The discussion of living Bread
in the Gospel of John
comes smack in the middle
of Jesus’ life and ministry
not at the end as he faces death.
abundant, exuberant, fruitful life—
is a theme that surfaces
time and time again in this Gospel.
John discusses the miracles of Jesus
signs that unveil
the glory and power of God.
This focus on life
is also a sign—
a recurring invitation
to pay attention and learn.
Throughout his public ministry,
Jesus celebrates fulfillment.
He celebrates life in God
as something immediate and near—
something we can encounter here and now.
It is not simply a dream
far off in the future,
or a privilege
reserved for the favored few.
this in-between time
between God’s promise
and God’s fulfillment;
between the incarnation and eternity;
between His coming to dwell among us,
and His coming at the end times—
this is not a time for paralyzing fear.
It’s not an evil to endure
or a trial to overcome.
It can be a time of brokenness and sin,
of pain and suffering and death,
but it is so much more.
It is also a time of richness and grace—
a time of hope and joy and purpose.
It is a time of encounter.
It is a time to lean into the Kingdom,
which has already begun to bubble up
in the most surprising places
and among the most surprising people.
Jesus consistently teaches
that the Kingdom of God
is growing and expanding
like yeast in bread,
like seeds sprouting deep in the soil,
like a mustard tree
offering shelter and shade.
The Kingdom will be fulfilled in eternity,
but in the meantime,
the Good News is here.
Over and over, Jesus shows us
that God’s living presence
is already with us.
At the wedding feast in Cana,
new wine flowed,
not by the glass or by the pitcher,
but by the gallons.
On a hillside in Judea,
a hungry crowd was fed
with food that multiplied,
instead of diminished.
At a well in Samaria,
a thirsty woman
received the promise of living water,
rushing in a never-ending stream.
When the Jewish people were enslaved
and their bodies and spirits broke
under the command to make bricks
for Pharoah’s kingdom,
God promised them a different Kingdom,
and led them from bondage into freedom.
God heard their cry of pain and suffering,
and answered, “I am who I am” (Exod 3:14)
Jesus takes this name as his own.
I am the living bread.
I am the way.
I am the truth.
I am the light.
The Hebrew verb, “I am”
is not abstract.
It does not indicate mere existence.
It expresses something active and present.
Perhaps we should think of this name,
not as “I Am,”
but “I Am Present.” (1)
I Am Present.
I am present beside you
in the brickyard of Pharoah.
I am present in the desert,
leading you from bondage to freedom.
I am present in the life of Jesus
and in the mighty signs and miracles.
I am present in his broken body,
in the cup that overflows
in the waters that never run dry.
I am present in the community,
even when you lose heart and forget the way.
I Am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.
It’s hard, though—
or at least it should be hard
to speak of living bread and banquets
and water that never runs dry
in a world where each day—
women and girls spend 200 million hours walking
to collect water for their families,
often finding only polluted water
and stagnant ponds.
That is 8.3 million days.
or at least it should be hard
to grasp for an overflowing cup
and eat our fill of living bread
when 828 million people in the world
have empty plates and emptier stomachs.
When 42 million Americans go to bed hungry.
When 1 in 7 children
right around the corner from our Church
don’t have enough to eat. (3)
there is more than enough food produced in the world
to feed everyone on the planet.
There are ways to provide clean water
and a better life.
What we have is not a crisis of bread and water,
but a crisis of heart and will.
I AM Present.
We cannot personally believe Scripture’s
promise of living bread from heaven—
we cannot believe God’s people
were delivered from bondage—
that water gushed from the flinty rock
and poured over parched and thirsty ground,
without also setting our face
and our feet
towards those millions in our world
who have neither water nor bread.
We cannot personally accept Christ
without also declaring with the Lord,
“I too, Am Present.”
This passage from John
takes our hearts and minds
directly to the Eucharist
where Jesus reassures us,
“I AM Present.”
On the altar of that Eucharistic feast,
we meet the suffering poor.
And in the faces of the suffering poor,
we encounter Christ,
who is Bread for the world.
“The Eucharist commits us to the poor.
To receive the Body and Blood of Christ
given up for us,
we must recognize Christ
in the poorest of his brethren.” (4)
Because God is “I AM,”
We are, too.
We are present.
1 Sigmund Mowinckel, “The Name of the God of Moses,” HUCA 32 (1961), 127.
4 Catechism of the Catholic Church 1397