‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven’

Twentieth Sunday of the Year B

In speaking of his flesh and blood which he gives to us, Jesus is employing a metaphor for his very self. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.

John 6:51-58

51 Jesus said to the crowd: ‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’
52 Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said.
53 Jesus replied: ‘I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. 54 Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood, has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. 57 As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me. 58 This is the bread come down from heaven; not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

Other readings: Proverbs 9:1-6 Psalm 33 (34) Ephesians 5:15-20


We continue reading from the sixth chapter of the gospel of John, which interrupts our regular reading of Mark’s gospel on the ordinary Sundays of Year B. This is an opportunity to reflect on the words of Jesus about the Bread of Life, and indeed about the mystery of the Eucharist.

In today’s passage the focus is on eating the flesh of Jesus. The Eucharist has throughout the ages been a source of controversy and misunderstanding. Many people have echoed the question of the Jews in this passage: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’

In speaking of his flesh and blood which he gives to us, Jesus is employing a metaphor for his very self. Just as he gave himself in bread and wine to the disciples as a sign of his coming gift of his life on the Cross, so whenever we celebrate the Eucharist we receive the real Jesus, his ‘body, blood, soul and divinity’, his full self, but in such a way that the real gift is hidden beneath the physical appearances of bread and wine.

Sharing in the Eucharist brings intimacy with Jesus: ‘he lives in me and I live in him’. This intimacy is the pledge of eternal life. The ultimate focus is on the gift of life. As Jesus draws life from the Father, so we draw life from Jesus in the Eucharist.

Am I prepared to accept the mystery of the Eucharist and by frequent reception to deepen my intimacy with the Lord?

Am I faithful to the commitment to attend Mass each Sunday and on the major feasts?

We pray that we will allow the Sacraments to lead us further into the things of God.

We pray that our communities may grow in love of the Eucharist and reverent celebration of Christ’s gifts of Word and Sacrament.

INT-IMG_5349 Fr Adrian Graffy (3)Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.

Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”

He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”

Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).

Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy