Gospel Reading for the Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
It’s tempting for us to think of God as some kind of sugar daddy who might grant us all our materialistic wishes if we just ask nicely enough. Too often we are in danger of praying for a long list of things that we are convinced will make us happy. That money doesn’t bring happiness is just a tired old cliché, we remain firmly convinced that a bigger house, a better car and a foreign holiday will make us content. Yet even if God could be persuaded to answer this sort of prayer we would probably still ask for more. It seems a sad truth that we are always striving for something beyond our reach. Enough it seems is never enough. We only have to look at the lives of the rich and famous, in some cases very tragic lives, to know that material pursuits don’t bring happiness. However hard we strive, if material pursuits are our only goal, there will always be a void in our lives. Jesus tells us that only God can fill this void. “Do not work for food that perishes,” he tells the Galileans, “but for the food that endures for eternal life.”
In today’s gospel reading we hear how the crowd followed Jesus because they were impressed that he had fed five thousand with only five loaves and two fishes. They followed him because they wanted more. But Jesus knew that they had missed the point. “You are looking for me not because you saw signs,” he says, “but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” The true bread, he tells them, is the bread of God, which comes down from heaven and gives life to the word. Then Jesus takes the crowd one step further, he tells them that to share in the bread of eternal life they must believe in the one that God sent.
This must have been hard for the Galileans to take in, but in retrospect easier for us. We look around at those who live by Jesus’ teaching, and observe that these people seem content with their lives.…happy even. In what ways are the rest of us working for the food that endures for eternal life?