We are in the 18th Sunday in Ordinary time currently and the Church wants us to focus our attention on Jesus as the “true bread” that comes from heaven. Last weekend was the feeding of the 5 thousand people with the loaves and the fishes and next weekend is the Jewish hierarchy complaining to Jesus about calling Himself the “bread from heaven”.
In the first reading today, we hear of the “grumbling” of the Israelite people against Moses in the desert. The people have witnessed the plagues in Egypt, the Passover, the crossing of the Red Sea, and are now wandering in the desert for 40 years. They have witnessed tremendous miracles for their sake and clear signs not only of God’s existence but also of His great love for them. He favors them. He cares for them. Yet, they still complain and even want to go back to slavery. So God sends manna to them and they calm down…..for a second. Eventually they get tired of just eating manna and then God sends quail. And then they complain again and on and on we go.
The people who have just witnessed the miracle of Jesus in our Gospel also complain to Jesus right after seeing Him perform the miracle. How patient our Lord is. My response would have been something along the lines of “Are ya kidding me?” But our Lord knows the people He created and loves and cares for and knows that they need constant reassurance. They ask Him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” And we get a huge gift from Jesus as He tells them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” They answer Him, “Give us this bread always.”
How many times do we witness the great power and love of God in our lives and then grumble against Him in the next second. “Lord, thank you for what you have done for me but why aren’t you answering this prayer”. “Lord, why don’t you show yourself more to me and show me your peace.” Or better yet, “Lord, why don’t you show yourself to this family member who doesn’t practice their faith anymore? Do you not want them to be a part of your Church?” Our grumblings with the Lord are very similar to that of the Israelite people in the desert. But unlike the Israelite people, we will not want to go back to the slavery of sin, rather, we want to be fed with the bread from heaven. The reception of the Eucharist is the bread from heaven that fills our souls with the sacrificial love of the Son and allows us to participate in the divine love of the Father and the Son. This participation allows us, if we let it, to know the love of God and be able to focus our attention on Him who is most important. When we permit our souls to be fed with this bread, we humbly can go to Him and tell Him, ‘to whom else shall we go?’
When we make Mass and the Eucharist a priority in our lives, the joy of being fed from Him will permeate through our entire lives. When we become living tabernacles to the people around us, the joy that comes from being fed shines forth like a lamp set on a lamp stand. Or a city set on a hill. We do not need to grumble against him because we are full. Full of the love of God. Indeed, we ask God to “Give us this bread always”.
May the Lord give you His peace,