Vol.4 No.47 DoM Gospel Reflection
18th Sunday Ordinary Time/John 6: 24-35
August 2, 2015
By Tiny McPhillips
The Gospel of John, chapter 6 is full of miracles. First we see the feeding of the 5,000 on the hillside. This miracle, although impressive and massive in scope, was misunderstood by the crowds and unfortunately, they misunderstood Jesus himself. The sign of multiplying the loaves and fishes prompted them to see Jesus as a new King, a political Messiah, that could create a better life for the people of the time. When Jesus finished feeding them, He quietly slipped away from them.
The next miracle in John 6 is reserved only for his 12 apostles as they were caught in the storm and Jesus came to them by walking on the water. He wanted to make sure that at least these 12 understood him as the “God-made-man” that he was trying to reveal to them. He was teaching them to trust Him as their Lord.
Then we come to John 6:25 in which the people are looking for Jesus. His response to them is something of a chastisement…not what they were looking for at all! He sees right through their motives and tells them exactly WHY they are searching for Him. He confronts them with the realistic notion that they only want Him because they were fed to the fullest and their hunger was satisfied. This reminds us of the scene in our first reading when the Israelites complained of hunger and God sent them quail to eat and manna rained down from the skies to sustain them. They want an “ongoing food program”, a “meal ticket” so to speak. The crowds in Moses’ time, the people in the days of Jesus, and now those of us in 2015-we all basically want the same thing, don’t we? We desire tangible, realistic and material comfort in our lives. But Christ explains to them that it is NOT about comfort or satisfaction, but about The Word of God which leads to eternal life. He wants them to desire the food that will last forever. They ask him, “How can we get this food?” The reply of Jesus is extremely important and we must let it sink into our souls. He says. “The only work you need to do is to BELIEVE in the One He sent”!
To this they ask another question-“What sign can you do to make us believe?”
Then they quote scripture from their ancestors to possibly remind Jesus what provisions were made for the Israelites in the desert. “He gave them manna from heaven”
As I was preparing for this, I couldn’t help but be amused at this part. I can picture the group and their true sentiment. So, Jesus, what can you do for US? How are you going to make our lives easier? They wanted an answer to all their problems and they saw Jesus as their solution. The topic of “Bread” in these passages is symbolic of all our basic needs- hunger versus nourishment, want versus satisfaction, unhappiness versus contentment. Jesus answers them with a radical statement. He says famously, “I am the Bread of Life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall not thirst.”
In other words, Jesus Christ is trying to tell them exactly what He wants us to know today. The Word of God which draws us to the Bread, the Eucharist, make up the main ingredients of our diet for eternal life which is revealed at Mass.
As I kept contemplating this passage, I couldn’t help but have the prevailing idea of what WE want from Jesus, from our faith. Do we really want Jesus, the Bread of Life, or do we want what He can do for us? Do we actually put Him above and beyond everything else? In order for us to understand this, we must rescind all of our own agendas, our own personal view of life. The crowds pressed Jesus for what they could get from Him-do we do the same? Clearly if we are Jesus followers only for what we can obtain from Him, then we are not following Him for the right reasons. Do we secretly have this mental conversation with God that says something like this- “Ok, I go to Mass as often as possible, I give to charities, I am good to my family and friends. I’ve upheld my end of the bargain. So now, you, Jesus, God, Power of the Universe, you are obliged to give me what I need.” The problem with this demand is that we are putting the Almighty somehow under our control which would lead us to believe that WE are in control, not Him!
From a book entitled, “Living Faith” by Jacques Ellul, I read this:
“The really unbearable thing for us is GRACE, because while it is, to be sure, the expression of infinite love, it is also totally gratuitous. You can’t buy it or exchange it. You can’t deal for it or get the hang of it. You’ll go nowhere with influence, indulgences, collusion…Grace is the hardest thing for us to be reconciled to, because it implies the renouncing of our pretensions, our power, our pomp and circumstance. If God loves and saves us without asking any human price, the counterpart to this is that God is to be believed and loved without self-interest or purpose, simply for nothing.”
So what are we to make of this? It comes down to this-God is free to act as God wills. His movement in our lives, especially through Christ is completely up to Him. God loves us because He loves us. This reason is in God and NOT in us. It is in the daily dying to ourselves that God’s will can shine through our lives. Even if we never receive another consolation from God, we must believe in the one whom He sent as the Bread of Life. We must partner with Him, not because of who we are, but because of who HE is!
C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “Christ says, Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work; I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want a cut-off branch here and there. I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it or stop it, but to have it out.”
There is no way to follow Jesus without Him interfering in your life. The Bread of Life doesn’t want to do a spring cleaning, he wants to do a total renovation.
Let’s close with this prayer of surrender from Ignatius of Loyola:
Take, Lord, and receive
My liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will-
Everything I have and call my own. You gave me all these gifts, and to you I return them. Dispose of them entirely according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace-
That is all I ask.