WelCom August 2021
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel, John 6: 24-35
24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and crossed to Capernaum looking for Jesus.25 And when they found him across the sea they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’ 26 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. 27 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.’
28 They said to him, ‘What can we do to accomplish the works of God?’ 29 Jesus said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.’ 30 So they said to him, ‘What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What work will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’
32 Jesus answered 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. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34 So they said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
35 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.’
A reflection on John’s gospel, 6: 24-35
After miraculously feeding thousands with the five barley loaves and the two small fish, Jesus escaped back into the hills by himself. His apostles, taking the boat back across the lake to Galilee, were shocked when a sudden life-threatening storm blew up. These two episodes were signs (miracles) that lead us up to today’s gospel teaching. They are like those found in Mark 6 and Matt 14.
Behind these episodes looms the figure of Moses. In John’s gospel we learn that Jesus is the prophet promised by Moses. Moses fed the Hebrew people with manna from heaven, as they wandered through the desert. Then after the multiplication of the loaves, described by three evangelists, we see Jesus walking on water to save his panicking apostles and using the same words in all three: ‘It is I, do not be afraid’, (Jn 6:20), (Mk 6:50), (Mt 14:27).
Why does the water event come so close to the bread event? Perhaps it is because, following the forty years living on manna in the desert, the Israelites escaped by walking on dry land across the Red Sea. But the Egyptians following them found their chariots becoming bogged and the waves wiping out their entire army. Both the bread and the water are Moses stories related together in the Old Testament, Exodus.
Today’s gospel occurs the day after the great miracle of feeding the multitude with bread. The crowd gathered into the boats and crossed over to Capernaum at the opposite side of the lake. Their interest was in Jesus, and he quickly realised the source of his popularity was the bread he provided. Jesus has a deeper meaning for them to consider. He tells them they did not notice the signs but only noticed the food. Jesus told them not to focus on food that goes bad but on heavenly food that God Himself gives. Then the crowd want to know what sign he will show to make them believe him. As an example, they told him their fathers ate manna in the desert. Jesus replies it was not Moses who gave them bread from heaven but his Father who gives them the true bread from heaven. This is the true bread, given by God, that gives life to the world. The crowd want this bread always. Then Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger, no one who believes in me will ever thirst’ (Jn 6:35).
Tom Gibson is a retired dairy farmer and a parishioner at Immaculate Conception, Stratford, Taranaki.