Exodus 16:2-4,12-15; Ephesians 4:17,20-24; John 6:24-35
In today’s Gospel the people are pursuing Jesus because he gave them bread to eat. Jesus now challenges them to work for the bread that will last. Jesus indicates to them that we can often become preoccupied with various things and we can have enough and more but then we may not give sufficient time to the spiritual nature and that can remain under nourished. The Lord here directs us to discover for ourselves the moments wherein we are able to discover God and his place in our lives. These are the moments that are unique and beyond the ordinary chores of life and that involve some amount of segregation from the routine and earthly situations. It is important to have our spirits replenished. These moments replenish our spirits and make us to come into contact with our innermost and deep desires. When we attend our relationship with God our minds become clearer, our values become truer, our decisions simpler and more just, and we ourselves become complete and happier human beings.
Immediately after the miracle of the multiplication of loaves the Gospel tells us that Jesus escaped to the mountains to avoid people from making him their king. But Jesus did not want to be a political king. Nor did He want the disciples to be influenced by the ideas of the crowd. Hence he forces his disciples to cross the sea by boat. The next morning, it did not take long for the crowd to realize that Jesus had disappeared. The crowd then goes looking Jesus. As such, they set out to Capernaum where Jesus and His disciples were known to resort. When they found Jesus on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” The first time they had gone looking for him he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Now the welcome is different. He tells them directly that it is not out of love or devotion that they had come to him. “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” They do not understand the meaning of what Jesus is doing. Perhaps they do not even want to understand; they are just seeking their own immediate benefit. Jesus, through his humanity, represents the presence of God in the world. And God is the source of all our needs: material needs, social needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs… The abundant feeding with the bread and fish was a sign of a much deeper nourishment that comes from God.
Jesus tells them that they are not to work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give them. Those Words of Jesus taken from Prophet Isaiah were a call to work for eternal life. While one is called to work for earthly bread, he is also called to work for eternal life. He admonishes them that the earthly bread, shall pass but the eternal life, shall be forever. They find it difficult to understand and they ask what they must do to perform the works of God. The reply of Jesus is simple, that they have to believe in Him Whom the heavenly Father had sent. Jesus in fact calls them to faith and trust in him and his works. As Jesus tried to enlighten the crowd regarding His life giving Divinity, the crowd argued among themselves that Jesus had only multiplied earthly bread. Yet, through Moses, God had given His people “bread from heaven.” The people failed to realize the prophetic nature of the manna, the bread from Heaven. Still they ask him for the divine bread. They could not grasp that Jesus was speaking of a non-physical bread and that He could give this heavenly Bread, they had not yet understood that Jesus had identified Himself as the Bread. But they had heard wrongly and they were still thinking of material food. They were still seeing the multiplication of the loaves and fish in a purely literal way. It is like the Samaritan woman at the well who wanted the “living” water that Jesus said he could give her. She wanted an unending supply so that she would not have to go to the well again.
When Jesus said to the crowd, “I am the Bread of Life,” he used the words “I am” for the first time during His ministry on earth. In those days, when those two words were spoken together in that particular order, they implied that God was speaking. Those two words were so Sacred that no one dared to say them. It was forbidden to say them because they implied that one was God or His equal. When Jesus used those words during His arrest in the garden, Judas, the police from the chief priests and the Pharisees stepped back and fell to the ground. Yet, Jesus used the words when He said, “I am the Bread of Life.” He was telling the people that He was God, the Giver of Life.” Jesus concluded His discourse by saying that “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” He is now the consoler, the God who cares and the one who looks after the hungry.
Today’s First Reading from the Book of Exodus tells us about the bread from Heaven given to the Israelites by God when they were in the desert. Manna was the gift that had come from God for them. The manna was a honeydew excretion produced by two species of scale insect that infested the tamarisk thickets of the area, which, in fact, have gained the technical name tamarix mannifera. It had the tendency to melt with heat and had to be collected very early in the morning. In the Gospel of John, the manna was symbolic of what was to come namely, Jesus the Bread of Life. Consequently, the manna was a type of the Eucharist itself. The quail is a small game bird that resembles the partridge. They fly South annually from their northern European and Scandinavian quarters in September and October to winter in African warmth. Then in May and June they take up their homeward journey. Their long flights over water causes them to land exhausted on the Sinai Peninsula where they may be captured easily. All this was in response to the complaints that people made against God and Moses. God took care of them and gave them physical food as well as the spiritual food.
The Second Reading Paul tells the Ephesians of the absolute condition that is required for spiritual renewal, namely, the necessity to clothe ourselves with the new self, the new life that has been created in the likeness of God. Paul states “put away your former life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts,” meaning the human nature as sons of Adam. Such a life is filled with human weaknesses. To put away one’s former life and to clothe oneself with the new self belongs to the baptismal liturgy. In the early days of the Church, the candidates would remove their old clothes, plunge into the water and then put on new white clothing. This external sign signified an inner change, that the convert had put aside his former life, to accept Christ through faith, and was now, in Christ, beginning a new life. The “new self” refers to incorporation into Christ Himself, the new Adam, the Head of a renewed humanity. It suggests the attainment of all that man was intended to be when God first created him according to His image.
When Jesus says he is the Bread of Life, we generally think of the Eucharist. But what Jesus is saying is much more than mere Eucharist. With the words, Jesus is the Bread of Life, we primarily mean that Jesus is the source of a full life. If we follow him, we will know the experience of a life which is full of truth, of love, of compassion, of friendship, of justice, of freedom, of peace. We will become people who are “fully human, fully alive”. We will become not just persons but intra-persons, inter-persons, and meta-persons. In other words, we will have good relations with ourselves, with the people around us, with people everywhere. We become fully one with Jesus. At the same time we must realize that the Word of God is real food. St Jerome tells us that not to know the Scripture is not to know Jesus. Secondly the community with Jesus the head is the bread of life. Further his presence in the day to events is nourishing us too. His glory is available in the universe.
Eucharist and the Holy Mass for us the sign of the presence of Jesus and he invites us to share in him and his life. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us thank the Lord for His gift of the Eucharist, the Bread of Life. The Lord God has blessed us richly with the Gift of Life to guide us in the way, the truth and the life.
A little girl and her father were crossing a bridge. The father was kind of scared so he asked his little daughter, “Sweetheart, please hold my hand so that you don’t fall into the river.” The little girl said, “No, Dad. You hold my hand.” “What’s the difference?” Asked the puzzled father. “there’s a big difference,” replied the little girl. “If I hold your hand and something happens to me, chances are that I may let your hand go. But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go.”
Eighteenth Sunday of the Year: August 2, 2009
Exodus 16:2-4,12-15; Ephesians 4:17,20-24; John 6:24-35