August 1, 2021 at Saint Peter and Saint Agnes Churches in Naples, FL
Exodus 16, 2-4 + Psalm 78 + Ephesians 4, 17, 20-24 + Mark 6, 24-35
In this 6th chapter of John’s Gospel, we pick up the introduction to what we must call, “The Bread of Life” discourse. Much of what happens here is a dialogue between Jesus and the crowd, and at this point, the crowd is open and respectful. They call him, “Rabbi”, “Sir”, and “Master.” That will not last. They will be murmuring and turn against him next week. That crowd were chasing him around for more free food, and for the hope that he would finally rise up to be the Messiah they wanted, political and powerful. Remember, there are no “miracles” in John’s Gospel. There are “signs”. The people have failed to ask what the signs mean. They simply remain on the shallow side of things totally concerned with their immediate needs and wants. It is not bread that he offers like the bread from the bakery. It is himself that he offers to them, but they want to stay on the shallow side of this and talk about their bellies rather than their souls. Instead of promising a free lunch, Jesus invites them to be nourished by his life, to assume his way of being as the path that would bring them everything they ever wanted. Divine love was the “bread” that kept him going and the food that would sustain his disciples for eternal life.
When we listen to Christ speak to us these same words today, it might be as much a challenge to us as it was to that crowd. All of us are still people who want miracles for ourselves and for others. I’m sure it’s the same for you, I catch myself way too often praying and asking God for something that has to do with this life. Absent is that deeper level that goes beyond any earthly need or want. It seems to me as I listen to myself and to so many others, that we are still like that crowd stuck in this life without the dream and the desire for what we are ultimately promised by Jesus. He promised us everlasting life. He did not promise us contentment, ease, and plenty in this life. When we have those, there is the risk of forgetting that there is something else ahead, and we a rushing toward it day by day.
The miraculous sharing of bread that happened among them was the key to understanding what Jesus had to offer. When that one child gave all he had, they saw that those who share everything will never hunger. If they wanted to do the works of God, if they wanted the food that endures, they needed only to believe in Jesus enough to do what he did. We have to look beyond the bread we eat, as one of our hymns sings. For the bread we eat is Jesus the Lord. The bread we eat is not to nourish our bodies, but to feed our souls which are so hungry and so starved for a life that matters, for something more than a big home and a fancy car.
The cry of that crowd should be the cry that comes out of every one of our hearts: “Give us this bread always.” Jesus came among us to show us how to live not to impress us with power and miracles. Those of us who love the stories of Jesus must take responsibility for them by making them come true in our own day.