“I Am The Bread Of Life”

“I Am The Bread Of Life”

In this beautiful homily for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Father Hanly puts Jesus’ words this week in the context of last week’s Gospel, to help us understand more clearly their full meaning and significance.

Readings for Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

  • First Reading: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
  • Second Reading: Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
  • Gospel: John 6:24-35



This will be a bit skipping around today, largely because I skipped around for the whole week and found it quite difficult to try to put, in sum and substance, the Gospel of today’s readings.

And also how can we have suddenly changed?

We have changed now to a Jesus who is quite strict, quite demanding. Loveable, yes, but at the same time adamant about what he himself feels we must become.

The best place to start it is last week.

My favourite character, not in all of Scripture but close to all of Scripture, is a little boy.

If you remember, last week, we had the first of the five Gospels on the Bread of Life. The Bread of Life, of course, is Jesus himself.

But you remember the story, I think. It’s the story of the loaves and the fishes.

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,

It’s a sign that he’s going to preach, from the beginning to the end, all about God comes among them up into the mountain top, just as Moses went up to the mountain top to see God and receive the Ten Commandments.

and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near. 

which we celebrate around Easter time, the passing over from death to life. For the Jews it was a passover from slavery to freedom, and for us it was a passover from darkness into the bright light of the Messiah.

When Jesus raised his eyes
and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip,

Philip as you know is one of the disciples.

“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.

If he knew what he was going to do, what is he testing them for?

Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.”

This is kind of worldly. If you’d all picture yourself in this scene, picture…

The first thing we ask is how much is it going to cost us to feed all of those people. And that’s what Philip…

Philip wants to know how much he’s going to lay down and where he’s going to find the money and how he’s going to bring it all in. Times do not change. Two hundred denarii or days’ wages worth of food wouldn’t be enough even to begin to feed all these people.

One of his disciples,

Now you all know Andrew. Andrew is Peter’s older brother. We always think of St Peter as older, but he’s not, he’s the younger, Andrew is the older.

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here

That’s the little boy.

“There is a boy here
who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”

Five barley loaves…

Barley loaves are the food of the poor, the food of the rich being bread made out of wheat. But if you eat bread made out of barley, you’re kind of on the lower rung. So here he’s got just a few, five, barley loaves and two fish.

And how and why did he bring them?

He was all by himself, apparently. Well, he’s got a little bag and his mother probably gave him what he needed. And, of course, it was his lunch. It was something to eat while he was there with the Master.

Lots of people were coming and going, and all of them came to see Jesus. To see Jesus because he was a healer and many of them came for healing, but he was also someone who gathered a large group of people who felt lost and alone and didn’t know what else to do, so they followed this young man who spoke from the heart and was so different.

Jesus said,

when he heard about the barley loaves and two fish,

Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” 

(sit down)

Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.

Just the men. That doesn’t mean the women and the children. Amazing number of people.

Then Jesus took the loaves,

Now listen carefully, because John, who wrote all of this, John was just about a young man, a very young man, not much more than the boy who was there at this event of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.

Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. 

Nice and cosy. Jesus was turning an angry or mixed up mob of people, all with their own personal needs and desires, and he was making them into a community. They’re all sitting nicely together in small groups, facing each other, chatting about whatever.

And, of course, I’m sure they also brought a lot of food.

So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

These are the words of the priest, yes? You take it, you say, “Jesus took the bread, giving thanks, distributed it and said, ‘This is my body.’”

and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves
that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” 

Things are looking very good for Jesus and his message.

Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

This is a beautiful, beautiful reading. And it makes us think a lot about ourselves, because he’s describing the Church, you know. We are here just like they were.

The disciples are all there. People are coming who all have different ideas in their hearts: what they want and what they don’t want, what they would like to have and what they will settle for. Some of them don’t even know how come they wandered in.

And it was kind of a group of people who didn’t know each other too well. A large number — much larger than ours — didn’t know people too well, so they weren’t too friendly with each other, but they were (inaudible).

Anyhow, what I’m trying to describe is that when Jesus speaks to these crowds of people and when he talks about those times, he’s talking now, today, to you and I.

Because it’s the same Jesus that said, “Have them all sit down. Make them welcome.”

He had compassion on them. They had all kinds of this and that and problems of their own. And it was for him to say to the disciples, “Reach out and take care of them.”

Then why did he run away?

He ran away because he knew they were going to make him king. He knew they were going to lift him up high and say, “This is our hero. This is the one who is going to change everything. This is the one we put our faith in.”

But it never happened. And it never happened because God does not need kings. His Son does not need high authority. He does not need to be cultured. He does not need to be apart from the ordinary people. He does not need to do anything.

What he needs is what?

He needs for us to give our lives into his hands and then he will do something. That is what he needs.

Because you have freedom, and God has freedom, and Jesus has freedom, and we share that, and it all must be respected.

And so he knew that anybody having votes that, whatever, however you do it, and you create people who are above everybody else, who are leaders, who are this, who are that, are not welcome really in trying to build up the Kingdom of God.

And for the one reason that I think I always say. It’s because there’s no love in it. And if there’s no love in it, it’s not worth anything, we’re just playing games with each other.

There is love. And those who love understand that the love of Jesus is a self-sacrificing love, but it is the love that makes the world go round.

It is the only reason why they are sitting there and listening. Yes, they have many hungers, but the great hunger they have is the hunger for the love of God. And that is why they’re sitting there: hunger for the love of God.

And love means what? Receiving?

No. For Jesus there’s no such thing as receiving love. I mean there is receiving love, but it’s because you and I have loved out, and given this love of Jesus to other people. We are not waiting to be served.

And, of course, this is the great flaw in the people who came that day, and rushed all the way to Capharnaum to see him again.

Because he hid from them and he went back home to the house of Peter at Capharnaum and he stayed there.

And when they came to see him, they said, “Where did you go? Where did you go? We were going to make you king.”

He just smiled at them and he said,

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you are looking for me not because you saw signs

signs of a new era, signs of a new world

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.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
So they said to him,
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to him,
“Sir, give us this bread always.” 

And now the final words, this simple itinerant man, walking around, overlooked, not appreciated, loved by many but certainly not a man of consequence, and this is what he says,

Jesus said to them,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

And that’s the Gospel story today.

What is it that we learn?

We learn that we are the people of God, that we are called by God, that Jesus is among us, that he walks with us and talks with us and sings with us, he dances with us, he is ours for all eternity.

The one thing that he asks of us is the one thing we find very hard to give to anyone: he demands surrender.

“You must give your life to me.”

You must understand that only when you give your life away, is it possible to build something real and lovely for you and your families and your children.

Where the whole world finally understands that it is in loving others, not ourselves — in loving others, in working for others, in healing others, in caring for others — that is the only way to build a world that we can say comes from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.