THEME: MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE
READINGS: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15, 31 / Ephesians 4:17, 20-24/ John 6:24-35
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
God, according to the first reading, provided manna for the hungry Israelites as they journeyed to the Promised Land (Exodus 16:13-15). Despite this and other provisions which God made for His people, they sometimes disobeyed Him. Hence, as the Israelites neared the Promised Land and knowing their tendency to disobey God, Moses reminded them that more important than material satisfaction is obedience to the God of Providence:
Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe …. And you shall remember that the Lord your God … allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna …that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord (Deut. 8:1-3; NKJV).
In simple terms, Moses reminded his people that obedience to the Lord God who provided for their needs is paramount in every circumstance.
Centuries later, after His forty days and nights of fasting, when Jesus Christ was tempted to turn stones into bread, He responded with the above words of Scripture: ‘man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matt. 4:4).
Now, if He, who did not turn stones into bread to feed Himself, did multiply loaves to feed the thousands of people, then like His Father who fed the Israelites of old, Jesus Christ had a message beyond the satisfaction of the physical hunger of the crowd.
Jesus was using the attraction of the physical miracle to call attention to the spiritual miracle of eternal life – the miracle by which human beings have access to the heavenly life that angels enjoy in God’s presence for eternity.
Thus, Jesus came not so much to satisfy our physical hunger but to satisfy the deeper hunger of our souls – our souls hunger to live with God forever.
That is why Jesus told the crowd who were looking for Him:
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 (John 6:26-35).
Let us explain this message further: Firstly, man shall not live on physical bread alone, because this kind of bread perishes in no time and so souls which depend on it alone have limited life.
Secondly, on the other hand, man shall live by the Word of God which has no expiry date; it is eternal and it makes souls live eternally.
Thirdly, Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of God made flesh to live among us. In other words, He is the Bread that has come down from heaven to give us life without end.
Fourthly, as physical bread (food) satisfies our hunger and gives us strength and joy, so Jesus Christ (the Bread of life) is our spiritual satisfaction, strength and joy.
Moreover, Jesus gives us far more than we obtain from physical food. That is, whereas physical food perishes, Jesus, the Bread of life, lives forever. Again, while physical food nourishes only our bodies (which are short-lived), Jesus nourishes our souls (which are eternal). And, whereas physical food is no longer useful at our death, Jesus feeds us beyond the grave!
To conclude, then, Jesus wants us to understand and believe that 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.’ May our souls rest in the Lord always. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis