READINGS: Exodus 16:2-4/ Ephesians 4:17, 20-24/ John 6:24-35
Theme: Look for The Food which gives Eternal Life
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus often used his miracles and teachings to lift our minds and hearts from earthly or physical realities to spiritual realities. For instance in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, when the woman was reluctant to give Jesus physical water, Jesus rather offered her the living or spiritual water (John 4).
On another occasion, before he opened the eyes of the man born blind, Jesus said: ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 9:5). In other words, his main interest was not in giving the blind physical light, but spiritual light, which is himself. A third instance is the raising up of the dead Lazarus. Before raising up his dead friend, Jesus said: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live’ (Jn. 11:25). Thus, only in Jesus, shall we rise from the dead and enjoy eternal / spiritual life.
Hence, in John 6, Jesus wanted the crowd to look beyond the physical bread which satisfied their physical hunger. When they found him the day after he had fed them, he told them: ‘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 the food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you.’ (John. 6:25-27). Hence my reflection is on the theme: ‘LOOK FOR THE FOOD WHICH GIVES ETERNAL LIFE’.
It is interesting to note that when Jesus himself was tempted (after his fast of 40 days and night) to turn stones into bread, he refused, answering: ‘man shall not live on bread alone but on every WORD that comes from the mouth of God’ ( Dt. 8: 3; Luke. 4: 4). So, if he multiplied loaves to feed the crowd, he wanted them to lift up, not their mouths and stomachs like Oliver Twist, but their minds and hearts to the God who provides more than physical bread / food – to the God who gives eternal food for the soul.
Yes God created us as both body and soul. We have both physical and spiritual needs or hungers, as well as physical and spiritual satisfactions. But because our physical life is a mere fraction of the life of our soul, the ‘Balanced Human Diet’ requires that we focus more on the satisfaction of the soul than on the satisfaction of the body. The ‘prosperity gospel’ [in which earthly prosperity is over-emphasized] is, therefore, a misinterpretation of the message of Jesus Christ.
- So, more than we hunger for food to feed our bodies, let us seek Jesus, the spiritual food for our souls!
- More than we exercise our bodies and take medicine for good physical health, let us seek Jesus, the divine physician, who keeps our souls fit and healthy!
- More than we hunger for wealth to enjoy earthly comfort, let us seek Jesus, who became poor, so that we might share in the everlasting divine riches or the eternal comfort of heaven!
Beloved, let me present the above in another way:
Firstly, concerning the physical food. It can nourish our bodies, but cannot nourish our souls. Furthermore, physical food perishes [or we may say, it dies], and so cannot help us when we die. But Jesus, the Food of Life, lives forever and so he can feed us beyond the grave, and forever!
Secondly, concerning our health. Medicines/drugs can help improve our physical health, but not our souls. After all, medicines /drugs expire (die), and cannot therefore be of use to us after our death. But Jesus, who lives forever, can heal our souls after death.
Thirdly, physical wealth can be destroyed or stolen; even when it outlives us, we cannot carry them to the grave . . . less to talk about carrying them beyond the grave. But Jesus is the eternal wealth of our souls, and we enjoy him more beyond the grave.
Beloved, let us, through faith, hunger for and seek first Jesus, the Food of Life, and our souls shall be satisfied eternally. Amen.
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis