EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY
The first and third readings speak of God’s providential care for his people. The God who sent manna from heaven to lead the Israelites into the desert, also sent his Son as the “true bread from heaven to give life to the world.” The only way to receive this bread is to “believe in the One he sent.” In the second reading, Paul speaks to new believers about their new life in Christ.
FIRST READING: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
The whole Israelite community grumbles against Moses and Aaron saying that they were better off in Egypt than they are now, starving in a desert. At least in Egypt they had something to eat. Their grumbling shows their lack of faith in God to provide for them. What’s really sad is not their asking for food, which is understandable, but their preference for their former life of oppression in Egypt. Their complaint is a slap in the face of the God who liberated them. Despite their lack of faith in God and their desire for their old way of life, God comes to their rescue and gives them lots of bread. Moses interprets the deeper significance of the event for the people when they ask: Where did all this bread come from? Moses tells them that it’s bread from heaven!
SECOND READING: Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
In the ritual of baptism, those to be baptized put aside their old clothes, symbolizing their decision to put behind them their old sinful way of life. After they come forth from the waters of baptism, they clothe themselves with a new white garment symbolizing their decision to put on Christ and his values as their new way of life. It seems Paul is using this baptismal ritual to exhort his readers to put aside the way of sin and darkness and to put on the new life of Christ. The pre-baptismal way of living is futile. The post-baptismal way leads to life and truth.
GOSPEL: John 6:24-35
This Gospel follows the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Commenting on these verses from Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse, Patricia Sanchez writes:
Just as Nicodemus (John 3) did not initially understand what it meant to be born again (i.e., from above, another), and just as the woman at the well (John 4) did not initially realize what Jesus’ offer of living water could mean for her, neither did the crowds who clamored for signs fully appreciate the food unto eternal life that Jesus had come to give. In each of these instances, it was customary for Jesus to lead his listeners to a deeper truth. That truth, as presented in today’s Gospel, is this: Jesus is the bread of life come down from heaven into the wilderness of this world to save and to feed sinners unto eternal life. That many of his contemporaries did not understand this truth is shown in the manner in which they pursued Jesus after being fed with the loaves and fish.
Taken in by the material and wondrous nature of this sign, they had not yet come to believe in Jesus; they were merely looking for the one who had given them a free meal. Rather than allow themselves to be fed with the bread of his teaching and become his disciples, they simply pursued the satisfaction of their physical hungers.
When told that they were working for the wrong things, i.e., perishable food (v.27), the crowds again misunderstood, thus creating yet another opening for Jesus to teach them more about the nature of the bread he offered and the manner of work by which it could be attained. The bread he offered was not that of Moses; it was the real heavenly bread given by God for the life of the world. After eating Moses’ bread, the people hungered still, yet the bread of life from God satisfies all hungers. “Working” for that bread means having faith in the One sent into the world to be living bread.
In the coming weeks, and as the “dinner” or “picnic” prepared and served by Jesus progresses, it will become clear that it is not only the bread of his teaching that Jesus is offering but the bread of his very self, given and broken on the cross as bread for the life of the world.
In your relationship with God, do you tend to talk to him more about your physical/material needs than about your spiritual needs?