18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 5 August 2018
JESUS: HIS PERSON AS THE LIVING BREAD.
(Ex 16:2-4,12-15, Eph 4:17, 20-24, John 6:24-35)
As we reflected on the multiplication of the loaves last Sunday, we discovered that the sign of the ‘deeper, spiritual truth of Jesus’ presence’ was something completely missed by the crowd. And, that prompted by the actions of the crowd to make him more of a humanitarian, ‘bread-king’, Jesus withdrew himself from the crowd and retired into the hills (Jn 6:15).
Well, last Sunday’s Gospel episode continues today. Step by step, Jesus resumes his work of deepening the understanding of the people about himself and his mission. Guess how Jesus started? He said, ‘I tell you truly, you are looking for me not because you have seen the signs but because you got bread to eat’ (6:26).
The first point to notice about last Sunday’s five barley loaves and the two small fish is that the miracle had other aims than just satisfying physical hunger! This singular sign and its explanation will continue to feature and in fact, dominate our Gospel lesson. Preparatory to the solemn Eucharistic conference given by Jesus himself at the Synagogue of Capernaum (Jn 6:59), the first reading readies us for the Gospel by its story of the manna.
In relating the account of the desert manna – the ‘bread from heaven’ the book of Exodus is well interpreted in the psalmody: ‘The Lord gave them bread from heaven’. The etymologic Hebrew words ‘man hu’ – from which they came by ‘manna’ (what is it?’, Ex16:15), stresses the mysteriously-made-available food. The miracle in the manna does not go away; it remains there in the manner of the superabundance; and in the historic reality of its duration for the entire communities of the Israelites for forty years. Manna tasted like ‘wafers made with honey’ (Ex 16:31). As God’s gift, it only stopped coming after the harvest: ‘the day after Israel celebrated their first Passover in Canaan’ (Jos 5:11,12).
The second reading in which St Paul insists on the need for attentive listening and of proper hearing of the truth of faith, adds up to the pivotal lessons about the bread of life which Jesus tacitly claims that he is. As Paul sues for an interpretation of Jesus’ teaching in a manner that the mind “must be renewed by a spiritual revolution” (Eph 4:23) so, does the Church interpret the reality of the living bread far beyond the tendentious suggestions. The manna may have come as a natural food, gum or resin of a tree, honeydew excretion of the tamarisk, or of other desert shrubs etc. But the ‘living bread’ is not!
Again, the recall of the manna by Jesus’ audience in today’s Gospel certainly underlined how much preserved and remembered the tradition was in Moses’ ministry. Today, Jesus not only corrects that God remains the giver of the life-giving bread, he moves the discussion from an item to someone – his own person. He says: “I am the bread of life. He who come to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst”. Next Sunday, we will read whether Jesus was loud and clear enough.
This, my friends, is where Jesus leaves it for us this Sunday. Take some time to dwell on the curiosity around Jesus. Ponder the ‘scandal’ Jesus was about to trail by those words now proclaimed publicly. Then brace yourselves for the challenges which faith in Jesus is addressing afresh to you. Right now, there seems to be no real physical hunger in the nation. Yet, at the depth of the hearts of the many, there is a spiritual for true faith in God and deep relation with the love of God revealed Christ.
Yes. Jesus too, hungers among us. Jesus is seeking for the return of, and fresh embrace from all those who initially came to him through baptism. We must re-enter like bees into the flower of Jesus, and work to re-fill our empty hearts with the pollen of Christ’s food - the living bread.