EXODUS 16:2-4,12-15 EPHESIANS 4:17-20-24 JOHN 6:6-24, 35
Let’s begin our reflection today by looking at the first reading for the day, a passage from the book of Exodus. The people were getting desperate because they had no food. God reassured both Moses and the people of his unfailing commitment to them.
God had proved his loyalty to them throughout their journey. He fed them with manna in the morning, and in the evening with quail. At one point there was no water, so God told Moses to strike a rock. Water gushed forth.
The children of Israel had a special place in God’s heart, but they struggled with that relationship. During their forty-year sojourn in desert they would be challenged to submit totally to God. For this relationship to blossom they would have to acknowledge their ultimate powerlessness.
In the gospel passage we see a similar situation. Jesus had just fed five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish. He then left the people and sailed to Capernaum. Excited by this miracle, the people got into boats and followed him.
Jesus intuited that they still hadn’t understood the meaning of the event. So, he tried to clarify it for them. “You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but the food that endures for eternal life.” They retorted by recalling that Moses had given them bread from heaven. Jesus came back at them.
“It was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Still not understanding. Still thinking only of food for their stomachs, they pleaded with him: “Give us this bread always.” He was offering them another bread, the bread of life, but they lacked the faith to receive it. They had to open their hearts to eat this bread, not their mouths. He shared a final teaching with them. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
What can we learn from these readings? To accept the bread of life, we first have to empty our hearts of our human desires. We need to submit to God. We need to acknowledge our powerlessness and rejoice in our total dependence on God. Only then will we come to recognize the profound hunger we have for God. Only then, can God satiate that hunger with the bread from heaven, his very life. Only then can we become like him. Only then can we see him as he is. Only then can we say with Saint Paul, “I no longer live; Christ lives in me.”