Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
In our first reading from Exodus (16:2-4, 12-15), after the Israelites complain to Moses about the lack of food in the desert, God sends quail and also something that appears as "fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground." The people ask, "What is this?" because they do not know what it is. Moses tells them that it is "the bread that the Lord has given you to eat."
As we continue reading from the "Bread of Life" discourse in Chapter 6 of John for our Gospel reading (John 6:24-35), perhaps we can ask a question similar to the one posed by the Israelites: "Who is Jesus for us?" When the people listening to Jesus ask for a sign, they refer back to the time when their ancestors ate manna in the desert. But Jesus replies, "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. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
Jesus is the "true bread from heaven." Another question that the people pose to Jesus is, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"And Jesus says, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."
What does it mean to believe in the One God has sent? It means that we put our trust in Him to fill that spiritual hunger that we all feel. In our second reading from Ephesians (4:17, 20-24), St. Paul tells us that we should "put away the old self" of our former way of life, "corrupted through deceitful desires," and "put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth." It can be easy for us to be deceived by worldly desires. We can be fooled into thinking that wealth or power or selfish pleasure is what will fill our deepest needs. But anyone who has lived life for any amount of time realizes that even though we may feel good for a short time having a lot of money or using someone to satisfy our desires, that the feeling doesn’t last. Again, Jesus in our Gospel reading says, "Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."
Can we believe that Jesus will give us what we really need? Can we believe that we will be truly satisfied being fed by His grace and love? So often people will look anywhere else but to God to find the peace and serenity for which they are looking! Often our addictions convince us that they alone can give us comfort.
Don’t be deceived by what the wisdom of the world says is important! Don’t be deceived by what an addiction says is necessary for survival! Listen to Jesus, who is the "true bread!" Believe in Him, who says to us: "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.