1st August 2021

Communion wafers

The 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

John 6: 24-35

As you may have noticed, today’s Gospel is a continuation of what we have heard and meditated on a week ago. After the miraculous multiplication of the bread and fish and after feeding thousands of people, Jesus escaped back to the hills by himself – because as the Gospel explains to us – He didn’t want people to make Him a king. And that was exactly the last sentence and last thread of the Word of God from last Sunday. Today however we have heard that people didn’t give up easily, and began persistently looking for Jesus until they finally found Him in Capernaum. Rabbi, when did you come here? – that was the question they asked Him. And probably the answer to that question was not important to Jesus, since He completely ignored it and instead of answering, began to tell them something completely different.

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.

I think all these people were very fascinated and excited by the signs and miracles that they witnessed… who wouldn’t be? On the one hand Jesus realized that they wanted to satisfy their hunger, and it was their priority at that moment, it was much more important to them than anything else. But on the other hand, I don’t think Jesus was disappointed or even surprised with their attitude. After all, He himself taught his disciples and many other people this beautiful prayer which is The Lord’s Prayer, and which we know perfectly well because we remember it from our childhood. We were taught this prayer by our parents and grandparents in the various languages we use and speak. As we know that one of the few and very significant requests to God that are contained in this particular prayer says: Give us this day our daily bread. So, there is nothing wrong with asking God for our daily bread that is something basic and essential that we need to live on, and that gives us the strength also needed to worship God. Without bread or another meal, we wouldn’t come to church because we wouldn’t have the energy. But in the second part of the same gospel Jesus uses this opportunity – when he speaks to us of bread – to draw our attention to another type of bread. He says to us:

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

A few years ago, I watched a movie set in Spain during the Civil War and – as far as I remember – it was based on a true story that really happened at that difficult time. The main character of this film was a young soldier – who was very badly wounded in one of the battles, and although he survived, his life was in danger for a long time. After taking him to the hospital and providing him with professional medical care, doctors assured his family and colleagues that his condition was stable, his chances of survival were fairly high, but the most important condition for his recovery was that he would need to eat and drink sufficiently. Unfortunately, the very poorly soldier refused to eat anything and his health was deteriorating rapidly day by day and hour by hour. And then, at this very dramatic stage in his life, one of the nurses – had a wonderful idea – to bring his beloved parents to the hospital just to support him and persuade him to eat. We can imagine that in all these circumstances of the war it was a crazy idea, but despite all the difficulties and dangers, at least his father was able to go to the hospital to see his son – perhaps – for the last time in his life. While the father was getting ready for the long journey, his wife prepared a piece of home-made bread and asked him to take it with him and give a piece of this ordinary bread to their beloved son. The very poorly and almost dying soldier was deeply moved when he opened his eyes and noticed his father standing next to his bed, but despite his emotion, he still stubbornly refused to eat anything. And then at one point, the father took the piece of bread that was given to him by his wife and put it very gently on his son’s bed. And then something completely unpredictable happened – this young man began to eat. From that moment on, he ate more and more, gradually regaining his strength and energy, and finally he completely recovered. We can imagine that this bread made by his mother was much more to him than just ordinary bread. As he confessed many years after the war and after his return home, that: His mother’s love was hidden in this little piece of bread.

His beloved mother’s love was hidden in this piece of bread.

But actually, why am I telling you this story today? Mainly, because today Jesus invites us to reflect and answer one very fundamental question: Why are we looking for Him in our lives? Is it only because we have heard about or witnessed the signs and miracles that Jesus performed as described in the Gospels? Is it only because we need someone to provide us with ordinary bread?

Let us pray that today’s Gospel inspires us to seek and follow Jesus at different stages of our lives. But let us also pray for deep motivation and greater awareness that in this Bread of Life that is Jesus himself, there are hidden God’s infinite love and also His endless longing for each of us.

Fr Gregory