The crowd said to Jesus: “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6: 30-35)
So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, increase my faith. Help me to believe with an ardent, living faith.
Petition: That I might believe without asking for signs.
1. “What sign can you do?”
In yesterday’s meditation, we saw Jesus’ conversation in the synagogue of Capernaum get underway. The question is put to Jesus, “what sign can you do?” It would be legitimate to wonder what happened to the people’s short-term memory capacity. The reason they crossed over the Sea of Galilee in search of Jesus was because they had witnessed the multiplication of the loaves. But now they want something more, something more spectacular. They reminded Jesus of the manna in the desert. Perhaps they are trying to see if they can get a daily multiplication of bread, as their ancestors did the manna. They want to see if Jesus is up at least to the level of Moses. There is something of a taunt in this question. These are going to be tough people to satisfy! Am I like that, do I constantly need one more proof of the Lord’s providence in my life?
2. “It was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven”
Jesus tries to elevate the people’s thinking. He wants them to understand the “sign value” of every miracle that Israel ever experienced, lest they get stuck at the external level without going deeper. Failing to understand this can turn the person into a type of materialist who does not go beyond the visible realm to what really matters—communion with God, which certainly is not as tangible as having an all-you-can-eat loaves and fish session.
In the case of the manna, Moses simply points towards God. Do I get stuck in the externals or am I able to see God in all things? When I see a priest, for instance, do I think only of how his personality pleases or displeases me, or do I instead think of how God works through him for my salvation?
3. “I am the bread of life.”
Jesus’ speaking about bread from heaven gets the people excited. “Give us this bread always.” They sound very much like the Samaritan woman who would have loved for Jesus to given her a perpetual water supply. The Lord then speaks words that give us such hope, “I am the bread of life.” The miracle of the multiplication of loaves point to a bread that will satiate our hunger forever, Jesus himself in the Eucharist. We absolutely must relish this great gift of the Father, his Son who is with us forever. But we will only perceive Jesus if we have a vision of faith.
Dialogue with Christ: Lord, give me spiritual simplicity, so that I might always relish your presence in the Eucharist. Give me the faith to always go to you for my spiritual fulfillment. Help me not to seek any more sign than that of your love in the Eucharist!