18th Sunday of the Year (B) 2018
Those who heal people will always have a large following. We recently had a priest in this church, who has a gift for healing, our Church was packed. Jesus was a healer a miracle worker. We see in this Gospel a large number of people following him. They have seen the miracles he worked and especially the miracles of the loaves and fish. However, Jesus is no fool, he knows that their reasons are mixed. He tells them straight: “You are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you have had all the bread you wanted to eat”. We saw last week how he gave them as much bread as they wanted and more. He didn’t turn them away. He didn’t accuse them of hypocrisy. But now they have a full stomach he talks about that other level of hunger: the hunger for God and truth, something much deeper but much less obvious.
Jesus tells them: “Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you”. I’m not sure they understood what he was saying, but, they knew that you don’t get something for nothing. So they ask him; “What are we to do if we are to do the works that God wants”. They understood that they would have to do something. Jesus response must have confused them, because he doesn’t tell them to do anything, instead he asks them to believe in him; or, as he put it: “This is working for God: you must believe in the one He has sent”. That’s a very different concept from doing something, its seemed so easy, too easy, and it didn’t make sense to many of them; it wasn’t the way they had been brought up, which was your earn you bread, as they say in Yorkshire, “you get aught for naught”.
Jesus is offering them the gift of faith but so many can’t see this; they can see bread, and can and are willing to do something for this. But the idea that you can get something for nothing they don’t understand. But Jesus says yes, faith is free, you can’t earn it, or work for it, it is given, it’s a gift.
Is Jesus fighting a losing battle? No, not really, but it is clearly difficult for some to understand. Jesus is speaking on a different level. He is not so much concerned about bread that is consumed and then a few hours later one wants more, no, Jesus’ concern is about things eternal; things you can’t see, or feel, or smell. He wants them to hunger for the food that lasts forever. Indeed, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst”. Notice those two “nevers”: never be hungry, never thirst. Those who did understand him were blessed indeed. They still needed bread but now they understood that Jesus was talking about something much more important than bread; eternal bread; his own body.
Jesus isn’t asking them nor us to understand how exactly he becomes this bread. All he is asking them is to believe in him. In other words, if they believe him then he will help them to understand. It is a question of faith. Not doing things, but having faith in the son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us, in the form of bread. All we need say is, “Amen, I believe”.