On Believing in Jesus, Bread of Life

"In those words is foretold the paschal mystery of Jesus"

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 27, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On recent Sundays we have meditated on the “bread of life” sermon that Jesus gives in the synagogue at Capernaum after having fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Today, the Gospel presents the reaction of some of Jesus’ disciples to the sermon, a reaction that Christ himself consciously provoked. First of all, John the Evangelist – who was present with the other Apostles – reports that “for this reason many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66). Why? Because they did not believe in the words of Jesus when he said: I am the bread that has come down from heaven, whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever (cf. John 6:51, 54). These are words that are truly unacceptable, incomprehensible to them. This revelation remains incomprehensible to them, as I said, because they understood it only in a material way, while in those words is foretold the paschal mystery of Jesus in which he would give himself up for the salvation of the world.

Seeing that many of his disciples left, Jesus turns to the Apostles saying: “Do you also wish to go?” (John 6:67). As in other cases, it is Peter who answers in the name of the Twelve: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” – We too can repeat: “To whom shall we go?” – “You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have known that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69). We have a beautiful commentary from Augustine on this passage: “See how Peter, by the gift of God and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, understood him. How else than because he believed? You have the words of eternal life. For you have eternal life in the ministration of your body and blood. And we have believed and have known. Not have known and believed, but believed and known. For we believed in order to know; for if we wanted to know first, and then to believe, we should not be able either to know or to believe. What have we believed and known? That you are Christ, the Son of God; that is, that you are that very eternal life, and that you give in your flesh and blood only that which you are” (Tractates on the Gospel of John, 27, 9).

In the end, Jesus knew that even among the Twelve there was one who did not believe: Judas. Judas too could have left like the other disciples did; perhaps he should have left had he wanted to be honest. Instead he stayed with Jesus. He stayed not because of faith, not because of love, but with the secret plan to get back at the Master. Why? Because Judas felt that Jesus had betrayed him and he decided to betray Jesus in turn. Judas was a zealot and wanted a victorious Messiah who would lead a revolt against the Romans. Jesus frustrated these expectations. The problem is that Judas did not leave and his gravest fault was falsity, which is the sign of the devil. Because of this Jesus said to the Twelve: “One among you is a devil!” (John 6:70). Let us pray to the Virgin Mary, who helps us to believe in Jesus, as St. Peter did, to be ever more sincere with him and with everyone.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the crowds in various languages. In English he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer. I also greet the new students of the Pontifical North American College. Dear seminarians, use your time in Rome to conform yourselves more completely to Christ. Indeed, may all of us remain faithful to the Lord, even when our faith in his teachings is tested. May God bless you!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]