EX 16:2-4; EPH 4:17 & 20-24; JN 6:24-35 (YEAR B)
Grumbles and murmurings punctuated Israel’s progress to the promised land. At Meribah they had first complained of thirst. Later they would bemoan their hunger in the wilderness, complaining that Moses was leading them to their deaths.
Too easily we accept grumbling as a part of our human condition. It corrodes the heart and destroys hope. It had blinded Israel to the goodness of the God who had delivered them from slavery to freedom. Often it reveals in us a heart that is satisfied with nothing less than the satisfaction of its own wayward desires.
In the wilderness the God who had delivered Israel answered their ungrateful murmuring with water from the rock, and later with manna that came down from heaven. It had been an invitation to trust in God above every passing hunger. In the words of Deuteronomy, an invitation to acknowledge that we live, not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
St John’s Gospel focuses our hunger on Christ as the Bread of Life. The crowd that had been satisfied at the feeding of the multitude had pursued Jesus to Capernaum. Jesus now confronted the superficiality of their longing. “I tell you solemnly, you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs, but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat. Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life.”
The discourse develops into a prolonged reflection on the nature of our relationship with Christ in the Eucharist. Jesus invited his disciples to work for the kind of food that he was offering them, a food that would endure to eternal life. When pressed to explain what he had meant by ‘‘working for the food that endures to eternal life’’, Jesus, without hesitation, spoke of faith.
We approach Christ in Holy Communion with the words: ‘‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.’’ We become one with Christ, not because we are worthy, but through the faith that surrenders its hunger to his presence. “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.”
These opening remarks of the Eucharistic discourse challenge the superficiality that can so easily dominate our lives. The consumer society in which we live promises that we can buy satisfaction, but its continued existence depends on the obvious truth that what we buy today will not satisfy tomorrow. It is in prayer and faith that our many wants become a surrender to Christ who is the Bread of Life.
Bishop David McGough