No Free Bread!
“Sir, give us this bread always.” John 6: 34
We continue the Bread of Life cycle of readings and today’s passages from Exodus and the Gospel of John illustrate our best and our most tragic potential.
Rather than rejoicing in their freedom from slavery and looking ahead to a brighter future, the people of Israel grumble and complain against God and Moses. There is no bright light at the end of the tunnel of this treacherous desert journey; they can only grumble about the wonderful menus of their slave days, forgetting the harshness of their lives under forced labour. They are ready to revolt and return to slavery in Egypt. God holds out the promise of life in a “land of milk and honey”, guides and protects them along the way, provides for all their needs and they refuse to grasp the promise and do the necessary work to realize that promise in their lives. There is no freedom without the journey, but they don’t want to make the journey.
So too, the people in Jesus’ day focus on the free lunch and hope that this “bread”, this free gift will continue. No more need to work for the bread they eat! What could be better? Their focus is on what Jesus can give them, not what Jesus is calling them to become. They are unable to see beyond the gift of physical food that they received and respond to the call to conversion, to receive the food that will nourish this new way of living.
The story of the feeding of the crowd and its subsequent events calls us to reflect on the gifts God gives us and how we are called to use those gifts if we truly want to live as disciples. Just as Jesus takes the humble gift of a few loaves and a couple of fish, transforming the generosity of the person who shared that small gift into something that is nourishing for so many, so are we called to do likewise. As we celebrate and receive the Eucharist we are given the gift of God’s care, love, compassion, mercy and to share those gifts generously in our daily living. This is our call, our vocation – to do what Jesus did when he fed the crowd with that small gift.
We pray that the Body of Christ in the Eucharist feeds the Body of Christ, the Church and that we in turn will feed the world in its hunger for the gifts of God.
By Richard Beaudette, OMI