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Saturday of the Third Week of Easter – The reading is from the Gospel John 6:51-69.

The Bread of Life – John 6:51-59

… I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.

This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Up to John 6:50 “bread of life” is a figure for God’s revelation in Jesus. In the above reading John 6:51–59, the eucharistic theme comes to the fore.

The Marcan-Matthean heritage is one of the two major New Testament traditions of the words of Jesus when instituting the Eucharist:

  • While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.”Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” (Mark 14:22–24)
  • While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

The other and earlier one is the Pauline-Lucan tradition:

  • For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,k that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor inthians11:23–25)

  • Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”

And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20)

Each tradition shows the influence of Christian liturgical usage. But the Marcan-Matthean tradition is more developed in Christian liturgical usage than the Pauline-Lucan.

The words over the bread and cup succeed each other in the Marcan-Matthean passages without the intervening meal mentioned in the Pauline-Lucan account:

  • In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, (in 1 Corinthians 11:25)
  • And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, (in Luke 22:20)

and there is parallelism between the words of consecration (this is my body…this is my blood).

Matthew follows Mark closely but with some changes.

The Words of Eternal Life – John 6:60-69

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.

The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.”

Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.

The above verses from John 6:60–71 refer more to themes of John 6:35–50 than to those of John 6:51–58 and seem to be addressed to members of the Johannine community who found it difficult to accept the high christology reflected in the discourse on the bread of life.

Jesus claims to be the bread that comes down from heaven:

  • “this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.” (John 6:50)

and this claim provokes incredulity among his disciples:

  • Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (John 6:60)

And so in the following unfinished conditional sentence, Jesus asks his disciples what they will say when he goes up to heaven

  • Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (John 6:61-62)

Probably this reiterates:

  • Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6:49–51)
Jesus says:
  • It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

This verse probably is not a reference to the eucharistic body of Jesus but to the supernatural and the natural, as in

  • What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. (John 3:6).

All Jesus said about the bread of life is the revelation of the Spirit.

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