IT IS I. DO NOT FEAR, SAYS THE LORD. To grasp the fuller implication of these words of the Lord Jesus, it is necessary to read the original Greek where the words translated "It is I" render ego eimi, literally I am. This is precisely the Septuagint expression for the name of God as revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 3: 14). This is the name used by the second Isaiah to refer to the God of Israel when he intends to emphasize some special point of revelation concerning God's uniqueness, as we can see from the following passage.
Be my witnesses; I too am a witness, says the Lord God, and so is my servant whom I have chosen that you might know and believe and understand that I am. Before me there was no other God and after me there will be none. I am God and there is no other beside me who saves (Isaiah 43: 10, 11)
Thus here John presents Jesus as affirming his divinity, speaking as the God of Sinai and of the prophets. The fact that he walked upon the water also is an indication of his possessing supernatural powers, as the apostles well recognize as they react with fright upon seeing him. Jesus' words , in fact, are pronounced in order to allay their deep sense of fear in the presence of so astonishing a marvel. This event of Jesus walking through the water recalls the description of the Exodus as given poetically by Psalm 77: 17- 21, and so suggests that Jesus replaces Moses as the liberator of the people of God, acting with divine power. The evangelist goes on to relate the Eucharistic discourse against the background of this revelation of Christ's divinity. Only those who believe that Jesus is more than man, that in his flesh God and man are made one in an ineffable union can understand what he teaches about the Eucharist. The true and full meaning of this sacrament is eschatological, that is, it not only establishes a union with the risen Lord Jesus, but also represents a sharing of the Trinitarian life of God as it has always and will ever exist. Our Lord expresses this when he states: "As the living Father sent me and I live through the Father, so also the one who eats me, he too shall live through me. This is the bread that has comes down from heaven... the one who eats this bread will live forever (6: 57, 58)."
St. John was given the gift of the Holy Spirit that enabled him to discern the depths of significance in the essential actions and teachings of Jesus. In today's Gospel we encounter a fundamental insight, one upon which all the rest depends: Jesus is more than human; he is also divine, and lives the same life as does the Father in heaven. It is this Jesus who instituted the Eucharist and gave it to his Church through his chosen ministers, the apostles. Today he continues to offer this same gift to his faithful through the priests who have received his anointing from the descendants of the apostles. May we receive his proffered offering with faith and with gratitude, with a keen realization of what an incomparable favor we are graced with. And may our lives reflect the fact that through this sacrament we adhere to God in his divine Son not only by our faith and hope, but also in deeds worthy of him who loves us and gave himself for us.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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