Jesus is our “essential bread of life”, and “God became man to enter into the concrete reality of this world”, Pope Francis underscored at the Angelus on Sunday, 8 August, as he commented on the day’s passage from the Gospel of John. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s words which he shared in Italian with the faithful gathered in Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the Gospel for today’s Liturgy, Jesus continues preaching to the people who had seen the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. And he invites those people to make a qualitative leap: after having recalled the manna with which God had fed the forefathers in the long journey through the desert, he now applies the symbol of the bread to himself. He states clearly: “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:48).
What does bread of life mean? We need bread to live. Those who are hungry do not ask for refined and expensive food, they ask for bread. Those who are unemployed do not ask for enormous wages, but the “bread” of employment. Jesus reveals himself as bread, that is, the essential, what is necessary for everyday life; without him it does not work. Not one bread among many others, but the bread of life. In other words, without him, rather than living, we get by: because he alone nourishes our soul; he alone forgives us from that evil that we cannot overcome on our own; he alone makes us feel loved even if everyone else disappoints us; he alone gives us the strength to love; he alone gives us the strength to forgive in difficulties; he alone gives the heart the peace it seeks; he alone gives eternal life when life here on earth ends. He is the essential bread of life.
I am the bread of life, he says. Let us pause on this beautiful image of Jesus. He could have offered a rationale, a demonstration, but — we know — Jesus speaks in parables, and in this expression: “I am the bread of life”, he truly sums up his entire being and mission. This will be fully seen at the end, at the Last Supper. Jesus knows that the Father is asking him not only to give people food, but to give himself, to break himself, his own life, his own flesh, his own heart so that we might have life. These words of the Lord reawaken in us our amazement for the gift of the Eucharist. No one in this world, as much as they might love another person, can make themselves become food for them. God did so, and does so, for us. Let us renew this amazement. Let us do so as we adore the Bread of Life, because adoration fills life with amazement.
In the Gospel, however, rather than being amazed, the people are scandalized, they rend their clothing. They think: “We know this Jesus, we know his family. How can he say, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven’?” (cf. vv. 41-42). Perhaps we too might be scandalized: we might be more comfortable having a God who stays in heaven without getting involved in our life, while we can manage matters here on earth. Instead, God became man to enter into the concrete reality of this world; to enter into our concrete reality. God became man for me, for you, for all of us, in order to enter into our life. And he is interested in every aspect of our life. We can tell him about our loved ones, our work, our day, our heartache, our anguish, so many things. We can tell him everything because Jesus wants this intimacy with us. What does he not want? To be relegated to being considered a ‘side dish’ — he who is Bread —, to be overlooked and set aside, or called on only when we need him.
I am the bread of life. At least once a day we find ourselves eating together; perhaps in the evening with our family, after a day of work or study. It would be lovely, before breaking bread, to invite Jesus, the bread of Life, to ask him simply to bless what we have done and what we were unable to do. Let us invite him into our home; let us pray in a “homey” style. Jesus will be at the table with us and we will be fed by a greater love.
May the Virgin Mary, in whom the Word became flesh, help us to grow day after day in friendship with Jesus, the bread of Life.
After the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:
Dear brothers and sisters, I greet you all, people of Rome and pilgrims from different countries: families, parish groups, associations and individual faithful. In particular, I greet the group from the youth ministry of Verona, the young people from Crevalcore, as well as the youth from Scandiano and those from the Salesian homes of Triveneto who arrived in Rome on bicycles. Well done, my compliments!
I wish you all a happy Sunday. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch! Arrivederci!