3 Reasons Why A Critical Reading of John 6 Leads to Faith in the Real Presenceof Life

From a young age, I always saw the world through a scientific lens. I needed to understand how the world works. When I attended college, that way of thinking applied to research papers and ensuring I had logical and concise arguments to articulate my interpretation of a historical event.

When I read the Gospel of John there is a logical flow to his account of the Gospel events. His entire gospel is masterfully written and laden with tons of symbolism. As a cradle Catholic, I heard John 6 [Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse] preached frequently during the Mass.

It took years of analyzing this chapter and critically viewing it before I realized the genius and truth contained in Christ’s message. Inevitability my close reading of John 6 led me to this conclusion– the evangelist genuinely believed that Jesus was the literal bread of life that gives humanity eternal life! I give three strong pieces of evidence for this case:

Jesus as a Good Teacher

I think most people would agree with me that Jesus’ followers considered him a good teacher. Jesus could relate to an array of people: rich, poor, fisherman, tax collectors, sinners, and strangers alike.

Secondly, Jesus taught using a plethora of means including sermons, parables, and miracles to name a few. A quality in any good teacher is consistency in content along with the ability to clarify their subject content should disputes arise. In the bread of life discourse in John 6, Jesus presented both his teaching consistently and clearly.

Within a span of 24 verses [John 6:35-59] Jesus mentions point blank at least 6 times he is the bread of life. In verse 35, Jesus states, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” Verses 38, 48, 53-58 also support the Nazarene’s intrepid claim.

It’s all Greek to Me

There are a variety of Greek words for the English verb “to eat”. Jesus says in John 6:54, “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day.” The Greek word that the Evangelist uses in this verse is trōgōTrōgō translates as “chew” or “gnaw”. Why would John use such a fleshy and literal word for eat in this context? This translation only makes sense if we accept that Jesus literally meant that he is the bread of life. John even goes on to use trōgō in verses 56, 57, and 58– a grand total of four times!

Loss of Followers

The evangelist writes in John 6:66 that many people who followed Jesus from the start of his ministry left him never to return. They were scandalized by the teaching of Jesus as the bread of life. I thought long and hard on this point. Why would many of Jesus’ followers leave him if he only spoke symbolically that he was the bread of life?

Well, if Jesus truly did intend for his claim that he is the “bread of life” to be interpreted figuratively, I doubt many followers would have left him that day. I mean think about it! People tend to become disenchanted with a leader when his or her message becomes too scandalous to bear. I doubt a man speaking figuratively, and poetically, would gather such scandal. Jesus repeatedly claimed, “I am the bread of life”. He never qualified that assertion to be taken figuratively. Such difficult news may have been too much for these fair-weather followers to swallow.

Most Holy Eucharist

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). It is a non-negotiable belief. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Saint John knew of the importance of this sacrament and he stressed it frequently in Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse. Through my Catholic faith, I accept Jesus’ claim that he is the bread of life. I ponder this question of Jesus frequently: Will you also go away? I ultimately hope that my answer is consistent with Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69).

Matthew Chicoine loves the Catholic Church, comics books, and finding truth in literature. He blogs at The Simple Catholic.

Awakening

 Each and Every Creature is Connected! We are all on a journey of awakening. 

People of faith and good will are called to: Encounter, Accompany, Learn, and Listen as we move towards awakened hearts and minds. 

 

I choose to focus on listening because in my context this is most challenging. Since COVID I have intentionally set up listening sessions for families/ students to share what is on their hearts. 

 

In Pastoral Youth Ministry there are sounds everywhere and expressions being broadcasted from every corner- Billy Ellish, Fortnight, Band, Minecraft, Tik Tok, and YouTube channels of all kinds. 

 

To be awakened one has to actively listen. Listening is a skill learned and importantly one has to be ready to listen with the heart to the pain people carry. 

 

This is ultimately redemptive and reconciling once the motivation is built on faith reason. Faith calls us to stillness as we listen with our hearts to people’s  struggles. What struggles do those around you carry? 

 

One has to be still and earnestly seek God’s guidance through the power of the Holy Spirit in listening.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta reminds us today that God speaks in the silence of our hearts. Finding moments of silence to listen is a spiritual practice well needed in our world today. 

 

What are the outcomes of listening in stillness? Pope Paul VI reminds us that this instructs reason and will. Reason informs our will to act! That blessed one who spends time listening is able to hear the voices that have been silenced, the voices crying for an open door of mercy. 

 

Mercy is the vein that leads us to God. The Sisters of Mercy are an outstanding example as to what it means to listen in mercy. What it means to be mercy! As a former Mercy Volunteer, I learned many valuable lessons from my supervisor, a Brooklyn  Sister of Mercy. A few of the most needed spiritual lessons are highlighted below: 

 

  1.   Listening opens our hearts to pain and moves us in solidarity to liberation. 
  2.   Listening brings us into communion with God. 
  3.   Listening to the voice of peace/reconciliation prepares us to: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). 

 

What is being stirred from listening to a voice crying out in the wilderness? Perhaps a reminder to prepare the way! 

Maybe an awakening of silence or a spiritual movement! 

 

In this time perhaps a movement of change, a collapse of injustice, a way to redemption. An awakening of faith that all will be well! 

 

Take Away Reflections as you ponder God in the moment- 

What sounds are around you? 

What is being echoed? 

What is chanting? 

What is the connection with the movement of the time and sacred scripture?

 

Sherine Green teaches History of Black Catholics in the Church for Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Programs. She is the Director of Youth Faith Formation at Christ Our Light Catholic Community in Cherry Hill, NJ.