There are two keywords of today’s Gospel – bread and Father. Jesus repeats them over and over again. Last week we looked at the bread. Today, let us try to see the role of the Father in the passage, which is a continuation of the one read in the Churches last week.
The term “father” appears today in three contexts – first of all, in the context of God the Father. The second one is the Jews’ consideration of Joseph as Jesus’ father. Finally, Jesus speaks about the Jews’ fathers who “ate the manna in the desert”.
The identity of the Father is not to be considered in the worldly meaning of the word. The Jews were struck not as much by the statement of Jesus being the bread. Rather, they could not understand and accept His heavenly origin. The problem of comprehending the Lord’s teaching was caused by the new kind of relationship with God preached by Christ. Let us ask ourselves today what our image of God the Father is. It is common that we project the image of our own fathers into God. It can cause a problem when our fathers were not perfect. Many spiritual problems begin at this point – since our understanding of fatherhood in God is always analogical (because the reality is too hard to comprehend for our minds). Who is God for me? He is Father, but in a different way than our earthly fathers. We must take this step and ask ourselves how we see God. If needed, we should prayerfully take the road from the Jews’ concept of fatherhood to Jesus’ one in today’s Gospel.
God is not like ancestors either. Christian art throughout the ages has often presented God as an older man with a grey beard. Artistic representation tries to bring us closer to the divine mysteries, even though it uses analogies. However, the Father is not a man; he does not need to keep His life by looking for food – like the ancestors who needed manna to survive. Of course, we respect the older people and their wisdom, treat them as a treasure, but we must apply their knowledge in the new circumstances of our reality. God is not like this. God is the Act of Existence Itself, as St Thomas Aquinas teaches us. He is always present and imperishable. In this way, His words are always ‘current’, and salvation does not change the meaning. God, who is eternal and whose words are eternal, can not give us any other gift than the life that is eternal, and the bread from heaven is our pilgrimage to get to heaven.
Łukasz Gołąb – Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Sydney, Australia
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