John 6 Day 4

Day 4: Wednesday, April 17th 

John 6:35-40


Fr. Reutter’s reflection:


There is a wonderful word one-upmanship that refers to trying to outdo your competitor at every step.  Most little boys play this “game” instinctively.  For example, if they are on climbing bars, one will say, “I can jump from the third bar!” and do it.  The next boy feels compelled to go one step higher, taunting him by saying, “See, I can jump from the fourth bar!” and demonstrating, and so on.  It’s a good game for boys to play (even if there may be a few minor injuries along the way!) but not so great for the disciples of Jesus.


In today’s passage, these disciples seem to be trying to play this game of “one-upmanship” with Jesus Himself.  They know their faith story and so remember that their ancestors from centuries before were led by Moses across the desert without food and water.  When the people began to complain about how hungry they were, God instructed Moses to tell them that he would rain down mysterious flakes of bread from heaven, called manna (literally meaning, What is this stuff – since it was so mysterious where it came from).  Of course, God did exactly that, because He always keeps His promises.


So it is almost as if the people were taunting Jesus, saying, “Moses showed how God could take care of His people, what can you do for us???”  Remember that they were impressed with the miracle of multiplying bread seemingly out of nowhere.  They wanted to see an even more spectacular sign than the one their ancestors saw.   (That is a clue for us.  When people demand signs from God, it never goes well.  It is a sign of a lack of trust in God’s love and providence).


So Our Lord turns the tables on them.  He says, in effect – don’t bother comparing Me to Moses.  This manna you’ve heard stories about is from God the Father Himself.   And He will always give you this bread from Heaven.

In all likelihood, the would-be disciples were expecting something like what their ancestors got, but “new and improved,” “bigger and beter”.  They demand this gift from Jesus “always.”  Our young people have a phrase, FOMO (fear of missing out) – so too these men didn’t want to "miss out" on the gift.


But here is where the “shocking plot twist” occurs.  Jesus says, in effect,  “You want bread?  You want a showy sign?  I am going to give you far more than a mere symbol and sign.  Because it is I myself Who am the Bread of Life.  I’m not going to give you mere food for the body – as spectacular as that sign was.  I will give you my very Self.  I am the Bread of Life.”  This is so stunning a truth that the followers can’t absorb it or process it (as we’ll see in the rest of the chapter).  It is so great a truth that Christians disciples still struggle to “process” the mystery.  It is so great a truth that, sadly, countless disciples of Christ through history have rejected this Mystery, refusing to accept the testimony of Jesus Christ Himself, from His own lips.


In rejecting the Church teaching on the Eucharist, they will play “games” – not of “one-upmanship” – but= of trying to twist the words of Christ into meanings that are clearly not what He actually said or meant.  For example, “Oh, He was just speaking symbolically.” -or- “O, "He meant merely spiritual bread.”  But that makes no sense when we read and re-read and pray over His words – let alone study how the earliest Christians understood them.  Our Lord meant exactly what He said.


What are some take-home points?


When Jesus gives us His very Flesh and Blood, He gives it to us under a very simple appearance and sign (what looks like bread and wine).  Many Catholics, sadly, think this is “not enough.”  They will even say things like, “The Mass is boring!” -or- “I’m not being fed" (often adding insignificant reasons, such as "I don’t like the music or the preaching.")  This is truly astonishing.  We are being fed with the very Bread of Life as we share in the sacrifice of Christ to His Father, and still, some Catholics leave the Church because they claim, “they are not being fed.”


Like our ancestors in this Scripture, they are demanding a showy, spectacular sign, or something that is emotionally thrilling – and missing the point that if we are in a state of grace, we may receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the sacred encounter at Mass with Jesus Who is the Bread of Life, no matter what our mood or emotional state happens to be that day.   Let’s pray that we will always quietly, persistently deepen our gratitude for this mystery of mysteries.