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18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life which the Son of Man will give you.” (Jn. 6:24-35)

One of my fondest childhood memories occurred on Sunday mornings. It was the delectable aroma of homemade rolls wafting from the oven. That aroma was the prelude to a good soul food breakfast before going off to Sunday school.

Physical nourishment before spiritual nourishment.

Bread is widely considered a basic food and has been known to satisfy the deepest of hunger pangs. The biblical accounts of manna, which God provided for the Israelites during their desert travels, affirm that the Lord, through his generosity, grace, mercy, and faithfulness, feeds his people.

· God supplied satisfying manna, bread from heaven to the Israelites in the midst of their complaining (Exodus 16: 9-15)

· “He rained manna upon them for food and gave them heavenly bread”

(Ps 78:24)

· God satisfied the Israelites by providing bread from heaven. (Ps 105:40)

Physical nourishment and spiritual nourishment.

The crowd from last Sunday’s Gospel was so satisfied physically with the bread they had received that they returned for more. They had pigged out on the bread that Jesus miraculously multiplied from five loaves. They wanted more so they came looking for Jesus who had fed them. When they found Jesus, he said to them, “You seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate some of the loaves and had your fill. (Is Jesus annoyed and frustrated?)

Oh, but then comes the piece de resistance. Jesus continues, “Work not for the food which perishes, but for the food which remains to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you; for it is him that God the Father has stamped with his seal.

Hmmm, let that resonate for a moment.

Clearly, the crowd has focused on the wrong bread, but Jesus, as He always does for us, redirects the crowd to The Bread of Life. When the crowd asks what they must do, Jesus gives them not work instructions, but faith instructions. Jesus opens the door to a relationship with Him that does not depend on a full belly but on a faith-filled heart. “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent,” (Jn. 6:29)

The crowd said they were looking for a sign, but they were so focused on filling their bellies that they were completely oblivious to what had happened the day before with Jesus. Sometimes in our lives we are so focused on the mundane that the real issue soars completely over our heads. We get so busy fulfilling physical needs that we are blinded to fulfilling our spiritual needs. Jesus’ faith instructions leave no doubt about what we must do: believe and trust in Him!

Just like the crowd that returned to the mountain, we hunger for more of what we already have; for that which we think brings satisfaction. The crowd, unwittingly, sought bread that is only temporal in endurance; but Jesus, the Bread of Life is everlasting.

Jesus is the only bread/food that can last for all time; the true gift from The Father. “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me, will never thirst. (Jn. 6:35)

How blessed we are to have faith and trust in Jesus to know that He is indeed the Bread of Life. At each Mass, He is there, within our reach, soon to be within our hearts forever, and we can raise our hands in praise and thanksgiving and sing, “I received the Living God and my heart is full of joy!”

Jesus is the Bread of Life; He nourishes us, satisfies us, sustains us, and by His greatest act of love, Jesus Christ saves us! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

How is Jesus a source of nourishment for you?

Author: Burma Hill, St. Joseph Church, Largo MD.

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