“Sir, give us that bread always…” Jn. 6:34
Last week, we witnessed through the readings how Jesus fed the people who came to listen to him in the desert with five loaves and two fish. But when they came back next day for more of the same he said to them, ‘Do not work for perishable food; work for the food that endures to eternal life.’
Looking at the liturgy today, we’re invited to reflect on the Lord’s wonderful provision, the demonstration of his enduring presence with us, and his love for us, as expressed in the Eucharist.
He has always loved his people and cared for them. The story of the Exodus experience, when he freed the Israelites from slavery and accompanied them on their succeeding long wandering in the desert, demonstrates the existence of this love from ages past. In spite of their grumbling and unfaithfulness, God never abandoned his people; the Lord supported and fed them, giving them Manna in the wilderness as a pledge of his divine care, his provision and saving love: “Mere men ate the bread of angels. He sent them abundance of food” (Ps. 78:25). All this pointed to the fulfilment of his promises as he brought them to his Holy Land, “to the mountain his right hand has won” (Ps. 78:54), so that they could be a people for him, an example of the nations.
The Lord was always with them throughout their journey, and the ultimate expression of his saving presence was made manifest to them in Jesus. In Jesus, the promises are spiritualised, as he became the gateway to eternal life.
To listen to Jesus is to be changed - to have our minds renewed by what St. Paul writing to the Ephesians calls “a spiritual revolution” (Eph. 4:23), “so that we can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way” (Eph. 4:23).
Jesus, in his great discourse on bread, makes clear to the Pharisees that we can no longer be satisfied with material things, we say “Sir, give us that bread always” (Jn. 6:34). Jesus’ answer “I am the bread of life” (Jn. 6:35) shows him to be our provider and our saviour: to partake of the flesh of his Word and to eat the flesh of his Body in the Eucharist is to find true fulfilment, the answer to all our hunger, our needs and our spiritual yearning.
He gives us this gift as the reminder of his saving presence in our midst, always nourishing us, binding us together in communion, and leading us onwards to the Promised Land of the Heavenly Kingdom.
Fr Odinaka Nwadike