Exodus 16:2-4. 12-15; Ephesians 4:17. 20-24; John 6:24-35
Last week Jesus fed the crowds on five loaves and two fish. They were deeply impressed. Not only did they eat all they wanted but had twelve baskets of scraps left over. Jesus had asked that this be collected so that no food was wasted; a good lesson for us today in this world of plenty for some and starvation for others.
The crowds wanted to make him king but Jesus escaped to the hills while the disciples crossed the lake in their boat. Jesus himself walked on the rough waters and joined them on the other side. Next day the people, too, crossed in their boats. Today’s Gospel begins at the moment they met him there.
Surprised to see him, since they knew the disciples had set off alone, they ask him when he came; instead he tells them why they came; a lesson in self-knowledge. 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.
Jesus knows who he is, and he knows who they are. This is what drew the crowds to him; he knows them and teaches them with the full authority of his knowing.
Jesus is an uncompromising teacher; have you noticed that? He stands in the midst of the crowd - courageous, confident, uncompromising - knowing far more than he can teach and teaching them far more than they want to learn. There is no uncertainty, no casting about for the right words, he knows what he must say. He is truly the sower going out into the field to sow. He does not negotiate; he simply throws the seed: 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. In other words, you are not looking for me (for God), you are looking for bread (for yourselves).
We might ask ourselves why we are here? What is the real reason? What are we looking for - worship (God) or consolation (self)?
Jesus’ teaching proceeds through a series of questions and answers which are all set against the miracle of the previous day. The word ‘work’ becomes the lynch pin of each new step in the unfolding catechesis.
- You 'worked' (i.e. got into your boats and crossed to this side of the lake) looking for bread that cannot last.
- Do not work for food that cannot last.
- Work for food that endures to eternal life.
- What work does God want us to do?
- This is the work God wants – believe in the one he has sent.
- What work will you do – to show us we should believe in you?
At this point Jesus, as he always does, shows that it is really God, his Father, who is doing this work; that Jesus himself is the work of the Father: for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.
When a king, emperor, president, or any leader sends an ambassador to a foreign country to speak in his name that ambassador speaks with the full power of the one who sent him. The teaching of Jesus is therefore the teaching of the Father himself and consequently, the works that God wants from his people is to believe in the one he has sent.
The connection between God and Jesus is inescapable, just as the connection between Jesus and the Apostles is inescapable: As the Father sent me, so am I sending you. (John 20:21) And then: Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me. (Luke 10:16)
God – Jesus – Church – and don’t let anyone tell you any different. To reject the authentic teaching of the Church is to reject Jesus, and to reject Jesus is to reject the Father who sent him. As Pope Benedict has clarified for us, those who say Jesus yes, Church no, are actually saying Church no, Jesus no.
So, finally, what is the work that God the Father is here doing through Jesus? It is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. (Please note the present tense of the words is and gives – so they apply to us here in this church too, here and now.)
I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.
Jesus is the true bread which the Father has given his people from heaven and to accept him as such is to do the work the Father wants of us.