Reflection on the Gospel of the Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
Last Sunday we heard the Gospel of John narrating the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fish. The people then came seeking for Jesus to listen to him. Jesus recognizes their situation as hungry and tired, so he fed them till they were satisfied. The people are impressed and certainly recognize him as the Messiah (but a political one).
The people are now searching for Jesus yet again but this time they aren’t seeking Jesus the teacher but they are seeking Jesus the food provider. Jesus interprets their search for him (cf. v. 24) as no longer even motivated by the sign of the miracle (Signs in the Gospel of John always points towards Jesus being Divine) but because they enjoyed the bread he provided. He instructs them that they are to work not for the bread (cf. v. 26) that fills their bellies, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures. There is a form of nourishment that transcends earthly bread, and this must be the goal of the people’s searching; it is for this that they must work (v. 27a). The food that endures to eternal life will be given to them by the Son of Man (v. 27b). Jesus, the Son of Man, is the only revealer from God (3:13) to make God known (1:51). Jesus has the divine authority from heaven to give people access to eternal life with God through Him. It is a promise, it is a gift that will be given by Jesus – the bread of eternal life (His body that will be sacrificed). Just like Yahweh provided manna to the people of Israel, Jesus will provide us with the sustenance required for our spiritual as well as our material needs (Jesus had concern for the tired and hungry crowd). So, once you have Jesus everything else is taken care of by Him.
When Jesus asks them to seek eternal life, the crowd responds with ‘What must we do to be devoting ourselves to the works of God?’ (v. 28). It is a clear understanding of the people that doing the works of God was following the 613 Jewish Laws. It was their understanding that eternal life was a guarantee if these Laws were observed. The understanding of the people (working through the 614 Jewish Laws to gain access to eternal life) was contradictory to gift that Jesus offers (acknowledge the sacrifice of Jesus – receive grace through His broken body/bread and follow Him). This is the crux of it all, we can never earn eternal life by our merits. We will inherit eternal life by only receiving Jesus (bread of life /communion) who has the power to transform us, heal us, cleanse us making us Holy in the eyes of God.