“For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
These are some quotes from today’s Gospel. The crowd has experienced the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish and now they are looking for Jesus. As Thomas R. Steagold has pointed out, many came seeking Jesus, but they didn’t want to follow him (The Abingdon Preaching Annual, Abingdon Press: 1999). They called him “Rabbi,” but they refused to be taught. They clamored after bread, but they did not want to be nourished as Jesus intended. They were willing to work for food that would perish, but Jesus challenged them to channel their efforts and their hungers toward food that gives eternal life.
As we come to church today, we come looking for Jesus. We are taught that Jesus is really present as we come here. He taught us that where two or three gather in his name, he would be present. So Christ is present in the community that gathers. Just as we show reverence to Christ present in the bread and wine so we should show reverence to the community that gathers. That is why hospitality is important when we gather for the Eucharist. It is not just about being friendly with one another, but it means that we realize the connection we have in Christ. We are many parts but we are all one body.
Christ is present in the Word of God. It is helpful to read the scripture before we come to mass. Then when it is proclaimed at mass we can be open to it in a deeper way. Something in the scripture we hear at mass is meant for us, but we have to be open to being taught.
Christ is also truly present in the bread and wine. Our Catholic tradition teaches us that the bread and wine truly become his body and his blood. He offers us himself as nourishment in the meal we call Communion. This union is our most complete union with Christ, but it is simultaneously communion with all the members of his body.
“Christ did not give us the Eucharist to transform bread and wine into his body and blood. It does that of course, but Christ gave us this sacrament to transform us into his Body” (Fr. Lawrence Mick). As St. Augustine put it, “Be what you see, and receive what you are.” As we are sent from this Eucharist we are to be the real presence of Christ to others.