August 1 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
I love to eat! You can tell that by just looking at me!! I’m about 65 pounds heavier than my ideal weight. You’ve heard the expression some eat to live and others live to eat – I’m the latter. Being almost 70 years old, I am considered a senior citizen. I’m wishing that the senior citizen appetite would kick in soon and I too would be taking home a box from the restaurant with half of the meal I didn’t eat! But I still hold what my mother taught….no dessert unless you clean your plate!
Longing for food is more than a popular human pastime. In today’s first reading the whole community of Israel complain to Moses and express their longing for good food. They have their new freedom, but the menu that goes with it is sparse. The slavery of Egypt is behind them, but they now remember the country of bondage as the place where “we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat to our heart’s desire.” The Israelites are tempted to make a U-turn to Egypt, to follow the compass of their stomachs rather than focus on the way to freedom through the wilderness. Slavery with good food looks more attractive to them than freedom of a starvation diet. God hears the complaints and promises that they shall eat meat and have bread to their heart’s content.
In today’s Gospel, another crowd follow the instructions of their stomach and express their longing for food. This time it is the crowd of Galileans who, on the previous day, ate to their heart’s content when Jesus offered them a meal of barley loaves. Jesus tells his hungry pursuers that they are only following him because they have enjoyed the food that physical satisfies – they should work he says, for the food that endures to eternal life. The one work which earns this food is believing in the one God has sent. They Galileans promptly ask Jesus for a sign to aid their belief in him – a sign like the manna their fathers ate in the desert. When Jesus points out that is was God, not Moses, who supplied the manna, he compares himself to the God who now gives bread from heaven. Jesus declares that he himself is the bread of life, the bread came down from heaven. Whoever believes in him will never be hungry.
The promise that Jesus held out to the Galileans is one that is held out to us today. It is a promise fulfilled in the Eucharist we now celebrate. If there is one thing we all share in this assembly, it is the same hunger. We hunger for a love that does not disappoint; we hunger for a word that does not fade away; we hunger for bread that does not fail to satisfy. In this Eucharist the love of a tender God is offered to us in word and sacrament. In coming here we declare that we cannot fall back on our own resources: we need Jesus, the bread of life, to sustain us!
Have a blessed week!