It goes without saying that we need food and water in order to live. It’s essential for survival. Hunger and thirst are so basic that we even share these with animals. Satisfying hunger and quenching thirst are natural desires and drives. And in the world we live in there’s no lack of food, beverage, and restaurant businesses who want to help us try to meet those needs.
The thing is, though, we hear in our 1st Reading from Exodus that the whole Israelite community—God’s chosen people/the people of the Covenant, whom He had just led across the Red Sea after the Passover of the Lord—would rather go back into slavery in Egypt, because at least there they felt assured of something to eat. Their need for food was certainly real, but it made them forget what God was doing: leading them to freedom in the Promised Land. The real problem wasn’t their wanting food, or even lodging a complaint, but their rejection of God when their faith was tested. But God, in His unending mercy and loving care for His people, still provides for their needs; He satisfies their hunger “so that you may know that I, the Lord, am your God.”
Later on, the book of Deuteronomy explains, “He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” [Deut. 8:3] (Jesus would quote this during His temptation in the desert.) [Matt. 4:4]
In our Gospel passage today, Jesus says, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life…For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” God, in His unending mercy and loving care for His people, provides for their needs; He satisfies their hunger “so that you may know that I, the Lord, am your God.” The most spectacular way He does this is through the gift of His Son—the Word Made Flesh, the living Bread of Life.
In particular, the gift of Christ comes to us in the Mass. Even our being here is a gift of God’s grace. We maybe think that coming to Mass and being part of the Church is just something that WE do. But in the end it is God who calls us and gathers us and forms us together. That’s actually a part of what makes the Church different from any other gathering of people. Brought together by God, we worship God; we are fed by the Word of the Lord in the Scriptures; and in the form of simple bread and wine, the Lord feeds us with the Body and Blood of Christ—broken and shed for us on the Cross—bringing a “new and eternal covenant,” so that we may be led from the slavery of sin and death to the freedom of new and eternal life with God.
Yes, we all need food in order to live, but Jesus is the real source of our survival and growth. Even the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fish that we read about last week only fed the people temporarily. What truly gives life is sharing in the life of Christ. In this, our thirst for love and meaning and peace is quenched; our hunger for life and faith and God is satisfied. In this we are renewed, “created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” And without a renewed people, we cannot have a renewed world.
The road of life certainly has its difficulties, and the journey of faith can be challenging too. But can we trust that the Lord is looking to guide us? Can we trust that the Lord is looking to fill us and sustain us? He has brought us here, He is with us, and He sends us forth. “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
©2017 St. Peters Catholic Church Huron Ohio.
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