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.

Pentecost…now what?

If you’re like me, there seems to be a real disconnect between the solemnity of Pentecost and the swift change immediately into Ordinary Time. (Thankfully, Pope Francis gave us a little buffer with the memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church). But still, going from the imagery of fire, water, tongues, and brilliant shades of red back to “normal” in the course of 24 hours is a little too much for me to process. Previously, there used to be an octave for Pentecost (8 days of celebration, as for Christmas and Easter), but in the new calendar Ordinary Time begins right away. 

While we could certainly get into further conversation about the origins of this change and the rationale behind it, the fact of the matter is that the change has been made. We now have the season of green following the splendid day of red so close in sequence that you would think they were Christmas colors. 

Thankfully, our Lord works in the present moment. He is the God of “the now.” Whether you are a fan of the change, ardently disagree with it, or find yourself indifferent, perhaps we can look at Ordinary Time in a new way – as a time of God’s immanent action. 

At Pentecost, of course, the Spirit is sent upon the disciples who were gathered together in the Upper Room with Our Lady. It was at this point that they began to live the apostolic life in the Holy Spirit. In other words, they were given the Spirit of Christ so that they could bring his very presence to the ends of the earth. They couldn’t simply rest in the Upper Room – the Spirit compelled them to go out and to live their life in the Spirit. 


And so, perhaps we can begin to look at Ordinary Time as the time to live our lives totally immersed in the Holy Spirit. Traditionally, the green of the season is symbolic of new life and Christian hope – both gifts of the Spirit. And also the first Sunday celebration in Ordinary Time is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – who comes to dwell in the baptized soul by the power of the Holy Spirit. The week after, we celebrate Corpus Christi in which we remember the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood made sacramentally present at each Mass through the action of the Spirit. 

In a certain way, Ordinary Time is the perfect time for the Spirit to manifest his ever-new creativity. Throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons, along with Lent and Easter, we focus our attention on the salvific acts of Christ. Ordinary Time, however, is the time in which we can better focus on the power and creativity of the Spirit who always seeks to make present those realities in our daily lives in an ever-new way.

 In other words, perhaps we can look at Ordinary Time like the Church intends it to be understood – as a time of hope and new life. Thinking back to the apostles who left the Upper Room following Pentecost, I can only imagine that they were filled to the brim with those two gifts. And upon bringing the saving work of Christ to the nations, I’m sure those gifts only continued to increase, even in spite of danger and difficulty. 

Come to think of it, the color of this time is green. 

And green means “go.”  

Come, Holy Spirit, and send us forth with new hope in order to bring new life!

Brian Isenbarger, MA ’14, is an alumnus of the Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Program. He is currently a seminarian at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD, preparing for the priesthood for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.