“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)
In our Gospel passage last Sunday, we read of the feeding of the multitude by Jesus Christ. After eating, the crowd were so pleased with Jesus that they wanted to make Him a king immediately. Knowing what they wanted to do, Jesus quickly withdrew to the mountains. This is where today’s Gospel passage take off.
The crowd later found Jesus on the other side of the sea and questioned Him: “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus could read their minds, He knew exactly what they had come for and He said to them: “Do not labour for the food which perishes but for the food which endures to eternal life.” This brings us to our lessons for today:
1. Seeking God only For Material Benefits Leads to Disappointment.
In truth, if the only reason why you seek God is for bread, then know that you will surely be disappointed. The bread will not always be there. Now, it is not as if God cannot feed you with bread, He does not want you to worship the bread He gives you.
Consider the sound admonition of St. John: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 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, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.” (1 John 2:15-17).
This world is passing away. Let us not reduce our worship of God to the attainment of passing things. If the only reason you are in church today is to ask God for bread (material blessings that are capable of passing away), then you are not different from the crowds who wanted Jesus to feed them again because they were hungry. Jesus disappointed the crowds – He refused to feed them the second time.
The crowds even tried to lure Jesus by asking Him to work a sign for them to prove that He came from God by suggesting that their fathers ate the manna in the desert. Jesus knew that any faith built on miracles cannot sustain us. He refused to work any sign.
2. Do Not Think of Returning To Egypt because of Bread.
The problem with seeing Jesus as merely a bread-provider is that when we do not get our fill of bread, we begin to complain and murmur like the Israelites in today’s first reading. They said: “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3).
Surprisingly, this is how many of us think; we assume that there are alternatives to God. Some Christians move from church to church in search of their fill of bread. Some even go as far as consulting native doctors, occult powers, juju spirits and all sorts of demonic media. Perhaps, as you read (or listen to) this homily, you might even be considering trying out these spiritual temples/shrines promising all kinds of untold riches. Please don’t do it. Don’t return to Egypt. Don’t give up on God. If God cannot do it, trust me, nobody else can do it.
Many Christians today are entangled in all kinds of spiritual bondage because they felt that God was too slow in giving them what they wanted. They have bowed to Satan and sold their souls in exchange for the passing things of this world. Jesus would ask: “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mark 8:36).
Sadly, many Christians today only remember to pray when they have serious challenges in life. For most of us, God is only a utility; something you can use and dump, then pick up again when you need it. Come to think of it, if you have a friend that calls you only when he or she wants something from you, but never picks your call when you need something from them, would you be happy about it?
3. Jesus is More than a Bread-Provider: He is the Bread of Life.
After the crowd had eaten to their fill, they did not understand the meaning of the miracle. For them, they had found a bread-provider in Jesus so they wanted to make Him a king but Jesus escaped from them. In his words to Pilate: “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” (John 18:36).
Unfortunately, Christians in our day and time, having being influenced by the gospel of prosperity do not realize that Jesus’ kingship is not of this world, that Jesus desires not merely to feed our stomachs but to lead us to eternal life. Many of us, (like the crowds who were fed by Jesus) are not concerned about eternal life. We forget that were are simply pilgrims in this world, that we do not belong to this world (Cf. John 15:19) and that all that this world contains can never satisfy us.
Jesus said to the crowds: “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). The crowds said to Jesus: “Lord, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35).
To understand what Jesus meant by “he who comes to me shall not hunger”, let us remember a similar statement of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33).
In a similar vein, Jesus said to the Samaritan Woman at well of Jacob: “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)
In summary, Jesus is capable of satisfying the greatest desires of our hearts but He wants us to seek Him rather than those things He is capable of doing for us. Jesus wants us to labour (pray) not for perishable things but for eternal life.
4. Repent: Put Off Your Old Nature. Seek Righteousness and Holiness.
St. Paul beautifully summarizes all that we have said so far when he writes in our second reading: “Put off your old nature which is corrupt through deceitful lusts and be renewed in the spirit, put on the new nature created in likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Until we Christians stop labouring only for perishable food, we cannot avoid our sinful lifestyles and bad habits. Seek first God’s kingdom today. Begin to read the Bible more than ever before. Our Gospel acclamation today reminds us of the words Jesus spoke to defeat the devil during His temptations: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4).
Change your prayers points to heavenly treasures. Put off that old nature with its insatiable desires and lusts. Know that Jesus is the BREAD OF LIFE. Jesus is Life. Jesus is all you need. Jesus alone can satisfy the deepest longings of your heart.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, free me from labouring only for the perishable things in this world. Teach me to set my heart on eternal life. Amen.
Bible Study: Exodus 16:2-15, Psalm 78:3-54, Ephesians 4:17-24, John 6:24-35).