In today’s Gospel Jesus states “I am the Bread of Life.” I'd like to dig into that statement a little bit.
In St. John’s Gospel Jesus is fond of “I am” statements. He says “I am the gate”, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Light of the World. I am the true vine. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus makes a lot of “I am” statements.
This is not just a rhetorical device of Jesus, it has deep theological meaning. It is part of Jesus revealing His divine nature. Because back in the Book of Exodus, when Moses meets God in the burning bush and asks God’s name, God says my name is “I am.” So Jesus is identifying Himself with God, and Jesus’ audience realized this. This is most clear in St. John’s Gospel chapter 8, verse 58 when Jesus tells His Jewish adversaries, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” Jesus’ audience recognized what Jesus was doing, considered it blasphemy for Jesus to equate himself with God, and - the next verse tells us – “So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.”
So in this statement that “I am the bread of life” Jesus is revealing to us His divine nature.
Jesus says He is bread. Isn’t that kind of an odd thing to claim for Himself? Why bread? For us bread is an extra, something the waiter at a nice restaurant brings automatically. It is a side dish, a compliment, never the main dish, the main actor. You don't order bread for your main course at at restaurant.
In Jesus’ day it was different. Bread was the usual and basic food of everyone, especially the masses. Bread was the staff of life because bread kept most people alive. Without bread there was not much else to eat and you starved. Historians estimate that in the classical world of the Mediterranean 80% of the calories consumed came from bread. So bread was very important.
If Jesus came today would He say, ‘I am the chocolate of life’? or ‘the BBQ brisket of life’? or ‘the double Whataburger with cheese of life’? Probably not.
In any case Jesus would still stress that He gives life. He is our basic sustenance for seeking the fullness of Life.
Because He is the bread of LIFE. That is what Jesus wants us to have. Life. Who doesn’t want to be more fully alive? “I came that they may have life and have it to the full.” Jesus declares in the 10th chapter of St. John’s Gospel.
What keeps us from living fully? From being fully alive? Sickness. Depression. Boredom. Who feels fully alive when they are bored? Worry keeps us from being fully alive. Fear. But also guilt. As well as greed, which keeps us centered on ourselves. And pride. Envy certainly keeps us from being fully alive. Hardness of heart. Lust. Self centeredness. Lying and living deception keeps us from being fully alive. No direction and purpose and meaning in life also keeps us from living fully.
All those things Jesus wants to free us from. All those things that keep us from living fully.
What brings us life? What helps us live more fully? Well the opposite of the things that prevent us from living fully. Take generosity for example. Talk to any of the parishioners who work in the St. Vincent de Paul Society, or on the Thursday Outreach Program. Invariably they will tell you that they get more out of it than what they put into it. Because generosity makes you more alive. Sharing your time, talent and treasure gets you out of yourself, your own particular issues, and makes you a more alive person.
Respecting others, living with purpose and meaning, valuing other people. This makes you more fully alive. Faith, Hope and Love make you more alive. Especially Love. Who does not feel more alive when they are in love?
And that is what Jesus wants for us. LIFE. Fullness of Life. Because He is the Bread of Life.
Jesus wants you to be fully, completely, totally alive. Why? Because He loves you. He loves you so much He gave Himself for you on the cross. He loves you so much that He gives you Himself in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Truly, Jesus is the Bread of Life.