Daily Reflection
August  3rd, 2003
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
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18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Psalm 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
John 6:24-35

So as to be more available to the graces contained in the Word of God in the Liturgy, imagine Jesus holding one of the baskets containing the fragments left over from the recent great feeding of the crowd.  Some of those who witnessed the event begin questioning him.  While they do so, Jesus is picking up pieces of bread casually and eating them with some delight, while the questioners grow increasingly frustrated.  Jesus seems to be enjoying the encounter as a great “teaching moment.”


We pray often the prayer Jesus taught us and ask that God give us “our daily bread.”  The prayer of today’s reading has to do also with “bread as “manna,” “bread as “Jesus,” “bread” as “a doing”- a work.

We can pray as we prepare to celebrate the Eucharist to receive the more of life which Jesus came to share with us.  We pray to be doing the “works of God’ which Jesus told us through John is believing in Jesus as the one who has been “sent.”  We pray to live out our belief rather than merely say, “o yes, I believe.”  Jesus came not as an idea to stimulate the mind, but that we might flesh his flesh and live out our own having been “sent” in, through, and with him.


Moses has been having a hard time of it since bringing his oppressed people out of Egypt in the Exodus.  They are very early in their forty-year journey of faith.  In the preceding chapter the people grumbled about their being thirsty and when they found water it was bitter.  Moses complained or prayed to God and so the water was made potable.  They pitched camp there, but had to move on towards the “wilderness” and so grew thirsty again and hungry.  This tension forms the context for our being introduced in the First Reading, to the Israelites’ complaining.

They do the whole “poor me” as a community.  Things were terrible back in the bad old days, but they did have “fleshpots” from which to gain nourishment!  They are disappointed in their leaders, but this time Moses does not have to make any requests.  God comes to their rescue, but with an instruction which they must follow.  God is teaching them ever so slowly to listen and obey for their own good.  This teacher-student relationship forms the context for much of the Hebrew Scriptures.  

We hear of the great event of God’s responding to grumbling and regret.  God rains down bread and meat.  Their journey is going to be a long one and with God’s continuing to be faithful, they will grow in their being faithful in response.

The Gospel follows John’s account of the multiplying of the five loaves and two fish which we heard last week.  The word spreads and though Jesus and his shipmates have sailed to the other side of the sea, those who had eaten their fill follow him.  This can sound wonderful; he is gaining new followers.  When they meet up with Jesus, he offers them their truth.  They were following, but not in the same sense, as he desired.  They came to see if he was handing out more bread or doing something else for their enjoyment.  They failed to see the bread asSign”, but merely as a crusty “thing.”

Then begins a long discussion centering around the double-meaning of “bread.”  The Jewish people have in their religious memory how Moses brought about the miracle of bread in the desert.  Here, they are talking to Jesus in terms of a continuation of bread being served for their eating. Jesus knows this and turns the word “bread” into a meaning for “himself.”  Jesus is not playing with the minds of the Jews, but leading them to a faith-leap in him, who like bread, gives life to those who eat.

“Eating” for Jesus means taking in the whole “loaf,” the entirety of him as the one “sent” and “sealed” by his Father who is at this very moment giving Jesus as “bread” for eternal life.  Believing is “eating” for Jesus, and “eating” means more than saying “Yes, I believe.”  It means living out the life which “The Bread of Life” came to give.  My young nephew, while sitting in the back seat of his mother’s car with a hamburger in one hand and fries on his lap, having just pulled out of McDonald’s, asked his mother, “Where are we going to eat after we eat next?”  I have a younger brother who is honestly, quite worried about there being “enough” food at his home or the home of those who invite him for dinner.  Our Jewish ancestors had their similar worries.  Will God be faithful?  Will we survive?  Will God get us out there and abandon us?  Will there really be “enough?”

“Our daily bread” contains many grains of nourishment.  It is about doing God’s will by receiving what God is giving us at any one moment and sometimes it can seem like crumbs, or crust, or quite stale.  We too ask God many times, about where we will eat after we eat next.  “Our daily bread” is God’s love, shared through the Eucharist, but eating more of the life of grace, the life of God’s love, after we eat the Eucharist next time.  That Holy Bread, containing in Him all “sweetness” is God’s pledge that we will not be abandoned or left to go our own way.

 Here is just one more friendly reminder.  This whole chapter and discussion about Jesus as “bread” is not specifically or even symbolically, about the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  Jesus is asking to be received or acknowledged as the “one” specifically “sent” to be the life of the world.  Merely consuming the Eucharistic presence as some kind of ticket to heaven is a terrible abuse of the gift of Jesus, the whole Jesus, to us.  He comes to nourish us even the next time after the next time and he is more than enough.

“You give us bread from heaven, Lord- a sweet-tasting bread that was very good to eat.”  


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