VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis asked thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to be quiet for a moment and ponder the question, “Who is Jesus to you?”

After the moment of silence Aug. 23, the pope introduced the midday Angelus prayer by asking Mary to help Christians purify their faith, removing “worldly incrustations and fears.”

Commenting on the day’s Gospel reading from St. John, the pope said people were scandalized when Jesus told them he was the “bread of life” and “clearly alluded” to the fact that he would sacrifice his life for them.

The people were upset, he said, because such talk did not fit in with their idea of the Messiah. They thought “he should speak and act in a way that his mission would have success immediately.”

“They understood Jesus’ words so well that they did not want to listen to him because they were words that put their mentality in crisis,” he said. The words of Jesus challenge people’s ideas today, as well, he said.

In the Gospel passage, when people started to abandon Jesus, he asked the disciples if they, too, wanted to leave. Peter responded, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Pope Francis told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square that like the disciples, Christians must realize that “everything we have in this world will not satisfy our hunger for the infinite. We need Jesus. We need to stay with him, to nourish ourselves at his table and with his words that are eternal life.”

The disciples made their statement of faith, he said, and Christians today should ask themselves: “Who is Jesus for me? Is he a name, an idea, just a historic figure? Or is he truly a person who loves me, who gave his life for me and who walks with me?”

Recognizing Jesus as the “bread of life” is only one step, the pope said. “Do you try to know him through his word? Do you read the Gospel, a passage each day to get to know Jesus?”

“The more we are with Jesus, the greater our desire to stay with him,” Pope Francis told the crowd, which included a group of U.S. men dressed in black — seminarians about to begin their studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. They received a special greeting from the pope after the Angelus prayer.

— By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service.