Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15; Psalm 78; Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; John 6:24-35
Theme: Let Christ Be Your priority
The central message that links the first reading and the gospel is the food that God provides for his people. In the desert Israel received manna, a food which could give strength to a perishable body. Now God feeds his people with the bread of life, with his word: Jesus of Nazareth. The second reading shows the kind of transformation this bread can work. Those who assimilate it will become new people. The Father is the one who provides man with the food he needs for his life (First Reading, Psalm, and Gospel). But like pagans, we live with empty minds (Second Reading) and are so taken up with filling our stomachs and the needs of this life that we fail to grasp the real meaning of his gifts or the incomparable worth of the bread of life who is Jesus himself (Gospel). Receiving this gift we become a new creation, with “a fresh, spiritual way of thinking” (Second Reading).
In the first reading of today, the people of Israel showed ingratitude to God by murmuring against Moses because they were hungry in the following words: “if only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:3). Ingratitude has filled their hearts so much that they had just forgotten how God had delivered them from the power of the Egyptians through the Red Sea. They preferred slavery to freedom. In our moments of adversity, let us be mindful of what we say and do.
Let us learn to show gratitude at all times because this is what pleases God. They tested the patience of God but God proved faithful to them once more for the Lord spoke to Moses: “At twilight you shall eat meat and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 16:12). Anything that God does in our lives is meant for His glory. As if that was not enough, when they saw the manna, they asked with impunity “What is this” (V.14). When we fail to see God’s hand at work in every circumstance of our lives, we will surely be ungrateful to him. People want God today because of the benefits he is able to give them. But God wants us for a lasting relationship. This is what the gospel reading of today draws our attention to.
Last week, Jesus fed the multitude to draw our attention to the fact that he provides our needs at all times even when we fail to recognise it. Today, the multitude follow him and Jesus tells them: “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that the Father has set his seal” (John 6:26-27). I thought the signs that Jesus performed should rather lead them to faith in him. I am sure that this generation will have won Jesus’ admiration because we are prone to signs and wonders. Why are you here today? What is your motivation for coming to Church today? People want Jesus today because of the benefits he is able to give them. But Jesus wants to establish a lasting relationship with you. Jesus invites them to believe in his person as someone sent by God. It is only this that can guarantee them salvation. He invites them to transcend this material world and its goods and think seriously about what brings them salvation when he tells them that he is the bread that has come down from heaven. It was as if they did not still understand Jesus. All they could ask for was that “…Sir, give us this bread always” (v.34). Jesus then dropped the bombshell namely his first “I AM” saying “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (v.35).
The above statement of Jesus became the basis for Jesus’ rejection by his own people. Many will begin deserting him. But Jesus never stops making such statements. Today is no exception. Not even modernity or post- modernity has changed this statement of Jesus because it is the truth. Like the people of old, there is a void in our hearts and lives that only God can fill. In grace our Lord fed the hungry people but in truth, he gave them the Word of God. They wanted the food but they did not want the truth and in the end, most of them abandoned him and refused to walk with him. He lost his crowd with one sermon namely the Eucharist.
For God so loved the world that not content with giving us his only Son through the Incarnation, he continues giving him to us each day in the Eucharist. The Eucharist comes from the Father. The Eucharist also leads us to the Father (the Eucharistic liturgy, reflecting this, is all “turned towards” the Father). In fact, what the Eucharist is, is not a kind of “static” presence of Christ, but the living and perfect self-offering of Christ to his Father, carried out by giving himself to us and for us. What a marvelous synthesis of the faith! Here is the heart of Christian dogma and ethics all in one. Christ saves man by offering himself to his Father, out of love for the Father and for us. The great commandment of love of God and man – practiced here in the most extreme way by Christ- is instantly justified and made imperative by the fact that we are necessarily configured with this saving event (its “pattern” is imprinted in our being as Christians).
St. Pope John Paul II has stated firmly in his latest encyclical that all who take part in the Eucharist must “be committed to changing their lives and making them in a certain way completely ‘Eucharistic’”: which means “a transfigured existence and a commitment to transforming the world in accordance with the Gospel (Ecclesia Eucharistia).
According to St Paul in the second reading, if Christ is really active in our lives (and who among us wants to claim he is not?), our very way of thinking will have been turned upside down; that is, it will have been put right, because sin has perverted the order of our values. Our priorities will be right.
In conclusion, let us draw some quick Lessons:
• People want Jesus today because of the benefits he is able to give them. But Jesus wants to establish a lasting relationship with us.
• To come to Christ means to yield to him.
• Like the people of old, there is a void in our hearts and lives that only God can fill.
• That salvation involves both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The Father gives sons and daughters to Jesus but they must come to him and believe in him. He assured them that nobody who came to him would ever be lost but would be raised on the last day. Even death cannot rob us of salvation. Shalom.