Our gospel is now getting more interesting as the drama among the Jews and Jesus Christ unfold into new dimensions on this penultimate Sunday of the “bread of life” discourse. Last week, the Jews murmured among themselves when Jesus declared “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (Jn.6:41); today, the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”(Jn.6:52)
Notice the beautiful interplay of “antes” noted by John in this part of the bread of life discourse: from murmuring, the Jews have turned into quarrelling among themselves in their renewed refusal to believe in Jesus. They have deteriorated from being skeptical into being insidious, reaching its lowest point next week when in their refusal to take the words of Jesus, they would eventually leave Him behind along with other disciples who have followed Him after that episode of feeding of more than 5000 people. Only the 12 would remain with Jesus. On the other hand, we find Jesus speaking more boldly to the unfriendly audience by increasing the force of His declaration as “the bread of life” by repeating it eight times in eight verses! And this time, He would even add that not only His flesh is food but also His blood is drink for eternal life. Jesus did not budge in the arguments of the crowd and instead slowly spiraled up His discourse as food and drink for eternal life. Jesus is trying to establish here a new direction in knowing Him, in following Him. In presenting Himself as our food and drink for eternal life, Jesus is also showing us the direction we have to follow in Him. Remember our reflection last July 15 that discipleship is not destination but directional? And the direction Jesus is taking us in His bread of life discourse is about our Holy Communion in God.
If you have observed in these past four weeks, sometimes the discourse by Jesus seems to be going nowhere, could be vague or ambiguous that it does not seem to progress at all. See how since last Sunday Jesus was repeating over and over His being the bread of life who came down from heaven and that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood will have eternal life. Jesus is not trying to get our attention with some fancy thoughts or brilliant expositions; Jesus is inviting us to a more personal experience of Himself in His bread of life discourse. He is asking us to take our time in listening and digesting His words because in the end, His goal is not to fill our minds but to rest in our hearts. Jesus is seeking communion with us, a oneness that can be achieved in the mystery of faith with a certitude deep in our hearts. It is something like our daily prayers and weekly celebration of the Sunday Mass when we sometimes feel nothing is happening; even in our minds, we know we have known everything. Yet, as we try to be open, holding on to our faith in God, we continue to pray and celebrate the Sunday Mass that deep within us we are convinced something had changed, that we have experienced Someone so real and profound. That is communion. When we receive Jesus Body and Blood, we realize and know for a fact we are not one. We have a communion not only with others with similar pains and hurts like ours but most of all with God who became human like us because He loves us so much. Now in Holy Communion, He is one with us, truly inside our body, flesh and blood under the signs of bread and wine. There is now an existing relationship on common experiences inexhaustible in its richness. That is how personal God is with us.