Bread for a hungry world
GOD’S WORD TODAY - Manoling V. Francisco S.J. (The Philippine Star) - August 19, 2018 - 12:00am

In our Gospel today, Jesus declares, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn. 6:51). While majority of our people, many of whom are practicing Catholics and regular communicants, remain impoverished and hungry, what does it mean to say that whoever partakes of Jesus, the bread of life, will no longer hunger? And when we continue to thirst for justice in society where innumerable innocent civilians are slaughtered due to criminal activity, terrorism, and the drug war, what does it mean to proclaim that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood will have eternal life?

A life-saving death. The life-giving aspect of the Eucharist can only be properly understood in the light of Jesus’ self-offering on the cross. As a sacrament, the Eucharist makes visible an invisible reality, the Lord Jesus Christ. We who partake of it are incorporated into the mystical body of Christ. As a memorial it commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We have innumerable testaments of a death undergone that others may live, such as Maximillian Kolbe, whose feast day we celebrated last Aug. 14. He volunteered to die in place of a fellow prisoner in the German concentration camp of Auschwitz, that he may be reconciled with his family.

This Aug. 21 we will commemorate the 35th anniversary of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino who flew back to Manila from Boston in order to convince Ferdinand Marcos to restore our democracy. The life that his death brought about was the restoration of our democracy through the peaceful revolution that was spawned by his assassination.

More recently, we were moved by the heroic efforts of an international team that rescued 12 boys trapped in a cave for more than two weeks. In the process of trying to rescue the boys, former Thai navy diver, Saman Gunan, died as he lost consciousness on his way out of the Tham Luang cave complex, where he had been delivering air tanks. If the death of a human being can bring life in many forms to others, what more for the self-offering on the cross by the very Son of God?

Satiation of our deepest hungers. It is instructive that John the evangelist presents what is called the bread of life discourse, from which our Gospel today is taken, after the story of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish. After the incident people look for Jesus, who rebukes and challenges them, “you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (Jn. 6:26-27).

Jesus tells them that the bread he offers is not material food that is perishable, that which will leave us hungry again the following day. Instead the bread he offers is he himself. And this bread – himself – will bequeath to us eternal life. Clearly then, the food Jesus offers is spiritual. Nonetheless, by juxtaposing the story of the multiplication of the bread and fish with the bread of life discourse, John the evangelist is telling us that the food Jesus offers will also satiate our historical and material hungers. Jesus will not only satisfy our hungers beyond this life and world. And this is given evidence by his ministry of restoring sight to the blind, healing the sick, feeding the hungry and liberating people from demonic possession. Thus, while Jesus will partially satisfy our hungers here and now, he will definitively do so in the afterlife, in his heavenly banquet.

Becoming bread for others. Finally, to become incorporated into Jesus’ Mystical Body is to be united too with all those he draws to himself. And as we receive the gift of Jesus, so are we called to share Jesus with others. As we partake of Jesus, the bread of life, so too are we called to become bread of life to others, which entails attending to the hungry and thirsty, the weary and despairing. To become bread for others through the grace of Christ working in us does not only entail performing acts of mercy, but addressing the systemic causes of poverty and inequality. The Eucharist provides us a vision of what Jesus seeks to build on earth, which he will consummate in heaven – a community of equals gathered around his table of plenty, a community of rich and poor, old and young, educated and ignorant – all being nourished by him, all nourishing one another.

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