First Reading : Exodus 16: 2 – 4, 12 – 15, 31
Responsorial Psalm: 78
Second Reading: Ephesians 4: 17, 20 – 24
Gospel: John 6: 24 – 35
When is that last time you have been so moved, so convinced, so utterly awe-struck by
something that your only response was “give this to me always”?
I’ve been reflecting on this question for the past eighteen months—during which many of
us were separated from the things we love most: family, friends, and of course, Mass.
You might have found yourself in the situation of the crowd from today’s reading almost
every day as you watched Mass on your television, or during virtual family functions
instead of in-person holiday parties.
You must have been always on your knees pleading god number of times after events like
that praying earnestly, “Give me this, always. I need it, Lord. I miss it. When can I have
it again?” I suspect that many of us have had the same struggles during this difficult year.
Those struggles, and that craving for what really matters in our lives, are what make
today’s readings so compelling. “The Bread of Life Discourse” in John’s Gospel, is
famous and profound—it tells us so much about our relationship with God. God desires
an intimate, personal relationship with us. God wants to feed us with “food that endures
for eternal life” John 6:27. God wants to give life to the world by giving each of us life.
God wants to dwell within us.
“The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world”
(John 6:33), Jesus says after sharing with the crowd that he will give them food that will
endure for eternal life.
Can you imagine being in the crowd and hearing such a statement? How can food endure
for eternal life and how can this man give it to me? Besides being confused, one would
also probably be intrigued, perhaps even excited. If God wants to feed us with “the bread
of life” (John 6:35), God must really love us.
God has fed God’s people throughout history. In Exodus, we hear about the Israelites,
who are wandering in the desert and starving. After leading them out of bondage in
Egypt, God does not abandon them, literally raining bread down on them every morning.
Our Psalm tells us that the Israelites ate “the bread of angels” (Ps. 78:25).
How could we not resonate with the passionate, instinctual, eager response by the crowd
to Jesus after he describes “the Bread of God that comes down from Heaven” John 6:33.
How could our response be anything other than “give us this bread always”?
Though it has been a almost eighteen months now, you have returned to Mass, part of
you may be mourning those months of separation from the Eucharist. The deep, spiritual
ache and hunger for the Eucharist should remind us that the bread of life is not just a nice
sentiment or a comforting metaphor—it is real and as essential to our lives as eating or
drinking. We must never take it for granted again.
We live in a throwaway culture, even if some of what made today will last into the future.
There are probably some books of our own time will have an enduring value too. Some
movies and plays that are presently being made will be watched and enjoyed for
generations to come. We always retain the capacity to create something of enduring
value, that has the capacity to engage people not just in the present but into the future.
They last because their value is great.
On our journey through life we tend to seek out what might be of lasting value because
we sense that it can enrich us and make us better human beings. Having found something
of real value we often return to it, whether it is a book, a poem, a piece of music, a
painting or a building. We know from experience that what we really value are not so
much objects or things but people. A good friend is worth so much more to us than a
good book, or a good piece of music, or a good painting. There is nothing more valuable
to parents than their children. For those who are in love, their treasure is the beloved.
Everything else is on a much lesser scale of value. We want the people we value to last
forever, which is why the death or the loss of a loved one is such a devastating
In today’s gospel the crowds of people whom Jesus fed in the wilderness come back,
looking for him, wanting more of this bread he had provided. Jesus takes the opportunity
to point them towards more enduring. His advice is, ‘do not work for food that cannot
last, but work for food that endures to eternal life.’ The horizon of Jesus is not the mere
horizon of this world but that of eternity. When he speaks of what truly lasts he means
what it is that lasts into eternity. For Jesus what is of lasting value is not just what is
remembered for generations into the future, but what will continue to have value in
eternity. It is hard to keep that horizon of eternity before us, especially in these times
when our universe seems so all absorbing. Yet the horizon of Jesus is the horizon of
eternity. Certainly he takes this earthly life very seriously; he has invested himself in
showing us how to live in this life, by his teaching, his way of relating to others. He gave
himself over to meeting the basic needs of those he met. He healed the sick; he comforted
the bereaved; the fed the hungry; he befriended the lonely. He told us to do the same and
declared that what we do for others we do for him. Yet, all the time the backdrop was an
eternal horizon. In living in this way, we are preparing ourselves to live forever. Those
who live by the values of the kingdom of God will inherit the kingdom of God.
Jesus spoke of himself as the way. He is the way to live in this life; he shows us how to
life well. Thereby, he is also the way to eternal life; those who follow in his way will live
forever. Jesus is concerned about what endures not just into successive generations but
what endures into eternity. He understood that we have been created by God to live
forever and he came to show us how to attain that eternal life and to empower us to attain
it. That is why he speaks of himself in the gospel as the bread of life. He endures into
eternity and those who receive him in faith and walk in his way will also endure into
eternity. If we come to him and stay with him our deepest hungers and thirsts will be
satisfied in this life and more fully in the next. When we think about what endures, we
are to think first of Jesus. He is the gateway to enduring life, for ourselves and for all we
love and value.
The people who followed Jesus along the shore of the lake were concerned solely with
satisfying their hunger. They were so enthusiastic about this sudden abundance of food he
provided that they decided to ensure its continuation and so set out to make Jesus their
king. They were blind to the spiritual meaning of the miracle, and the message Jesus
drew from it. “Do not work for food that cannot last,” he warned, “but work for food that
endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you.”
With us too, it can happen that we are willing to follow Christ – even to seek him out
with a certain kind of zeal – but on our own conditions, namely, that he solve our
immediate problems and grant our requests. If we feel he has let us down, we may even
contemplate turning our backs on him. But never on such conditions will he draw near to
us. We must seek him for himself, and not for what we can get from him. The bread from
heaven that Jesus promised is the Blessed Eucharist, and for its proper reception we need
to open ourselves to God’s love in our lives. It demands that we show acceptance of
others as well. Unlike those who abandoned Jesus when no more food was on offer, we
must keep on trying to be his faithful followers.
“Work for your salvation in fear and trembling,” St Paul urges us, and then goes on to
reassure us, “It is God who gives you both the will and the ability to act, to achieve his
own purpose” (Phil 2:12f). It is a great encouragement to us that we could not even begin
to seek God, if he had not already found us.
God bless. Have a blessed day.