Jesus often repeated that He was the Living Bread and the Bread of Life. He also several times multiplied bread in order to feed those who came to listen to Him. He did not want to let them go hungry.
In order to understand and comprehend the mystery of the Bread of Life, let us read attentively the whole of chapter six from the Gospel according to John. The Evangelist recalls the miraculous multiplication of the bread, but also speaks about the Living Bread. The miracle of the multiplication of the bread makes us understand Jesus’s words about the Bread of Life.
Let us read a passage from the Gospel according to John:
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a multitude followed Him, because they saw the signs which He did on those who were diseased. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up His eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to Him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” This He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.”
Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, He told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign which He had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself. […]
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on Him has God the Father set His seal.” Then they said to Him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” So they said to Him, “Then what sign do You do, that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; My Father gives you the true Bread from heaven. For the Bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” They said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me; and him who comes to Me I will not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me; and this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise Him up at the last day.” The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, “I am the Bread which came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that any one has seen the Father except Him who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the Bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this Bread, he will live for ever; and the Bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my Flesh.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us His Flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me. This is the Bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this Bread will live for ever.”
This He said in the synagogue, as He taught at Capernaum. Many of His disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offence at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where He was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of His disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray Him. (Jn 6:1-15.26-71)
It was neither easy nor simple, neither for ordinary people nor for the apostles, to understand and to accept Jesus’s words about the Eucharist. Jesus spoke about eating His Body and drinking His Blood. These words were difficult, hard, and inaccessible to them. But Jesus did not give up. He was ready not only to lose the large audience, but also His own disciples, the inner circle of those whom He had chosen to make them witnesses in the world.
With His words and deeds, Jesus was preparing His disciples for the great gift of His eucharistic presence.
(Barbarić, Slavko. 2018. Celebrate Mass with the heart.)