In today’s Gospel, a crowd of people follows Jesus. They follow him because they have seen a miracle, when Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. They want to see more. But Jesus challenges the people. They haven’t really understood the meaning of the sign that he gave them. We can eat until we are full, but we will get hungry again. Jesus offers us food that lasts forever; the Bread of Life that brings us eternal life. The Bread of Life is Jesus himself, present to us in the celebration of Mass. This is the challenge that Jesus presents to the crowd. What do they really want – food for this life, or food for eternal life?
Many of Jesus’ disciples found it impossible to accept this teaching. We will hear their arguments with him in the Gospels of the next few Sundays. For us, too, it may seem a hard teaching to understand and accept. But this is what our faith tells us. In the Eucharist, Jesus is really present to us. We receive him in the bread and wine; we receive him as food that nourishes our souls. Holy Communion is food for eternal life – God’s greatest gift to us. Jesus challenges us, as he challenged the crowds in his own time. What are we really hungry for?