On Man's Hunger for Jesus, The True Bread From Heaven

"This bread requires the hunger of the inner man."

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The reading of the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John, which accompanies us in the liturgy during these Sundays, led us last Sunday to reflect on the multiplication of the loaves, with which the Lord satisfied the hunger of a crowd of five thousand. And we reflected on Jesus’ invitation to all those whom he had fed, to labor for a food which endures to eternal life.

Jesus wants to help them understand the profound meaning of the miracle He worked: in miraculously satisfying their physical hunger, He disposes them to receive the announcement that He is the bread which came down from heaven (cf. John 6:41) that satisfies in a definitive way. The Jewish people, too, during their lengthy sojourn in the desert, experienced a bread that came down from heaven -- manna --, which kept them alive until their arrival in the Promised Land. Now, Jesus speaks of himself as the true bread which came down from heaven that is able to sustain life, not for a moment or for a short while, but forever. He is the food that gives eternal life, because He is the Only-begotten Son of God, who abides in the bosom of the Father and has come to give man life in abundance, to introduce man into the very life of God.

In Jewish thought, it was clear that the true bread from heaven that nourished Israel was the Law, the word of God. The people of Israel clearly recognized that the Torah was the fundamental and lasting gift of Moses, and that the basic element that distinguished it from other peoples consisted in their knowing the will of God and, therefore, the right path of life. Now Jesus, in revealing himself as the bread of heaven, testifies that He is God’s Word in Person, the Word incarnate, through whom man may make God’s will his food (cf. John 4:34), which directs and sustains life.

To doubt Jesus’ divinity, then, as do the Jews in today’s gospel passage, means placing oneself in opposition to the word of God. Indeed, they affirm: He is the son of Joseph! We know his father and mother! (John 6:42). They do not go beyond his earthly origins, and for this reason they refuse to welcome Him as the Word of God made flesh. St. Augustine, in his Tractates on the Gospel of John, comments thus: “They were far off from that heavenly bread, and knew not how to hunger after it. They had the jaws of their heart languid … this bread, indeed, requires hunger, the hunger of the inner man” (26.1). And we have to ask ourselves if we really feel this hunger, hunger for God’s Word, hunger to know the true meaning of life.

Only he who is drawn by God the Father, who listens to Him and allows himself to be instructed by Him is able to believe in Jesus, to encounter Him and to be nourished by Him, and thus find true life, the path of life, justice, truth, love. St. Augustine adds: “The Lord … says that He is the bread which came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe in Him. For, to eat the living bread means to believe in Him. [To eat the living bread means to believe in Him, and] he that believes, eats; he is sated invisibly, as invisibly he is reborn [to a deeper, truer life], he is reborn from within, in his innermost heart he becomes a new man” (ibid).

Invoking Most Holy Mary, let us ask her to guide us to an encounter with Jesus, so that our friendship with Him may be ever more intense; let us ask her to introduce us into the full communion of love with her Son, the true bread which came down from heaven, so that we may be renewed by Him in the intimate recesses of our being.

Appeal following the Angelus:

Dear brothers and sisters,

My thoughts go in this moment to the peoples of Asia, especially to those of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China, who have been severely hit by violent rains, as well as to the people of North-west Iran, who have been struck by a violent earthquake. These events have caused numerous deaths and injuries, thousands of displaced persons and extensive damage. I invite you to unite yourselves to my prayer for all those who have lost their lives, and for all the people who are being tried by such devastating calamities. May our solidarity and our support not be lacking to these, our brothers and sisters.


[Translation by Diane Montagna]