This Sunday completes the lengthy discourse of Jesus about the 'bread of life'. On the past two Sundays Jesus has affirmed that he is the cause of a person's living beyond the grave, that he will raise up a person from death to life forever. It is faith in him that is asked from each of us. Even miraculous bread like manna cannot do for us what Jesus, our 'bread', can and will do for those who believe in him. Jesus has also made clear that he is 'from heaven', 'from above', which means his Father is God. It is this generation that makes Jesus able to give life, as the Father has first given life to him.
The Gospel reading for August 16 are Jesus' final words about himself as 'the bread of life'. The reading may seem simply repetitious; four times within the nine verses he affirms that one who eats him will have life forever. No doubt he is asserting that it is particularly himself in the form of flesh and blood that is cause of our salvation; i.e. his death, and the love which allowed him to die, is why we will live forever.
But repetitious though Jesus is in this reading, he does express something new, something unsaid till now. As food lives in us (in its own way), so Jesus, our food but also a person, will live in us when we eat his body and drink his blood. In this way Jesus is not talking only about raising us on the last day. Even now, before we die, he has found a way to dwell in us and to let his love influence us as he dwells within us. Food helps one understand about a 'living within'; food does that, as we who diet know very well. But, once eaten, how does a person 'live within' another person? Jesus does not explain this, but asks us to trust he words and believe in a love that can do most anything for us. He wants to be with us, though he has left this earth. He has found a way to be with us by our receiving his flesh and blood. People do remain in us, in our memories, and, as we say, in our hearts. So why not Jesus, even if his dwelling in us, is mysterious and miraculous; is it more mysterious and miraculous than the love he has for us?
John Kilgallen, S.J.