The Food that Endures for Eternal Life

August 5, 2012 at 1:26 pm Leave a comment

I am the bread of life.

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry;

and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

 

A couple of months ago I was back in Williamsport

listening to Michael’s seventh and eighth grade chorus sing

‘We are the World.’

Remember that one?

Now I never loved the song,

but I must admit that I was a little bit moved.

You see, I was twelve or thirteen when that song came out,

and here was my thirteen-year-old son up there singing it.

All was well with the world –

until the chorus sang the line

‘As God has shown us by turning stones to bread,

so we all must lend a helping hand…’

My first thought was –

‘Wow, they mentioned God.’

My second thought was

‘Now wait just a gosh-darn minute.’

That’s exactly what Jesus refused to do when the devil tempted him to do so.

He refused to turn stones into bread.

Those lyrics are all wrong!

I had a glare on my face for the rest of the song,

looking around to see if anyone else had noticed.

 

Later, after the concert, I found Michael.

He said, “I knew those lyrics would get you,

I was standing up there thinking ‘Oh, boy, here it comes.

‘I could see your face just go ‘what?’

I was trying so hard not to laugh for the rest of the song.’

I didn’t know whether to be more impressed that he knew the lyrics were bad

or amused that he had me set up.

 

Today’s Gospel lesson is the second of four selections

from the chapter when Jesus refers to himself as ‘the bread of life.’

As you may recall, last week, Jesus gave food to thousands of people in the wilderness,

an event attested by all four gospels.

Only John, however, records this interesting little tidbit:

‘When Jesus realized that they were about to come

and take him by force to make him king,

he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.’

 

Being made king by force would be a bad idea for two reasons.

First of all, there already is a person in the world he lives in who calls himself king,

Caesar in Rome,

and he does not take kindly to would-be rivals.

But secondly, and more importantly,

Jesus realizes that the people have misunderstood who he is

and what he is doing.

A gift from God – a man who supplies endless bread

and will supply victory over the hated Romans who occupy the land of God’s people.

What we always forget is that we value the gifts of God more than God himself,

and that the evil one can give us bread and victory just as easily as God can.

Perhaps more easily,

and more quickly.

After all, as I’ve mentioned, in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke,

the thing Jesus refuses to do is turn stones into bread.

Once he’s turning stones into bread,

he’s never going to be able to stop.

And the moment he can’t turn stones into bread,

God help him.

 

We’re about to spend the next four months

hearing about whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama

can give us more bread.

We don’t really care about either of these two men.

If he can give us bread, we will praise him.

If there is no bread, we will blame him.

 

Jesus’ giving of bread in the wilderness is not a miracle.

It is a ‘sign.’

What is a sign?

It points us to something else.

The feeding with the loaves was not simply a lesson for us,

that we need to be generous with what we have.

There’s plenty of other times in the Bible

where Jesus or someone else talks about being generous with what we have,

and the necessity to feed and clothe and care for others.

This isn’t one of those times.

This is of an entirely different nature.

The giving of food is a sign of something else entirely.

 

Jesus says to those who have searched him out,

who perhaps were expecting another free feed,

‘Do not work for the food that perishes,

but for the food that endures for eternal life,

which the Son of Man will give you.

For it is on him that the Father has set his seal.’

They at least then have the understanding

that Jesus is talking about something different now,

something that is from God.

But they still demand yet another sign.

They presume that God is going to give them something yet more wonderful

through this man.

Something tangible, something miraculous, something like the manna

that once fell from heaven and fed the people of Israel in the wilderness.

 

And yet Jesus has nothing to give them.

The man who gave the crowds abundant food yesterday

has nothing to give them

except the abundance of himself.

I am the bread of life.

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry

and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

 

He still has nothing to give us today –

nothing except himself.

Above the din of conflict,

as people argue over how much bread they ought to have

and how much bread they ought to have –

they argue about rights to this and rights to that

and whose trampling on their rights,

and as people agonize on who will be made king,

we are called to peace with God, to be satisfied with Christ.

St Paul said somewhere

‘I have learned to be content with little and with much.’

When the Church is torn asunder

and the world seems more confusing everyday,

Jesus gives us himself as bread,

as the nourishment for our souls,

as the one who gives us eternal life.

Not just eternal life after death,

but the life that is eternal in the midst of the life that is temporal,

so whether we have much or little we have enough and more than enough.

 

Sisters and brothers,

we work for our families and for our communities,

so that we may have enough to eat and drink

so that our children and grandchildren may have opportunities,

so that our world may become a better place.

And yet Jesus reminds us ‘Do not work for the food that perishes.’

If we have everything of this world and do not reach for that which is eternal,

what good will the things of this world do us?

With Christ to nourish and satisfy us,

we may indeed draw water and bake bread and carry wood

in peace and gladness,

neither having too little nor reaching for too much.

If our lives are in him,

each morsel, each sip,

each blade of grass or opening flower

each healing, each forgiving,

each sunrise and sunset

is a sign that points to Jesus Christ,

the bread that comes down from heaven

and gives life to the world.

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Reversing the Curse (July 1, 2012) Of Grumbling and Grace

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