August 2, 2015
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 And when they found him across the sea they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" 26 Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal." 28 So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent." 30 So they said to him, "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32 So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 34 So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
Last Sunday’s Gospel text was the first in a series of gospel texts taken from John’s Gospel over the space of 6 weeks. Last week’s text recalled Jesus feeding the multitude with the bread and fish provided by a young boy in the crowd. (John 6:1-15) At the end of that text, John states that because Jesus knew that the crowd wanted to carry him off and make him their king, he withdrew to the mountain to be alone. In the verses between last week’s Gospel and the text for this week, John describes the disciples’ encounter with Jesus walking on water. Jesus leaves to go to the mountain alone, and the disciples decide to go to Capernaum in their boats. They encounter rough seas. After rowing for several miles they see Jesus walking on the water and become afraid. Jesus reassures them and they then invite him to come into their boat. Instead of getting into the boat, Jesus goes to the shore, and they arrive there as well. (John 6:16-21) The following day the crowd returns and discovers that the disciples have left and there is only one boat missing. The question is raised about how Jesus has made the crossing, with only one boat being gone. The crowd decides to travel to Capernaum in boats that have arrived from Tiberias. (John 6:22-23) This is where the gospel text for this Sunday begins.
When the crowds find Jesus they call him Rabbi. Jesus teaches as them as a Rabbi, quoting from the scriptures, “he gave them bread from heaven,” (Verse 31) and then he explains each word of the text. The three themes of this text are bread, sign, and work. Jesus is aware that they have come seeking more free bread. Typically one had to labor a great deal for their daily nourishment. The day before, Jesus had supplied free bread to the vast crowd, so much free bread in fact that the crowd could not eat and perhaps even carry away all that was left - twelve baskets full remained. (It is hard to believe that in such a situation people did not carry away as much as they could carry.) When they encounter Jesus again, they seem to be looking for more free bread. Jesus exhorts them not to work for bread that perishes, but for bread that the Son of Man will give them, bread that will last for a lifetime. This shifts the conversation from bread to work. “What kind of work is it that is required for this kind of bread?” the crowd asks. The response from Jesus is: believe in the One that God has sent. This is not the belief that is a property of the intellect, like the belief in one God who is three persons. Rather, it is a kind of fidelity to another as an essential part of how one lives their life. The crowd asks for a sign to know that what Jesus is saying is indeed accurate. Jesus uses their request to teach them that it was not Moses but God who gave their ancestors the bread in the desert. It is also God who gives bread that gives life to the world. They ask for this bread. Then Jesus reveals that it is he who is the bread of life. In the typical style of Jesus’ teaching in John’s gospel, Jesus has used misunderstanding to draw the crowd further into what it is Jesus is trying to teach them. There is no sense that Jesus is trying to teach them about the nature of his presence in the Eucharist here.
1. Have you ever had to seek out places that gave free food?
2. What is your experience of feeding the hungry of your community? What kind of reaction do you think you would get if you showed up the next day without food but instead wanted to hand out bibles and rosaries?
3. Jesus suggests that the crowd is looking for him only because they ate their fill of bread and fish the previous day. Have you ever experienced a situation where he could make that suggestion about you?
4. Do you believe that the Kingdom of God is God’s gift to the world, or that you have to work for it?
5. Is “belief” primarily a function of the mind? Are there also places and times when it is much more than that?
6. Can you recall a time when God used your ordinary human desires and longings to lead you to deeper insights into your deeper longings and desires, like those for self-integrity, for justice for the oppressed of the world, or for God?
7. How well are you able to pray when you are hungry, when you have some physical injury, or when you are concerned for the welfare of someone close to you?
Reflection questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel. To be added to the distribution list, send your name and email address to email@example.com
A Spanish translation of the reflection questions is made possible by Fernando Alessandrini.
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