Seeking Christ, The Bread Of Life From Heaven
Readings: 1st: Ex 16, 2-4; Ps 77; 2nd: Eph 4, 17. 20-24; Gos Jn 6, 24-35
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today is the eighteenth Sunday of ordinary time. This Sunday we rejoice because of the great nourishment that God gives us daily through Christ, who is the bread of life. Through Christ, we as Christians have undergone what Paul refers to as the spiritual revolution which is contrary to the physical revolution of the Israelites in the desert against Moses and God. So our satisfaction is no longer dependent only material things but, mostly on spiritual things and food (that is, the Eucharist) which Christ provides for us on our journey.
What we see in the first reading today is a confirmation of the saying that: “A hungry man is an angry man.” Due to hunger for physical food the Israelites revolted against Moses and so, despised God. They quickly forgot all the great things that God has just done for them. How he separated the Red Sea and defeated the Egyptians in order to save them. Due to hunger, they put God to test and doubted His ability to provide for them. God however, proved to be a great provider by feeding them with manna from heaven.
In the gospel, Jesus read the mind of the people following him. He performed the miracle of multiplication of bread and fish out of necessity. However, these followers have become carried away only by the material things and the signs they are going to get from Christ. So, rather than first accepting Christ and the word of God he preached, they have allowed physical hunger to overshadow their spiritual hunger. They were looking for physical bread but failed to recognize Christ – the spiritual bread of life present with them.
One important lesson our first reading and gospel teach us today is that when we pay too much attention to material things, we might fail to pay attention to the spiritual ones, or might even forget the goodness of God in the past. So, rather than counting our blessings we might end up counting our woes, and blaming God for our misfortunes. Our relationship with God must not be based alone on how much material things he is able to provide for us.
Rather, we must be led by the spirit and allow him to renew our minds. When this happens, then we have a better relationship with Him. Unfortunately, often times we repeat what the Israelites did by murmuring against God. “God is good” only when thing are going on well. However, when we are faced with difficulties we forget all his goodness and castigate him. Imagine the Israelites regretting being delivered from Egypt because they were hungry. Imagine them preferring slavery to freedom, simply because they were hungry. What they did was similar to what Esau did when he was hungry, by selling his birth right for a plate of porridge (Gen 23, 29-34).
This is the reason Paul advised us today in our second reading: “I urge you in the name of the Lord do not go on living the aimless kind of life that pagans live…you must give up your old way of life…which gets corrupted by following illusory desires.” Illusory desires include those physical desires that do not last or prevent us from appreciating God’s goodness to us. That is, those desires that are more physically rather than spiritually oriented.
Finally, the gospel teaches us that Christ is the bread from heaven and is present in the Holy Eucharist. So each time we receive him both physically and spiritually, we receive more life and satisfaction. He is the one who feeds and strengthens us on our journey in this world, as God strengthened the Israelites in the desert when, “He gave them bread from heaven.”
Peace be with you!