The prophet Elijah is weak from hunger, but the angel of the Lord feeds him with a hearth cake and a jug of water. Elijah is no longer hungry, but what is more important, “strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights.” There was work to do, a journey to be made, and the food made it possible.
When Jesus talks about the bread that he is giving, he compares it to manna, which performed a role similar to Elijah’s food: it enabled a journey to take place (out of the desert and into the promised land). So it is obvious that Jesus intends the bread of life not just to satisfy hunger but also to make possible the accomplishment of a task, the completion of a journey.
In one sense, this journey is on the road to salvation: “bring us to our promised inheritance,” we pray in the opening prayer. Jesus has to have something else in mind also, because he talks about not just feeding but also becoming food: “the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”
We are to sacrifice ourselves, as Jesus on the cross and in the Eucharist, for the sake of the poor ones, the lowly and the afflicted. The Eucharist challenges us to become their food, so that they may complete the journey “to the mountain of God.”
According to the Christian message, man's relationship to his neighbor is bound up with his relationship to God; his response to the love of God, saving us through Christ, is shown to be effective in his love and service of men. Christian love of neighbor and justice cannot be separated.
For love implies an absolute demand for justice, namely a recognition of the dignity and rights of one's neighbor. Justice attains its inner fullness only in love. Because every man is truly a visible image of the invisible God and a brother of Christ, the Christian finds in every man God himself and God's absolute demand for justice and love.
Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World, 1971: 34.