10 Pentecost, August 2
Jesus has fed the crowds and then quickly escaped to Capernaum. But the crowds cannot get enough. They risk the lake journey, commanding all the available boats. The chance of a free meal was irresistible. They were becoming what some call rice Christians. The term originated on the mission field in Victorian times, when desperately undernourished people came to the missionaries to be fed and healed and many drifted away when their physical needs were not met. They judged the reality of Christianity by its practical effectiveness.
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” To this the crowd replies, “What shall we do?” Jesus replies, “Believe in me.” The crowd wants a sign, another practical miracle, probably more food.
|First reading and psalm: 2 Sam. 11:26-12:13a|
Alternate: Ex. 16:2-4,9-15 • Ps. 78:23-29
Eph. 4:1-16 • John 6:24-35
The crowds remind Jesus that when their ancestors wandered in the wilderness seeking to find the Promised Land, they were fed by manna, a fleshy plant that appears after rare rainfall in the desert. Basically they were testing Jesus. If you are who you say you are, feed us. Jesus reminds them that it was God who fed their ancestors. Jesus tells them that the Bread of Life comes down from heaven to give life to the world. “Sir, give us this bread always,” they reply. “I am the Bread of Life.”
In My Fair Lady an exasperated Eliza demands that her suitor stop talking about love and show her instead. She wants something tangible and practical. The crowds want a sign from Jesus. In effect they say, “How does this work?”
Outside the safety of our churches there are people, many people, who do not think that anything we believe, anything we do in church, really works. They are uninterested in some after-death experience. They battle with the enormous complexities of contemporary society in their daily lives and worries. They want something that “gives life to the world.”
At the heart and center of Christian faith is the conviction that the presence of Jesus among us, expressed powerfully in the sacrament of the altar, gives life to the world. God is preparing our communities for the coming of Jesus by acclimating us to his presence among us, a presence that is spiritual and material, that touches and transforms who we are in order to feed us. We are strengthened for service, and that strengthening gives us the serene capability to face real life and living.
We are gifted in order to give. A selfish faith is a hoarding faith. It ignores that we are community, a community set apart, called, given the vocation to demonstrate the presence of Jesus, who gives life to the world.
Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Look It Up
Read John 6:24-35 again.
Think About It
How do I show the people with whom I interact that Jesus is here to change the world?