by Father Mike Stubbs
Politicians can be very adept at not giving a direct answer to a question. Instead, they will often use the answer as a vehicle to communicate what matters to them, not necessarily what matters to the listener.
We see a good example of that in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jn 6:24-35.
The crowd asks Jesus for the time of his arrival: “Rabbi, when did you get here?” They have been looking for him.
But Jesus’ answer does not address that issue. Instead, he points the crowd to another direction, to what they should be seeking: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.”
Jesus wishes to raise their attention from the mundane matter of the time of his arrival to the far more important matter of their eternal salvation. He wishes to elevate their outlook.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus is constantly encouraging the crowd to look up to the things of heaven, rather than the things of earth.
That is why the symbol for St. John the Evangelist is the eagle, the bird which can soar up to the heavens. Sunday’s reading is the perfect example of that.
The bread in Jesus’ day did not contain preservatives. It would turn stale within a day. It was very perishable. In contrast to that, Jesus offers the crowd food “that endures for eternal life.”
Of course, Jesus does not mean physical food, but spiritual food. That is the food that will keep forever. Not only will it last forever, it will enable us to last forever.
Jesus Christ himself is that food: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
We identify the Eucharist as the bread of life, the food which is Jesus Christ.
In the next few Sundays, the Gospel readings delve into the meaning of this sacrament. Here, though, notice that Jesus does not mention the action of eating and drinking.
Instead, he talks about coming to him and believing in him. In other words, the physical action of eating and drinking the Eucharist is not enough. It needs to be accompanied by our belief in Christ and our desire to come to him.
Then, we have the food that endures for eternal life.