Father Timothy's comments
In the first reading from The Book of Exodus [16:2-4, 12-15] The People of God are instructed to “… go out and gather their daily bread.” Now the Old Testament is a preparation for the N.T., as the material is to the spiritual. Hence, when in the Gospel [Jn 6:24-35] Our Lord speaks of the “True Bread come down from heaven”, “True”, means the fulfillment or fullness of the O.T. manna of the desert. The true bread from heaven is not a material sustenance, but rather a spiritual one as Jesus says “I AM The True Bread come down from heaven”. That is, the divine has descended, indeed condescended, so as to raise up man who cannot live by bread (meaning material things) alone.
This then, is the reality of what we should be seeking, not the material sustenance but the spiritual [Mt 6:31; Col 3:1]. Our Lord puts it another way when He teaches us to pray, “…give us this day our daily bread” – the translation for the Greek word ‘epiousios’ (επιούσιος) is poor – it means not “daily” bread, but “super-substantial” bread [see CCC 2837]. Now what is that bread that is super-substantial or supernatural but the Holy Eucharist? Therefore, we see that in feeding the multitudes with material bread Our Lord wishes to point us to the supernatural bread: His bodily, substantial presence, in the Eucharist: for this is Christ Himself! For, as opposed to the other sacraments of The Church that offer us grace, the Eucharist is the very Author of grace Himself!
The Eucharist is our true spiritual nourishment cloaked under the appearances of bread and wine. Our Lord then, just as He was normal and ordinary in appearance 2,000 years ago, wishes His continued substantial presence among us in this world to be under the appearances of what is seemingly normal and ordinary in appearance (mere bread). When St. John tells us in his Gospel that “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”, the Greek meaning is that God has set up His tent in our midst. That God is no longer separated from us as in the days of Moses when the tent of God was away from the community and only Moses and a very select few could enter God’s Presence. Indeed, even Aaron who was a priest could enter the tabernacle of The Mysterious Presence only after extensive preparation and cleansing [Lev 16:1ff]. In Christ, the Presence of God is “tented” in our Church – the tabernacle.
Tabernacle means ‘tent’ [Latin taberna, tent/hut] and God calls us each to the interior of the tent in Holy Communion. However, just as in the past when God had revealed Himself only to the spiritual man, Moses, so too He does the same now. God “exposes” Himself only to the spiritual man, the man with the ‘eyes of faith’, who alone perceives in the Eucharist, not ordinary bread but God’s unique and substantial Presence in this world. It is only such a person – the spiritual person – who seeks the true presence of Christ in this Bread of the Altar. You see, this is what happened 2,000 years ago when Our Lord told the Jews about His flesh to eat, His blood to drink’ – only those who were spiritual could accept His teaching. How were they spiritual? They were seeking above all (with all of their mind, heart, soul and strength Mt 22:37) the One Spiritual God of Israel. Those, on the other hand, who were seeking after worldly bread could not submit their lower bodily appetites to their higher mind and will (rational appetites) to discern the True Bread come down from heaven. Their minds were seeking merely material sustenance and hence could not perceive the spiritual presence right before their very eyes [II Cor 4:4].
St. Paul speaks to the Christians at Corinth about the transformation that had taken place in their minds:
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but The Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. . . . The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of The Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has known the mind of The Lord so as to instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. I Cor 2:12-16
How many Christians today are still seeking only the ephemeral, material, bread of money, power, fame, worldly security, and pleasure? Then as now people refuse to see the necessity of the spiritual. Our Lord warned us in His parables about missing out on eternal life because of our preoccupation with farm, family, business, or career [Mt 22:5]. Of the rich man who went away sad because he had many possessions [Mt 19: 22]. My friends, we in the U.S., the so-called middle-class, are the rich man in the world today. We are the ones who are being seduced – led astray – from the true food that we should be seeking. Jesus is saying to us, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day [Jn 6:53].”
Virtually every one of us (especially if we are retired) could spend some time in the Eucharistic Presence of Our Lord in church at least once a week – but do we? Our Lord has asked, “Could you not keep watch for one hour?” [Mk 14:38]. One measly hour out of the 168 hours we get in a week. I am not talking about the hour each week at Sunday Mass, which we are obligated under pain of mortal sin to keep. Rather one hour of surplus, one hour of devotion, one hour of love.
In conclusion we must say to our inner self: “Let me store up treasure in heaven” (Mt 6:31); “Let me seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”; “Let me, each and every day (week or month?) go out and gather – not manna or mammon – but my “daily portion” of the “Bread of Life””. That “daily” bread without which we cannot continue to live supernaturally in this world. This is the plain, direct, and literal meaning of the Gospel for us today, just as it was 2000 years ago… ‘Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which The Son of Man will give you” and has given to you, in The Holy Eucharist.
An excellent resource: Apostolic Exhortation of Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix “Veneremur Cernui” 2021 on the web: dphx.org