Today, we conclude the reading from the Gospel of John’s sixth chapter, with the discourse on the “Bread of Life”, which Jesus delivered in the aftermath of the miracle of multiplication of the loaves and fish. At the end of that discourse, the great enthusiasm of the day before faded because Jesus had said He was the Bread which came down from Heaven, and that He would give His flesh as food and His blood as drink, alluding very clearly to the sacrifice of His own life. Those words provoked disappointment in the people, who considered them unworthy of the Messiah, not “winning.” So some watched Jesus as a Messiah who was supposed to speak and act in a way that His mission would be successful, right away! But right here, they make an error: on the understanding of the mission of the Messiah! Even the disciples failed to accept the language, the disturbing language of the Lord. And today’s passage refers to their discomfort, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (Jn 6:60).
In reality, they have understood the words of Jesus. So well that they don’t want to listen to it, because it is a discourse which undermines their way of thinking. And the words of Jesus always make us uncomfortable. They make us uncomfortable, for example, with regard to the spirit of the world, of worldliness. However, Jesus offers the key to overcome difficulties; a key made of three elements. First, His divine origin: He came down from Heaven and will go “to where He was before” (v. 62). Second, His words can be understood only through the action of the Holy Spirit, the One “that gives life” (v. 63). And it is really the Holy Spirit that makes us understand well His words. Third, the real cause of misunderstanding of His words is lack of faith: “There are some of you who do not believe” (v. 64), says Jesus. From that time, the Gospel says, “many [of] His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.” (v. 66). Faced with these defections, Jesus does not take back or soften His words, in fact, He forces us to make a clear choice: either to be with Him or separated from Him–and He says to the Twelve: “Do you also want to leave?” (v. 67).
At this point, Peter makes his confession of faith in the name of the other Apostles: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v. 68). He does not say, “Where shall we go?,” But “To whom shall we go?” The real problem here is not in going and abandoning the work that has been undertaken, but rather ‘to whom’ to go. From that question of Peter, we understand that loyalty to God is a matter of loyalty to a person with whom they are bound to walk together on the same road. And this person is Jesus. All that we have in the world does not satisfy our hunger for the infinite. We need Jesus: to be with Him, to nourish ourselves at His table, His words of eternal life! Believing in Jesus means to make Him the center, the meaning of our life. Christ is not an accessory element: He is the “living bread”, the indispensable nourishment. Attaching ourselves to Him, in a real relationship of faith and love, does not mean being chained, but being profoundly free, always on a journey, open to the challenges of our time.
Each of us can ask ourselves now: “Who is Jesus for me?” A name? An idea? Only some historic person, or someone who loves me, who gave His life for me, and walks with me? Who is Jesus for you? Do you try to get to know Him? Do you remain with his word? … Do you bring your pocket-Gospel with you to read it in whatever place you are in? Because the more we are with Him, the more our desire to be with Him grows.
Now let’s take a moment of silence and each in his heart, can pose the question: Who is Jesus for me? In silence, each in his heart…
May the Virgin Mary help us to always “go” to Jesus to experience the freedom that He offers us, and that allows us to purify our choices from worldly incrustations and fear.
After the Angelus:
Appeal for Ukraine
Dear brothers and sisters, with deep concern, I follow the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which accelerated again in recent weeks. I renew my heartfelt appeal for the commitments undertaken to achieve peace might be respected; and that, with the help of organizations and persons of good will, there might be a response to the humanitarian emergency in the country. May the Lord grant peace to Ukraine, which will celebrate its national holiday [Independence Day] tomorrow. May Virgin Mary intercede for us!
I cordially greet all the Roman pilgrims and those from various countries, in particular the new seminarians of the Pontifical North American College in Rome as they embark upon their theological studies. I salute the sporting group of San Giorgio su Legnano, the faithful of Luzzana and Chioggia; boys and young people of the diocese of Verona.
I wish you all a good Sunday. And please, do not forget …This week, stop for a little bit each day and pose the question: Who is Jesus for me? Each responding in his heart! To all, I wish a good Sunday! And please do not forget to pray for me! Good lunch and see you soon!