WelCom August 2018:
John 6: 24-35
24 When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ 26 Jesus answered: In all truth I tell you, you are looking for me not because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat. 27 Do not work for food that goes bad, but work for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of man will give you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal. 28 Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to carry out God’s work?’ 29 Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is carrying out God’s work: you must believe in the one he has sent.’ 30 So they said, ‘What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you? What work will you do? 31 Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ 32 Jesus answered them: In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; 33 for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. 34 ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘give us that bread always.’ 35 Jesus answered them: I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst.
I am the bread of life
Last week we heard again of one the greatest public miracles Jesus performed. All four Evangelists give an account of this wonderful miracle, but only John links, feeding the five thousand, with feeding the Israelites with manna during their forty years of wandering in the desert. Last Sunday’s gospel [29 July] ended with Jesus escaping to the hills to avoid the crowd from taking Him by force to be their king, then later, telling them not to work for food that perishes.
Jesus was a wonderful preacher. This reminds me when, on an Easter Sunday 1957, I was in Sydney with a party of Young Farmers, and I was the only Catholic. I went off alone to a Midnight Mass as they were then, at St Mary’s Cathedral. Cardinal Gilroy was the celebrant, and, as was the custom in those days, he celebrated Mass with his back to the congregation. It was my first visit to any Cathedral, it was packed, and my view was limited by the pillars. Later that morning, as entertainment was limited on a Sunday, several of us went down to Hyde Park. There were many preachers on soap-boxes trying to win whoever would listen to them. The Catholic speaker had the largest crowd, so we investigated.
I have never forgotten this preacher. He was an educator and crowd pleaser, he gently handled the hecklers with humour, and answered all questions with an outstanding subject knowledge. Those who did not agree with him could not better him, and the audience, mostly non-Catholic clapped his replies. He was a compelling speaker as I like to imagine Jesus must have been.
So, we can perhaps understand why people gathered to hear Jesus. He had messages to deliver, and we can read these in the New Testament. But imagine how fortunate those were who heard Him. In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds the people He is not just a provider of food; He also offers them the True Bread from heaven. The crowd became cynical. Jesus responded, ‘to work for God, you must believe in the one He has sent.’ This didn’t satisfy the crowd. They wanted a Sign from Jesus to show them why they should believe in Him. They reminded Jesus that Moses fed their fathers manna in the desert and quoted scripture to verify this. Jesus responded by saying it was His Father, not Moses, who fed them that bread. We now know that this bread, that comes down from heaven, Jesus not only gives, but claims to be that bread Himself; ‘I am the bread of life’. He said, and that settled it once and for all-and for us, for eternity.