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18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Aug.

2, 2015
(Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15; Ephesians 4:17,20-24; John 6:24-35)
Grumbling about food (or the lack of it) is about as common a
human trait as they come. In the case of Israels grumbling about the
lack of food in the Exodus reading, it was as much about their
wavering faith in the Lord as it was about their stomachs. The Lord
takes up the challenge, promising meat in the evening and bread in the
morning. When they discovered the bread-like substance in the
morning they asked Man hu in Hebrew, which means Whats this
which became a popular etymology for the stuff that came to be called
manna. In Hebrew, properly speaking it is called simply man.
The people begin to pine away for the days in Egypt when they
were slaves, because at least there they had something to eat. Its a
lesson in looking back, where we tend to forget what it was really like
way back when. In this case, because the Lord has led them out of
slavery in the first place, the Lord also accepts the equally important
task of providing for them in the wilderness. As it turns out the Lord
provides for them abundantly with even more than they had hoped, but
the Lord expects them to follow my instructions. The entire Exodus
journey is one of discovery: the Hebrews discover how the Lord
continually provides for them and protects them; the Lord discovers
how constantly the people will wander from the Lords instructions for
they are a stiff-necked people, and hard to please.
We are now in the midst of the Gospel of Johns lengthy Bread
of life discourse in chapter 6. It is unique among the Gospels. It
follows the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus later stroll upon the Sea of
Galilee (although John calls it Tiberias). The crowd is surprised to find
Jesus already in Capernaum, because they saw that he did not leave
with his disciples from the place of the feeding.
Jesus ignores their question about when he arrived there in order
to redirect the conversation. He says they are looking for him not
because they saw signs but because they ate the loaves and were

filled. This reference redirects their attention to what had happened at

the feeding, which was more important, than how he got there. He
could hardly say I walked across the sea to get here, which remained
a private experience of the disciples in the boat.
The people then ask What can we do to accomplish the works of
God? Jesus answers: believe in the one (God) sent. They
respond What sign can you do that we may see and believe in you?
They point out that their ancestors had bread to eat in the desert (see
the first reading), so they ask What can you do? Again Jesus
answers a claim they had not made: It was not Moses who gave the
bread from heaven: my Father gives you the true bread from heaven
which gives life to the world. They conclude: Sir, give us this bread
always. Jesus says: I am the bread of life.
This is typical Johannine style, using questions which ultimately
lead where John wants them to go, in a roundabout way. Here then
Jesus begins by referring to the loaves which filled them. He
concludes by claiming to be the bread of life; whoever comes to me
will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. John
intended to lead us there all along, and all the questions are like arrows
pointing back to Jesus. That is as it should be.
Fr. Lawrence Hummer hummerl@stmarychillicothe.com