Perhaps last week as we undertook a self-evaluation of our tenancy of the Lord’s vineyard, we may have ended up feeling a little guilty - with a tinge of despair?...
We need to both understand and accept a basic truth that emerges from TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 6: 24 – 35]. There we must make a special note of Jesus’ blunt reproach of the people who sought him out in Capernaum – ” you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Two of the things that I have always found fascinating about Jesus are that he never (i) gave up on people, or (ii) became disillusioned with, or cynical about them.
Do I really seek Jesus ? There are three particular meanings of the word seek which I find especially challenging. Firstly, there is the inference of endeavour. Secondly, to seek indicates that I make a search for – and lastly, seeking a person means I am singling out my desire for the individuals companionship. So, as I begin to answer the question posed there is a need for me to ask myself whether I see my ongoing discipleship as an ENDEAVOUR to know and understand the ‘Jesus-Person’ more and more – deeper and deeper? Then, how enthusiastic am I in SEARCHING the scriptures for more intimate details of Jesus’ life, approach, interaction with ordinary people, and his expected standards of behaviour? Finally, how regularly and frequently do I SINGLE JESUS OUT for quiet one-on-one companionship? Over and over again I find myself hearing the very first recorded question God asked of a human person. In chapter three of Genesis we are told that the Lord God is walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze. He asks – “Adam, where are you?” The Lord is singling man and woman out. The whole episode simply points to the fact that God seeks their companionship. They are aware of God’s presence (they heard him walking in the garden). At the same time they also know they have stepped out of line (their nakedness). Instead of responding to the Lord they HIDE AWAY. Do we do the same?
This Sunday’s OLD TESTAMENT READING [EXODUS 16: 2 – 4. 12 – 15] tells us that within a very short period of time since the people had experienced how God had delivered them from Egyptian slavery with mighty hand and outstretched arm they were ignoring his presence with them as they continued to make the journey. They had to seek this presence as well as the promised land. The spirit of endeavour had vanished. They bemoaned their fate and started hankering after the time when they had “the fleshpots, and ate bread to the full.” They failed to recognise that God walked with them. They wanted, in the words of our Gospel extract, to eat their “fill of the loaves.” However, they were, as our Gospel again points out, unprepared and unwilling “to labour for the food which endures.”
It is interesting that in this connection Saint Paul in today’s NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT makes some important observations [EPHESIANS 4: 17. 20 – 24]. He tells us that “the truth is in Jesus … put off the old man that belongs to your former manner of life … be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new man.”
When Jesus says “I am the bread of life” he is going beyond the Eucharist. Yes, the sixth chapter of John outlines the apostles’ Eucharistic teaching. Nevertheless, as Paul tells us – “the truth is in Jesus.” This is emphasised by the Lord himself when he tells the people to “labour for the food … which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” In this section of John’s teaching what Jesus says does not explicitly refer to the Eucharist. The bread is the word of God – and only by ‘eating’ this word will we achieve the fullness of life. Do not overlook a key verse in today’s extract in which Jesus clearly refers to the manna in the desert which the crowd had raised. “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
There is a danger inherent in any approach to the Eucharist which, perhaps unconsciously, raises the consecrated bread and wine to a higher importance than the PERSON of Jesus. THE TRUTH OF THE EUCHARIST IS IN JESUS. It his word which brings the bread to life. As today’s GOSPEL ACCLAMATION proclaims – “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”