“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:26-27).
What does Jesus mean by: “Do not labour for the food which perishes”? There are two ways to understand this statement: One, what consumes my time and energy daily? Two, what do I ask from God when I pray? If we take stock of every minute of our day, we would be able to tell where our priorities truly lie. As Jesus would say: “Where your treasures are, there your heart would be” (Matthew 6:21). Am I working to achieve something that perishes (i.e. that can be exhausted, lose its value, change, decay, go out of fashion, spoil, die, etc.) or something that lasts forever? If the things that consume most of my time and energy are merely perishable items, it means it is possible that I could reach the end of my life only to discover I wasted it.
Think of it this way. Who would have imagined just six months ago that the price of oil would crash? I can give more examples but the point is this: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away” (1 John 2:16-17). On the other hand, we ask ourselves: “What is the content of my prayer? What do I pray for?” The great multitudes in today’s Gospel passage obviously were looking for Jesus because they wanted their fill of bread which according to Jesus was merely perishable food.
As Jesus would say to the Samaritan woman: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). Why do we ask God for things we know can never give us lasting satisfaction? Jesus did say we should ask, seek and knock for whatever we desire (Cf. Matthew 7:7-11) but it would be better to ask for living water and for food that never perishes. It is better that we spend more time asking to be united to God because as St. Augustine would confess, only God can satisfy the deep yearnings of our heart.
Seen from a purely earthly perspective, our first reading today is a very sad one; but it is the story of our world, the story of injustice perpetuated daily by the high and mighty against the innocent and holy; the story of envy and false accusation. Nevertheless, it is the story of the first martyr, the first fruit so to say of the Early Christian community, the first to attain the bliss Jesus talked about when he said: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).
If Stephen had set out to work for the food which perishes, he would have backed out when he saw the threat to his life, he would have denied Jesus or run away but he chose to fix his gaze instead in heaven. Sing: You take the whole world and give me Jesus. You take the whole world and give me Jesus. You take the whole world and give me Jesus. I’m satisfied, am satisfied. Let us pray: Lord Jesus, fill me with the courage to proclaim you to the world by my thoughts, words and deeds. Amen. Bible Study: Acts 6:8-15, Psalm 119 and John 6:22-29).