How to celebrate the Fifty Days of Easter is a challenge. It seems impossible to celebrate in isolation from daily life. The disciples, filled with new life and energy, bring the joy of the Resurrection into their daily lives, using the opportunities of the moment to share their good news. Also, the Scriptures of the Easter Lectionary are the treasures that make our celebration rich.
All this week we read the 6th Chapter of John’s Gospel, the discourse on the bread from heaven that began with the multiplication of loaves and fishes. John’s outline follows the Jewish feasts: the Sabbath, Passover, Tabernacles and Dedication. Just having celebrated the Passover of Our Lord from death to life, and his completion of the work of the Father, we hear in John many connections to the Passover celebration, which becomes the background for this section of the Gospel.
We are reminded of God’s deliverance: the blood of the lamb place upon the door posts, the unleavened bread food for the journey. The traditions of the Israelites, the shepherds and nomadic groups along with the settled farm groups, blending together the rich symbols of God’s rescue and care during the time of the Exodus. John tells us when the bread was multiplied for the group they sat on the green grass, the place where a Good Shepherd pastures his flock. And the question of the apostles to Jesus, ‘where will we get food for this crowd?’, is the question of Moses to God as the grumbling of the people comes to him. John blends for us the traditions of Israel and now the emerging celebration of the community that follows Jesus.
We hear the question, "What must we do to be devoting ourselves to the works of God?" Jesus is doing the work of God. His work is to make the Father known. The law is not the way. To do the work of God then, we must now join ourselves to the work of the Son. While John alludes to the Passover he is bringing us also to the Eucharist. The crowd has had their fill of the perishable bread, but the Son of Man (a title associated with Jesus’ suffering) will give a food that endures to eternal life. Believing in the one whom God has sent will produce eternal life. [The Gospel of John, Francis J. Moloney, OSB, Sacra Pagina Series]
I went to Honduras several years ago and in my first few days celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart in a very poor area. The procession that consisted mostly of women and children ended in the little chapel where we celebrated Benediction and read from John 6. A teenager sitting next to me asked in a hushed voice, ‘what is Manna’? In John we meet the crowds, those who are asking, who are hungry, but who do not know the food that will satisfy them. Jesus wants to give them the bread of life. I struggled to answer the question about the Manna because of language. We all hunger, many search. Let us come to the Word these Easter days to be with Jesus, our nourishment. One with Jesus we can do the work of the Father to bring all to intimacy with Him, to satisfy the hunger of those seeking the Bread of Life.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery parish in Baltimore, Maryland.