The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with His disciples, but that His disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on Him that God the Father has set His seal.” Then they said to Him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.” So they said to Him, “What sign are you going to give us then, that we may see it and believe you? What work are You performing? Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses that gave you bread from heaven, but it is My Father Who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He Who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to Him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.”
– The Holy Gospel According to St. John 6:22-35, New Revised Standard Version
I love St. John, chapter six. Most of you either know why or can surmise from my devotion to the Blesséd Sacrament why that is. My experiences in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist are powerful and extraordinary. But that is not the only reason I love this chapter and the “Great Eucharistic Discourse.” Like with all things Providential, God never does anything for just one reason. Jesus did not die on the Cross of Golgotha just to save us from the penalties of our sins, He also died to make us holy, even as He is holy. He also died to teach us what real love looks like. I could go on and on, I am sure, but I think you get the point I am making here. God does the same with Scripture. No passage of Scripture has a single meaning. I believe that the Alexandrian school of interpretation had it right. You have both the obvious surface passage. It is important, timeless, and (I believe) inerrant. But you also have more subtle meanings and layers of richness and depth which are also there like the layers of an onion to be pealed back and discovered. So it is with St. John, chapter six.
St. John’s “Great Eucharistic Discourse” is, of course, the primary layer in this passage. It clearly identifies Jesus with the Eucharist. But there is another, perhaps more subtle, layer here. “It’s all about Jesus.” How often have we heard that line from this preacher, or that one? I have heard it so often even before my conversion to Christianity 20 years ago that it was already trite by the time I came to have faith. Yet, it is so true. Here in St. John’s passage today, it really is “all about Jesus.”
Jesus is the center of the universe. He must be the reason for everything we do. He must never become spiritual fire insurance. He must never be our co-pilot. He must never be our chum, our buddy. He is our friend, but He is also our Lord, our King, our God. He is the Creator of heaven and earth and all that in them is. The Jews of Jesus’ day asked Him what sign He would give them. “God gave us manna,” they say to Him. He shows them that He is the real manna. He is the source of life, the sustainer of life, and the only one Who can give us life. This must be our focus. We will, like St. Peter, sink if we take our eyes off Him and focus on the storm.
Turning to Ephesians, chapter four, we read:
And so, as a prisoner in the Lord, I beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the vocation to which you have been called: with all humility and meekness, with patience, supporting one another in charity. Be anxious to preserve the unity of the Spirit within the bonds of peace. One body and one Spirit: to this syou have been called by the one hope of your calling: one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all. Yet to each one of us there has been given grace according to the measure allotted by Christ. Because of this, he says: “Ascending on high, he took captivity itself captive; he gave gifts to men.” Now that he has ascended, what is left except for him also to descended, first to the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who also ascended above all the heavens, so that he might fulfill everything. And the same one granted that some would be Apostles, and some Prophets, yet truly others evangelists, and others pastors and teachers, for the sake of the perfection of the saints, by the work of the ministry, in the edification of the body of Christ, until we all meet in the unity of faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as a perfect man, in the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ. So may we then no longer be little children, disturbed and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the wickedness of men, and by the craftiness which deceives unto error. Instead, acting according to truth in charity, we should increase in everything, in him who is the head, Christ himself. For in him, the whole body is joined closely together, by every underlying joint, through the function allotted to each part, bringing improvement to the body, toward its edification in charity.
Ephesians 4:1-16, Catholic Public Domain Version
This passage is really a how-to for the clergy of the Church of Jesus Christ. This tells us our “mission statement” and who it is that is to undertake this lofty goal. We are called to peace, unity (so far as possible), humility, and meekness. We have all been called by one calling in hope in our One Lord, in His one faith, sacramentally incorporated in the Church’s one baptism. Yet, there is a diversity of gifts and offices. Some are Apostles (or bishops in our day), some prophets (either the apocalyptic sort that fore-warn us, or the didactic kind that forth-tell things as they are even though few are likely to listen), there are evangelists (those who preach the faith, but are not necessarily pastors), some are pastors (who are called to shepherd the flock of Christ), and teachers (who give catechetical lessons to both the new and the long-term believers about what our faith consists of and how to live it out).
Each of these ministries has a unique role in carrying out one thing: to bring to perfection the Body of Christ. Like an army, we are certainly diversified and have many roles, but all are essential. Our job as clergy and religious is to bring about the education and perfection of those given to us, either to lead directly or to influence for a time. Our call is really to point out that it really is “All about Jesus.” It is not about us. It is not about the Order of Preachers, Reformed, our various denominations, or any other grouping. These are all (hopefully) aids in getting from here to there, but they are not our goal. It is not about the numbers of people we serve or help (and we want those numbers to be high!). It is all about Jesus.
Jesus is our Bread of Life. This is true both metaphorically, and in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. He is our spiritual food that sustains us. As long as we remember that everything we do is to be done with this in mind, then we are on the right path. We really will find ourselves surprised to hear the words of the Good Shepherd, “Well done thou good and faithful servant…” When you look into the eyes of “the least of these My brethern,” whether they are a joy to be around or a cross to bear, remember that it is all about Jesus.