THEME: BREAD OF LIFE
READINGS: Isaiah 55:1-3 / Romans 8:33, 37-39/ Matthew 14:13-21
18 Sunday In Ordinary Time
The messages of last two Sundays were about the kingdom of heaven. Today’s message, in turn, draws our attention to the King of the kingdom – namely, Jesus Christ. We are reminded that He is the Bread of life. That is, Jesus is the only One who truly satisfies and strengthens us; and He does so forever.
Often in the Bible, a meal or a banquet is used as a figure of deliverance or salvation by God. For instance, as a sign and memorial for their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, God instructed the Israelites to have the ‘Passover Meal’ (Exodus 12:1-48). Secondly, to strengthen them for the ‘journey of salvation’ to the Promised Land, God gave them manna from above (Exodus 16:13-31). Thirdly, centuries later the prophet Isaiah would explain to his people the joy of God’s salvation with an imagery of a sumptuous banquet: ‘On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines’ (Isaiah 25:6, NIV).
Thus, when the Jews exiled in Babylon heard of God’s invitation to eat and drink at no cost (first reading: Isaiah 55:1-3), they understood that God’s deliverance or salvation (from Babylon) was close at hand. In other words, they understood that the prophet’s message was not so much about physical food and drinks, but the joy of returning to the Promised Land. And soon, they returned to the Promised Land. Similarly, the feeding of the thousands by Jesus (as recorded in today’s gospel reading) was not so much about their physical satisfaction, but about spiritual salvation in Jesus Christ.
This is clearly explained in St. John’s account of the feeding of the thousands. Jesus told the crowd: ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you understood the miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. … The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. … I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:26-35).
In other words, as physical food (bread) satisfies our hunger and gives us strength and joy, so Jesus Christ is our spiritual satisfaction, strength and joy. Moreover, Jesus gives us far more than we obtain from physical food. In the first place, whereas physical food perishes, Jesus, the Bread of Life, lives forever. Secondly, while physical food nourishes only our bodies (which are short-lived), Jesus nourishes our souls (which are eternal). Thirdly, whereas physical food is no longer useful at our death, Jesus can feed us beyond the grave!
Finally, Jesus wants us to understand and believe that (besides physical food) nothing else (material or spiritual) can truly satisfy us and give us everlasting joy, except He Himself. With St. Augustine, therefore, let us pray: ‘O God, you have made us for yourself, and our souls are restless, until they rest in you.’ Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis