Monday, August 3, 2009

A Commentary for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Sr. Mary Luke Jones, OSB

Gospel Commentary
August 2, 2009

John 6:24-35

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”
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.
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.”
So they said to him,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
So they said to him,
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to 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.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”
So they said to him,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
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.”
Those Israelites were a bunch of complainers, weren’t they? The first reading for this Sabbath tells of their grumbling and whining to Moses and Aaron…”We don’t have anything to eat…you should have left us alone where we could have had our fill of bread.” Then when they woke in the morning to fine flakes of hoarfrost they said, “What is this?” Now, we don’t know from the written word if they said a pleasant, “Oh, what is this?” or an irritable “What the heck is this?” What’s your guess?

Both the first and third readings for this Sunday deal with eating…with bread; the staff of life. Jesus quotes from Exodus to the crowd reminding them that their need for bread in the past and their need for bread in the present has been met by the God who loves them and is always there to take care of them.

Every year around Christmastime, the Sunshine Bakery puts billboards around town that proclaim, “We do not live by bread alone.” I’ve always admired that because although Sunshine Bakery’s livelihood depends upon people buying bread, they know the Scriptures. They understand that Jesus is the bread of life. It is Jesus who fills us, not what we put in our mouths.

So many of Jesus’ encounters with people happen around food…often bread. We pray several times a day… “Give us this day our daily bread.” The implication being we need bread for our very survival; both the bread kneaded by hand and the bread that is Jesus Christ himself. The Eucharistic bread symbolizes the willingness of Jesus to be broken for us, to be consumed by us, to be the stuff of which we are made.

In this Gospel, the people are asking for what they think is bread…a steady supply of food that will sustain them. Jesus’ response “I am the bread of life” must have been puzzling. I guess it only really makes sense when we fast forward to the Last Supper.

What we know is that we believe Jesus is the Bread of Life, that Jesus is present in the bread at Eucharist and that Jesus enters and transforms our bodies and souls when we receive the host. His promise that no one who comes to him will ever hunger is what keeps us coming back to the altar.

1 comment:

Paul III said...

Dear Sr. Mary Luke,
Each time I see you, speak to you or read about you, I always see your wonderful smile. I truly believe that God works through you. I am very grateful that you are among those that my Aunt calls friend. May your path always be clear and that the sunshines on your shoulders.
Paul Freiberger, III