Do We Know How Great This “Bread of Life” is?

08-12-2018Pastoral Reflections

Saint Rocco: This morning at 10:30am we welcome Fr. Frank Campo, formerly a Parochial Vicar here at Saint Mary’s as the main celebrant of our Closing Mass of the Saint Rocco Festival. Almost ten years ago, Fr. Frank obtained for our Parish a relic of Saint Rocco. Every year since he gave this holy gift to our Parish, we have used this relic at the special Mass of Anointing and Healing “in the field” and at the Closing Prayer Ceremony at the outdoor statue of Saint Rocco.

Our parish is honored that he has returned to offer this Holy Eucharist and then lead us in procession to the statue “in the field” for prayers and a blessing through the intercession of Saint Rocco with the special relic. This year we are all aware of the transition we are making with the Feast of Saint Rocco. We are thankful to Fr. Frank for his prayers, blessings and good wishes as we continue our transition.

Father Brian

Our weekend Gospel is part of the “Bread of Life” section of John’s Gospel. Food is the underlying metaphor in the scripture this weekend. The prophet Elijah is at the end of his rope and very discouraged. When Elijah is exiled and sent away by the king, God’s caring angel provides just the right kind of food for the long journey. Elijah must still go to the mountain, where God will comfort him.

In the Gospel of this weekend, we find Jesus and a difficult crowd. Note how the crowd almost understands. The listeners comprehend that Jesus is saying that he is the heavenly bread, but they simply do not believe it. There is the truth that understanding is not the same as belief. Indeed Jesus himself explains this by saying that faith is not a rational quality, but a divine gift. We know that for Jesus, faith or lack of faith in him has eternal consequences.

Jesus goes on to explain to the crowd that he will be broken for them as bread is broken to be eaten, so that they all might partake. He reminds the people that they forget that those who ate manna and those who ate of the loaves he had multiplied not only were and will be hungry again, but also have died or will die. The manna and loaves were perishable bread for nourishment. The bread Jesus will give is something greater and more, it is the real thing, his life for the world, imperishable bread for imperishable people.

In hindsight, it is clear to everyone that the story of Elijah (as well as the Gospel) is a eucharistic story. In the language of the church fathers, those earliest of commentators on Scripture and Tradition, the story of Elijah “prefigures” the Eucharist. We know that the story of Elijah is itself a full and complete story which has its own meaning. However, we are also able to make the connection between Elijah and us in our need for the sustenance we receive at our eucharistic celebration.

Our Gospel passage continues the story of Jesus engaging with those who will not taste and see. Jesus repeats, “I am the bread of life.” In this very simple and unadorned statement, Jesus recalls the story of the manna in the desert. He reinterprets that experience. John is very clear about this: Jesus asks Israel to transform its self-understanding. He reinterprets and reorders Israel’s history and sets himself at its center. Someone greater than Moses is here; something greater than the miracle of manna is here. Do we how great this “Bread of Life” is?