Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15 Ephesians 4: 17, 20-24 John 6: 24-35
It was a stunning event: providing food to a vast crowd numbering in the thousands. Staring with only five loaves of bread and a couple of fish, Jesus fed them. Certainly it had the crowd excited. Despite the efforts of Jesus to go off for some private time for himself and his close followers, the crowd persisted and chased after them. They were filled with wonder and awe, but also with questions.
This is the setting in the Gospel of Saint John that presents the opportunity to develop the fundamental understanding that the God-man, Jesus Christ, chooses to go beyond the experience of the Chosen People of old and to establish an intimate and continuous union of God and humanity, between God and us.
We heard first today about the loving care of God the Israelites that they had experienced. They had been led to emigrate from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. But quickly, even after having witnessed the defeat of their enemy, Pharaoh and his army, they were complaining. Things were not as they had wanted them to be. Their faith and confidence in G0d was shallow. They were clearly dissatisfied.
But their complaints were not rejected, even though that might have been expected and even appropriate. Rather, a loving God responded and provided them with food for their journey. They were not abandoned, but assisted as they moved to the freedom of the land that had been promised.
As Saint John records it, a reference to the Chosen People of old was the starting point for Jesus as he presented the difference that his ministry and message would represent. The feeding in the desert, and particularly the manna that was shared, was a genuine action of God’s generosity on behalf of the people. But, it was limited. Eventually it ended. It was bread that sustained life, but only temporarily. It was limited like the few loaves and fish that were the source whereby a vast crowd was then able to be fed and satisfied because of the intervention of Jesus.
Using the image of the sustaining and nourishing food that is bread, Jesus takes the revelation of the generous love of God a step further. He, Jesus, is “the Bread of Life,.” He is the source of sustenance and nourishment for true living. He is the source of life, but not for a moment, but for all time. If one believes in him and places faith in revelation of God that Jesus makes, then one will never be hungry, will never be thirsty. What that means is that we can come to appreciate the true meaning of this life that has been given to us. That meaning is found in recognizing how we genuinely reflect and make God, the source of life known in our own lives.
While we may concentrate on how this union with God through Christ in Eucharist may affect us in an individual relationship with God, it is well to remember that Jesus feeds us with himself so that we may become what we consume, the Bread of Life. We are to become what we drink: the love that is poured out on behalf of humanity. When we become what we eat and what we drink, when our bodies literally take on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, we declare with true faith the wondrous deeds of God on our behalf. We are to show forth the loving care of the God who becomes part of us. Through us, the Body of Christ, the knowledge and experience of God far exceeds what was experienced by the Chosen People in the desert
Each time we gather for the Eucharist, we are called upon – in ourselves and joined with those who have shared communion with us – to make visible, to make evident, to all who hunger in life, this living and active presence of our good and gracious God.