August 9, 2009
The Bread of Life
18th Sunday in the Ordinary Time
John 6:24-35 “You are looking for me not because you saw signs…”
One day in the forest, a hungry hunter saw a bear giving a piece of meat to an injured hungry wolf. The hunter said to himself, “If God loves the wolf, how much more of me. I am sure God will feed me too.” So the hunter waited for God to give him food. But nobody came to feed him. He blamed God and went home. On his way, he saw starving children on the street. He blamed God again, "Why don’t you do something for them?" Finally God answered, "I have done something. I created you. But you choose to behave like the wolf when you could act like the bear."
Our gospel today is a continuation of last Sunday’s gospel where Jesus multiplied bread and fed the multitudes. Because of the miracle, the crowd thought of making Jesus their king; and so Jesus escaped to the mountain (John 6:15). In our gospel today, many pursued Jesus, not because they finally found their saviour, but because he gave them bread. Jesus explicitly voiced out his disappointment, “You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” That was very disappointing on the part of Jesus. The crowd even demanded to provide bread for them to believe: “What sign can you do that we may see and believe in you?” (John 6:30). But Jesus calmly reacted in the midst of their apparent spiritual immaturity and instead, offered a life-giving option, “Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27).
What is this food that Jesus is telling? It means two things: First, He is referring to His body and blood we partake in the Eucharist. (John 6:54). Second, the Word of God. When the devil tempted Jesus to turn the stones into bread; Jesus simply said, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). Motivated by His great love to the Father, the life of Jesus revolved around obeying the Father’s will. For Jesus, His Father was his everything.
Our gospel challenges us to purify our motivation every time we pray. Do we pray to seek His will and guidance? Do we pray because we have these hunger and thirst to know Jesus? Or we pray because we have something to ask?
There is nothing wrong asking for something in prayer. God even encourages us to ask anything in His name. But if God becomes like an ATM (automated teller machine) to us, we missed the point of prayer. Prayer should disturb us. Prayer should lead our eyes to the poor, marginalized and abandoned. Prayer is listening and responding. It is not only asking. We seek Jesus in prayer because we want to know Him more intimately. We want to imitate Him especially His faithfulness and obedience to the Father.
When Jesus told the crowd not to seek for food that perishes but food that endures forever, the crowd suddenly made a breakthrough when they asked: "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" They understood what Jesus wanted to convey – to set aside our “What can I get?” attitude and practice the “What can I do?” attitude.
Let’s choose to behave like the bear. Be a bread-sharers and not just bread-eaters. Be like Jesus. Be the bread to the hungry. In our 2nd reading, Paul exhorted us “to put away the old self and put on the new self” (Eph 4:22-23). And let the words of the crowd be our prayer, “What can I do to accomplish the works of God?"
The shortest but the best prayer I’ve ever heard goes this way …
“Lord God, tell me what to do. Amen.”
- Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ
August 2, 2009 / St. Joseph Parish, Zamboanga City