Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
The Gospel passage of this Sunday (cf. Jn 6,51-58) introduces us to the second part of the discourse that Jesus made in the synagogue of Capernaum, after having fed a large crowd with five loaves and two fish: the multiplication of the loaves. He presents himself as "the living bread descended from heaven", the bread that gives eternal life, and adds: "The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world" (v. 51). This passage is decisive, and in fact provokes the reaction of the listeners, who start to discuss among themselves: "How can he give us his flesh to eat?" (V. 52). When the sign of shared bread leads to its true meaning, that is, the gift of self to the point of sacrifice, misunderstanding emerges, even the refusal of the One who was wanted to lead in triumph emerges. Let us remember that Jesus had to hide because they wanted to make him king.
Jesus continues: "If you do not eat the flesh of a man's son and do not drink his blood, you do not have life in you" (v. 53). Blood is also present here along with meat. Meat and blood in the biblical language express concrete humanity. The people and the disciples themselves understand that Jesus invites them to enter into communion with him, to "eat" him, his humanity, to share with him the gift of life for the world. Other than triumphs and successful mirages! It is precisely the sacrifice of Jesus who gives himself for us.
This bread of life, the sacrament of the Body and of the Blood of Christ, is given to us freely in the table of the Eucharist. Around the altar we find what feeds us and spirits us today and for eternity. Every time we participate in the Holy Mass, in a certain sense, we anticipate heaven on earth, because from the Eucharistic food, the Body and the Blood of Jesus, we learn what eternal life is. It is living for the Lord: "He who eats me will live for me" (verse 57), says the Lord. The Eucharist molds us because we do not live only for ourselves, but for the Lord and for our brothers. The happiness and eternity of life depend on our capacity to make fruitful the evangelical love we receive in the Eucharist.
Jesus, as at that time, repeats to each one of us today: "If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you" (v. 53). Brothers and sisters, this is not a material food, but a living and vivifying bread, which communicates the very life of God. When we make communion we receive the very life of God. To have this life it is necessary to eat the Gospel and the love of the brothers. Faced with Jesus' invitation to nourish us with his Body and Blood, we might feel the need to discuss and resist, as did the listeners of today's Gospel. This happens when we struggle to shape our existence on that of Jesus, to act according to its criteria and not according to the criteria of the world. By nourishing ourselves with this food we can enter fully into harmony with Christ, with his feelings, with his behavior. This is so important: going to Mass and communicating, because receiving communion is to receive this living Christ, who transforms us in and prepares us for heaven.
May the Virgin Mary support our purpose of communion with Jesus Christ, nourishing ourselves of her Eucharist, in order to become, in turn, broken bread for our brothers.
O God, who have prepared for those who love you
good things which no eye can see,
fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love,
so that, loving you in all things and above all things,
we may attain your promises, which surpass every human desire.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
GOSPEL READING: JOHN 6:51-58
ANGELUS ADDRESS BY POPE FRANCIS
19th AUGUST 2018, ST PETER'S SQUARE, ROME