Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year B
When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
You are not looking for me
because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’
Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’ So they said, ‘What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’
‘I tell you most solemnly,
it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven,
it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven,
the true bread;
for the bread of God
is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.’
‘Sir,’ they said ‘give us that bread always.’ Jesus answered:
‘I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me will never be hungry.’
Jesus leads the people from their simple question about his arrival on the other side of the lake, through a discussion about “bread from heaven” and the people’s desire for a sign so they might believe, to the point where they say “Sir, give us that bread always”.
The people may not have understood fully what the bread was that Jesus talked about, but they knew that it was of divine origin and it was life-giving. Like people throughout the centuries they experienced a yearning for the infinite, for something which transcended their daily lives. When Jesus equated that yearning with hunger they would have understood.
The bread is Jesus himself. It is the Eucharist, but it is also the scriptures; the insights in prayer; the knowledge in theology; the ‘interventions” in our lives that let us know Jesus is present.
Physical hunger leads to restlessness and an inability to concentrate. Moving from one thing to another, wanting the stimulation of new things, finding relationships unfulfilling – these can be symptoms of a deeper hunger which is spiritual in nature.
We can be drowning in plenty, immersed in the life of the Church, and still be hungry, even starving. Yes, the Church, our parishes, committees and good works all need us, but we will do much more for them if we have given first priority to satisfying our own deep hunger for Jesus Christ. Running on spiritual “empty” is not a virtue.