God provides ‘true bread’ to satisfy our deepest hunger
By: By Sharon Priester
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time/Aug. 2
Exodus 16:2-4,12-15; Psalm 78:3-4,23-24,25,54; Ephesians 4:17,20-24; John 6:24-35
Bread — a staple of life. For centuries, bread has sustained people. When I was growing up, we always had bread at breakfast, lunch and dinner. My dad, who worked in a tannery, took at least two sandwiches each day to work. Otherwise, he just wouldn’t have been able to make it through the day.
In the first reading this weekend, we heard the frustration of the Israelites as they travel through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. While in Egypt under the pharaoh, they toiled as slaves, had plenty of food, especially bread, and had grown complacent. Now, as they travel through the desert, they have no food. They grumbled to Aaron and Moses that it was better to be a slave and fed than wandering in the desert hungry. God, upon hearing the cries of His chosen people, provided them with food. Quail in the evening and manna (bread) in the morning.
In last week’s Gospel, we heard how Jesus, the Son of God, fed and satisfied the thousands who had followed him with just two fish and five loaves of bread. Now in this weekend’s Gospel, some of those who had been on the mountain with Jesus when he fed the large crowd went looking for Him. When they found Jesus, He knew they were not looking for Him because of “the signs” they had seen. Rather, they were hungry and looking for more bread and fish.
FOOD THAT ENDURES
Jesus tells the men that instead of working for earthly “food that perishes . . . work for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27) When they ask what kind of work they must do to receive this food, Jesus replies that they “must believe in the one He sent.” (John 6:29)
They ask what kind of sign Jesus can give them that they can believe in Him. After all, their ancestors had received a sign when they were starving in the desert. Each day they received manna in the desert so they wouldn’t starve. Jesus reminds them that Moses didn’t provide the manna, God did and that God, His Father, will give them “true bread from heaven . . . that gives life to the world.” (John 6:33)
Upon hearing this, the men ask for this true bread. Jesus replies, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)
Think about that: never hungry, never thirsty, satisfies their deepest hunger, gives eternal life. All they — and we — have to do is believe in Jesus. Aren’t we like these men, searching for this true bread that satisfies our “deepest hunger and gives eternal life?”
“The Lord gave them bread from heaven,” we hear in Psalm 78. Let us partake in the “bread of life.” Let us give up our old ways, repent, and “put on a new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” (Ephesians 4:34) Then, we too will be able to “declare to the generation to come, the glorious deeds of the Lord and his strength and the wonders that he wrought.” (Psalm 78:3-4)
SHARON PRIESTER has served as a parish catechist and director of religious education, Bible study leader, RCIA team member and coordinator, and regional director of religious education for the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.