5 August 2018
Exodus 16.2-4, 12-15
Ephesians 4.17, 20-24
A young man upset his parents when he left his well-paid, secure job to take up a less well-paid job with no guarantee of permanency. Especially in a time of recession, they thought he was very foolish. He explained that the secure job was very boring and he would never get any job satisfaction from it. He was prepared to risk and told them that the work he was now doing was very meaningful and fulfilling.
The gospel today makes it clear that the Son of Man did not come down from heaven merely to satisfy physical hunger. The manna was but a foreshadowing of the spiritual food which was now being offered to his followers by Jesus.
The people had seen Jesus’ miracles of the loaves and fishes and when they didn’t find him after he left they went across the lake to search for him and when they found him they asked him, ‘when did you come here?’ Jesus replied ‘ I tell you that you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat’. In other words Jesus was really saying that his invitation to them was not to get their needs met first of all, but that they should seek first and foremost to do the will of the Father. And he goes on to say that working for God, doing his will, is to believe in the one he has sent, namely Jesus.
Like the young man in the story, in the gospel Jesus is asking the people to risk too. Faith is a risk, an adventure with God. When Jesus invites them to do the works of God their reply is ‘what must we do if we are to do the works of God?’ They seem to be open to what he asks of them. So he replies: ‘This is working for God, you must believe in the one he has sent’, that is, Jesus. In the gospel of John the word ’faith’ or ‘belief’ is mentioned 98 times and never in the sense of just an intellectual assent to the person of Jesus. It means much more. It is a call to follow Jesus closely, to take on his value system, to commit ourselves to whatever he reveals to us in life. This involves quite a risk as the young man in the story experienced about the choice facing him. We must never forget that when we talk about doing the works of God, what counts is not so much the works we do for God, our observances but more importantly the works that we allow God to do in and for us by our faith in him.
The people following Jesus wanted their physical hunger satisfied. But it is not only the body that gets hungry; the heart and the spirit get hungry too. The bread of material things can never satisfy the heart of a human being. To nourish a human being is not the same as to fatten cattle. We humans hunger for a lot of things besides bread.
Not all of our hungers should be satisfied. Some of our appetites will destroy us if we feed them. The more they are fed, the hungrier and more demanding they become. We need to be aware that such appetites exist in all of us. We have all seen what certain appetites have done to people: drug addicts, property developers, alcoholics, gamblers, smokers etc.
So let us stay with the hungers that should be satisfied if we are to be properly nourished as human beings and children of God:
We hunger for acceptance. Who wishes to be a nobody or totally alone?
We hunger for relationships since we are not created to be alone as scripture says ‘it is not good for the human person to be alone’
We hunger for faith, for a true set of positive beliefs to guide us.
We hunger for hope. To give up hope is like going on a spiritual hunger strike.
We hunger for love. If this were fully satisfied then most of our other hungers would disappear.
However there is one other hunger, a deeper one that underlies all our other hungers, including that of love: it is the hunger for eternal life, in other words the hunger for God. To experience this hunger is not a misfortune but a blessing. In each of us there is a desire for something more than we are or have. We never feel satisfied. As Christians we believe that only God can fully satisfy our deepest needs.
Every day we see people emerging from the supermarkets, some with trolleys loaded down with food and drink and other things. But we won’t find the bread from God in supermarkets. Only God can give us this food.
The Good News is that Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Bread that fully satisfies is available at every Eucharist free, and our compassionate loving God delights in making it available. What a marvellous gift that nourishes us on our journey through life as the manna did the Israelites except for the great difference that the Bread of the Eucharist is Jesus himself.
‘Lord Jesus, thank you for being the Bread of Life which alone can nourish us for our journey through life and which satisfies our deepest hungers. May we too be bread for others who do not participate in the Eucharist. Amen.’
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA