18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel – John 6:24-35
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, 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 for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, 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.” So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Jesus is pursued by the crowds whom he had recently provided with an abundance of food to satisfy their physical hunger. Their goal in seeking him out with great determination is to ensure that he continues to meet their corporal needs. Jesus’ goal, though, is to offer them the gift of “food that endures for eternal life” and to share that gift with them always.
God’s new gift is unlike the manna given to the Israelites only for their use. It was perishable bread lasting only a few hours and then it degraded, leaving people hungry again, seeking again. The gift God is offering them now is God’s very self in the person of Jesus whom they pursued across the sea. The bread of which Jesus speaks not only endures for all eternity but it is intended for and gives life to the entire world.
Jesus invites them to move beyond the physical benefits of the manna of long ago and of the food that they had just received at Jesus’ hand to the truth that lies beneath – that the greatest sign is standing right in front of them. The bread that is Jesus’ very self will be their life. It will satisfy every hunger and thirst and bring all who accept this gift into a deeper and lasting relationship with him.
Perhaps in prayer this week, in addition to asking for our immediate needs, we might focus on the deeper experience of the gift of the Bread of Life. How does this gift affect our response to our call to seek and to follow Jesus? How might we pray for those who do not have access to the Bread of Life for whatever reason? Can we seek to be in communion with them?