FROM JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST BY REV. FERREOL GIRARDEY, C.Ss.R.
The Sixth Chapter of the Gospel of St. John begins with the narrative of an astounding miracle of our Savior, a miracle which was to prepare His disciples for the doctrine of the REAL PRESENCE. That miracle was the feeding and satiating of five thousand men with five ordinary loaves of bread and two fishes, and the gathering of twelve baskets full of their remnants after the multitude had satisfied their hunger. This great miracle made so deep an impression on the people that they were about to " take Him by force and make Him their king.'* But Jesus frustrated their design by escaping alone into a mountain. When the evening came, His disciples entered their boat to go over the lake to Capharnaum.
"It was now dark," says the evangelist, " and Jesus had not come to them. And the sea arose, by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing near to the ship; and they were afraid. But He said to them: It is I, be not afraid. They were willing, therefore, to take Him into the ship; and presently the ship was at the land to which they were going. The next day the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea, saw that there was no other ship there but one, and that Jesus had not entered the ship with His disciples, but that His disciples had gone away. But other ships came in from Tiberias near to the place where they had eaten the bread, the Lord giving thanks. When the people, therefore, saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they took shipping, and came to Capharnaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found Him on the other side, they said to Him: Rabbi, when camest Thou hither?" (John 6: 16-25.)
By the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves our Divine Savior wished to prepare his followers for the far more wonderful multiplication, if we may call it, of Himself in the Blessed Eucharist. By the miracle of His walking on the sea during a violent storm, which prevented the apostles from using their sail or making any headway by rowing, and then by causing the boat, as soon as He entered it, to land miles away at its very destination, Jesus wished to manifest His boundless power over nature and thus prepare their minds to admit the ineffable mystery of the Real Presence.
Let us now examine how Jesus answered the question of the Jews. " Jesus answered them and said: Amen, amen I say to you, you seek Me, not because you have seen miracles, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth to ever lasting life, which the Son of man will give you. For Him hath God the Father sealed. They said therefore to Him: What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said to them: This is the work of God, that you believe in Him, whom He hath sent. They said therefore to Him: What sign dost Thou show that we may see, and may believe Thee? What dost Thou work ? Our fathers ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat" (John 6:14-31).
We see from this passage of the Gospel, first, that our Divine Savior reminded His questioners that they followed Him out of selfish and material motives, for it was not truth or even miracles that they sought, for they now expected that He would, as on the day previous, feed them and provide for all their wants. Hence Jesus called their attention to the necessity they were under of seeking food rather for their souls, a food that would secure them, not a few years of mortal life, but life ever lasting; a food which He the Son of God, would give them. They could depend on His word, for His heavenly Father had, like a notary with his seal, authenticated His divine mission by the testimony given at His baptism and by the power He had of working miracles. He then replied to their inquiry as to what they should do to perform God's will, by telling them of their obligation of believing in Him as the promised Messias, or Redeemer. But they were not satisfied with His answer, for they asked for a sign by which He should prove His mission, and, at the same time, they indicated the sign they wished to have, for they alluded to the manna, the food with which God had miraculously fed their forefathers for forty years during the journey to the Promised Land. Moses, their leader and law giver, had foretold that his law was to last and be obligatory until another prophet and lawgiver like himself would come. Now, as Moses fed their forefathers in the desert with manna from heaven, they expected that the Great Prophet, the Messias, would also feed the people with bread from heaven. Wherefore, they now summoned Jesus to prove His claim of being the promised Messias, by providing them also with food from heaven, as Moses had done for their forefathers. Hence they said to Him:
"Our fathers ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you: Moses gave you not bread from heaven; but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven, for the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world " (John 6: 31-33).
There is an apparent contradiction between our Divine Savior's words and the quotation of the psalm calling the manna " bread from heaven." But the contradiction is merely apparent, and not real, for the psalm calls the manna " bread from heaven" because it fell from the clouds, or what, in common parlance, is denoted as " the heaven " or "the heavens." Jesus wished to call the attention of His hearers to the Bread which He was to give them, as coming down in all reality from " heaven," the very home of God and His angels and saints. The Bread which He would give was so much the more excellent than the bread, or manna, of Moses, as the heaven where God reigns in His glory is infinitely more excellent, precious and noble than the clouds, or the heavens, whence fell the manna to feed the Israelites. The latter preserved the life of the body, and the former is destined to preserve and increase the life of the soul. Moreover, the manna was, in some manner, a pledge to the Israelites that God would lead them into the Promised Land; whilst the Bread from heaven promised by our Divine Savior, is for all His followers a pledge of life everlasting, a pledge that, after our death, He will lead us to heaven, our true country, our home.