The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
5 August 2018 at Saint Andrew Parish in Moore, OK
Exodus 16, 2-4 & 12-15 + Psalm 78 + Ephesians 4, 17 & 22-24 + John 6, 24-35
The first question in today’s verses has a double meaning, and the obvious or simple answer is not necessarily the best. The problem comes from the English translation of John’s original text. “When did you get here?” is the English translation, but the verb that John uses for “get” is the same verb used to say “come to be” or “begotten.” So, you see, there is another level to explore here. It is likely that John really wants to explore the reason for the Incarnation. Why is Jesus here among us on earth? With that question asked at the beginning of these verses, the rest of what Jesus says has much greater importance.
The crowd wants a sign because it is entertaining. They didn’t have Cable or Internet for fun. So, when a wonder-worker comes along, they are going to get up and get moving. They also want free food without working to earn it. It does not cast them in a particularly flattering light. That crowd ought to disturb us and invite us to take a good look at ourselves. They are chasing around all over the place looking for Jesus, but not to give something. They want to get something. Never mind that Jesus might want something from them: their faith. There is a deliberate attempt in John’s writing today to connect this event to that meeting of Jesus at a well with a Samaritan woman. Jesus wants something there and he wants something now from us. At that well, he wants that woman’s faith even though they are talking about drinks of water. Here, just as before, Jesus wants faith as now he talks about bread.
As we proclaim this Gospel in this assembly, Jesus looks at those who are here because they want something, and John raises a challenge to those whose prayer is always looking for a sign or begging for something. He raises a challenge also to those who go wandering around from place to place, church to church because they want to be entertained, or who complain that they didn’t get anything out of it. It fails to cross their minds that Jesus may want something they can give, faith. Perhaps it is time for us to give some sign, just as it was time for the woman at the well to give a sign and run back to bring the townspeople to Jesus because she believed. Perhaps it is time for us to give some witness to the one who is bread on this altar.
Faith and fidelity require a lot of work. There is nothing free or easy about faith. Repentance is hard to maintain. Breaking the habits of sinfulness and achieving real virtue and true holiness is the work of a lifetime. We have to grow out of the idea that Jesus came among us to get us a job, or solve some problem, heal some sickness or make us happy and more comfortable. He says today that he came to accomplish the works of God, to give life to the world. Jesus reminds those people that the manna their ancestors received with Moses came from God, not from Moses. Gratitude to God is the only appropriate response. Not “Give me more.” For us it is no different. Everything we have is a gift from God, and faithful believers never forget that. Those clothes you wear, and that closet full at home is really a gift from God. The food we eat is a gift from God, and we must remember that. The very act of that remembrance is what Eucharist is all about: remembering what God has done for us and giving back to God what God has given us, His only Son.
Jesus came to give us life. That is what we must seek above all and first of all. People of faith know the difference between what is perishable and what lasts forever. All of us must work to figure the difference, to know the difference, and to believe in the one who says to us: “I am the bread of life.” When we do, we will lack nothing, seek nothing except that which gives us life.