus was speaking about some particular kind of bread. This is why, the people, interested in getting this bread, ask: “Give us always of this bread!” This petition of the people reminds us of the conversation of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. Jesus had said that she could have had within her a spring of living water, welling up to eternal life, and she, in an interested way, asks: “Lord, give me of that water!” (Jn 4:15). The Samaritan woman is not aware that Jesus is not speaking about material water. Just as the people were not aware that Jesus was not speaking of material bread. Because of this, Jesus responds very clearly: “I am the bread of life! No one who comes to Me will ever hunger; no one who believes in Me will ever thirst”. To eat the bread of heaven is the same as believing in Jesus. And to believe that He has come from heaven as a revelation of the Father. It is to accept the way which He has taught. But the people, in spite of having seen Jesus, do not believe in Him. Jesus is aware of the lack of faith and says: “You have seen Me and you do not believe”.
• John 6:37-40: To do the will of Him who sent me. After the conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus had said to his disciples: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me!” (Jn 4:34). Here, in the conversation with the people on the bread from heaven, Jesus touches on the same theme: “I have come from heaven not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me that I should lose nothing of all that He has given to me; but that I should raise it up on the last day”. This is the food which people should look for: to do the will of the Heavenly Father. And this is the bread which nourishes the person in life and gives him/her life. Eternal life begins here, a life which is stronger than death! If we were really ready to do the will of the Father, we would have no difficulty to recognize the Father present in Jesus.
• John 6:41-43: The Jews complained. Tomorrow’s Gospel begins with verse 44 (John 6:44-51) and skips verses 41 to 43. Verse 41 begins with the conversation with the Jews who criticize Jesus. Here we will give a brief explanation of the meaning of the word Jews in the Gospel of John in order to avoid a superficial reading of it, avoiding the sentiment of anti-Semitism. First of all, it is well to remember that Jesus was a Jew and continues to be a Jew (Jn 4:9). His disciples were Jews. The first Christian communities were all Jewish who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. It was only later, little by little, that in the communities of the beloved disciple, Greeks and Christians began to be accepted on the same level as the Jews. They were more open communities. But this openness was not accepted by all. Some Christians who came from the group of the Pharisees wanted to keep the “separation” between Jews and Pagans (Acts 15:5). The situation was critical after the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70. The Pharisees became the dominating religious current in Judaism and began to define the religious directives or norms for the whole People of God: to suppress worship in the Greek language; to adopt solely the biblical text in Hebrew; to define or determine the list of sacred books, and eliminate the books which existed only in the Greek translation of the bible: Tobias, Judith, Esther, Baruch, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus and the two Books of the Maccabees: to segregate or separate the foreigners; not eat any food suspected to be impure or which had been offered to the idols. All these norms assumed by the Pharisees had repercussions on the communities of the Jews which accepted Jesus as Messiah. These communities had already journeyed very much. The openness for the Pagans was now irreversible. The Greek bible had already been used for a long time. Thus, slowly, a reciprocal separation grew between Christianity and Judaism. In the years 85-90 the Jewish authorities began to discriminate against those who continued to accept Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah (Mt 5:11-12; 24:9-13). Those who continued to remain in the faith in Jesus were expelled from the Synagogue (Jn 9:34). Many Christian communities feared this expulsion (Jn 9:22) because it meant to lose the support of a strong and traditional institution such as the Synagogue. Those who were expelled lost the legal privileges that the Jews had conquered and gained throughout the centuries in the Empire. The expelled persons lost even the possibility of being buried decently. It was an enormous risk. This situation of conflict at the end of the first century had reflections of the conflict of Jesus with the Pharisees. When the Gospel of John speaks of the Jews he is not speaking of the Jewish people as such, but he is thinking much more of those Pharisee authorities which were expelling the Christians from the Synagogues in the years 85-90, the time when the Gospel was written. We cannot allow this affirmation about the Jews to make anti-Semitism grow among Christians.
4) Personal questions
• What do I know about Judaism – the religion of Jesus, it's history and it's beliefs?
• What do I know, or what can I learn, about the various groups within Judaism at the time of Jesus, such as the Pharisees, Sadduccees, Essenes, and so on? With that deeper understanding, can I use it to better understand the life of Jesus?
• To eat the bread of heaven means to believe in Jesus. How does all this help me to live the Eucharist better?
5) Concluding Prayer
Acclaim God, all the earth,
sing psalms to the glory of His name,
glorify Him with your praises,
say to God, “How awesome You are!” (Ps 66:1-3)