Friday, August 31, 2012

John Paul II on the Bread of Life

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

After the miraculous multiplication of the loaves, Christ says to the crowds who were seeking him: “Truly, truly I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give you.” “How difficult it was for Jesus hearers to make this passage from the sign to the mystery it indicates: from the daily bread to ‘the bread which endures to eternal life!’ Nor is it easy for us.” (John Paul II, Homily on May 31, 1997.)

It is clear that Jesus does not eliminate normal concerns and pursuit of daily bread. Man has indeed need of food and drink if he is to live. The human body needs food and drink to live, grow, develop, and work. This is the food of temporal, transient life, which ends with death. But the Lord points out that the real meaning of our earthly existence lies in eternity. In fact, the human soul also has need of food and drink in order to persevere in the journey towards eternal life. Man needs the Bread of life in order to be able to life in eternity the life that comes from God. (cf. Homily on June 13, 1987)

And so Jesus declares with consoling clarity: “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…I am the Bread of life, he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall not thirst.” Jesus refers to the manna which God gave to the Jews when they crossed the desert. “We, too, like the people of Israel,…live on earth the experience of Exodus: the ‘promised land’ is Heaven. God, who did not abandon his people in the desert, does not abandon man in his earthly pilgrimage either. He has given him ‘bread’ that is able to sustain him along the way: the ‘bread’ is Christ. He is first of all the food of the soul with revealed truth, and then with his very Person present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.” (Homily on August 5, 1979)

Proclaiming that the Heavenly Father gives us the true bread from heaven, Jesus “bears witness to God, who is not only Creator and Lord of creation, but is, at the same time, Father. And the Father feeds and nourishes his children. He feeds…and nourishes them with the food and drink of eternal life: the Most Holy Eucharist. The Church lives daily from the Eucharist; she lives unceasingly from it.”(Homily on May 29, 1986)
“In the Eucharist is inscribed the most profound thing in the life of every man…Here, the life of man, through the Eucharist, is inscribed in the mystery of the living God. In this mystery – as in the eternal Book of Life – man surpasses the limits of contemporaneity, proceeding towards the hope of eternal life. Here, the Church of the Incarnate Word, through the Eucharist, causes the inhabitants of the eternal Jerusalem to be born.” (Homily on May 22, 1983)

Mindful of Jesus’ promise: “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven”, we ask God our Father before communion: “Give us today our daily bread.” This daily bread is the Body of Christ without which we have no life within us. As children of heaven, we urgently need the bread of heaven. When St. Catherine of Siena was not able to receive holy communion, her body suffered more than if racked by intense pain, and she would pray: “Father, I am hungry. For the love of God, give my soul food!” The Bread from heaven “is not less necessary to the development of the divine life in the faithful than material food is for the preservation and development of bodily life. The Eucharist is not a luxury offered to those who would want to live more intimately united with Christ: the Eucharist is a necessity of Christian life.” (General Audience of June 8, 1983)

Like the people who said to Jesus: “Give us this bread always”, so when we pray to the Father to “give us this day our daily bread”, we ought to ask above all for the living Bread come down from heaven with which the Father feeds his children. “From our first Communion until the day we die, may we have a deep yearning for Christ, the true bread which gives life to the world.” (Homily in Cardiff, June 2, 1982) (John Paul II and the Mystery of the Eucharist, 58-60)

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for 

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