Grace to you!
Last Sunday, we saw how the Lord Jesus fed thousands of people by the sea of Galilea (Jn 6:1-15). That miracle was a pointer to the Eucharist. Our reflection today follows from last Sunday’s, as it is its continuation (see Jn 24-35).
After the miracle of the feeding of five thousand, the Lord left the western shore of the sea of Galilea, also called the sea of Tiberias, and crossed over to the northern shore, to the city of Capernaum, a journey of about 6.3 miles. As the Lord continued the work of the Father, many who received the miracle followed him across the sea (Jn 6:24).
The seed of faith was already planted in their hearts. They had started to warm up to Christ. Their intention may not have been the right one, yet their desire was important for the first stage of faith life.
The Lord gradually and steadily leads people to himself as Lord and Savior. Often, faith life begins with material concerns and, by the grace of God, matures into deeper life in Christ.
Have you reflected on how your faith life or those of some of your friends or relatives began? It may have been due to simple acts of kindness shown by a believer. It could be because some of your social, emotional or physical needs were met. You came to the Lord and then, the Lord gradually takes over. Initially you were in charge. Gradually, if you are truly growing in the interior life, the Lord takes over and leads you to where he wants. Often, as he told the apostle Peter, he leads you to where you would rather not want to go. When this begins to happen, you’ve started living the life of Christ.
The story of the people searching for the Lord in the above referenced gospel could be our story also. Their followership of the Lord at this stage was based on social concerns. They were fed with bread. A great miracle. They were determined not to lose sight of Jesus, “the miracle worker” in their midst. He has to stay with them. They could crown him king (Jn 6:15). They could lobby the powers that be to make sure he stays in their city and not go elsewhere. He is an asset that has to be “owned” as their property. All for wrong reasons.
So, when they finally saw the Lord across the sea, they expressed their curiosity because they had been looking for him. He knew their hearts. As God, the Lord knows every heart. He sees us through and through. When we gather in worship, he knows why each and every worshipper has gathered.
The Lord sees those who follow him because they want to belong to the “club”—social identity. He knows those who come because they see the Church as a place they can find a suitor, a friend, or build social relationships. The Lord knows the heart of some worshippers who come to him because they believe that a member of the church has the connections to the job or opportunities they are looking for. The Lord knows those who come simply because it is the family tradition. He sees the heart of those who come because they are lonely and bored at home. The Lord equally knows those who worship him in spirit and truth; those who believe in him as Lord and Savior. The Lord knows every heart, including yours and mine.
He told the people who crossed the sea searching for him as he tells us: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal” (Jn 6:26-27).
These words are challenging as well as inspiring. The Lord is speaking to us about the need to purify our intentions every step of the way. He points to the need for faith in him as the food that endures to eternal life, which he alone is and can give. He gives this food in the Eucharist.
True faith is life in Christ. It is faith in the Risen Lord, not simply because our material, social, emotional or psychological needs are met, but because we belong to the LORD. We long for him not simply because of the works of his hands. Rather, it is because we are to live in him and he in us. We desire true life in him. Life in him is the ultimate desire.
This life the Lord gives is not our work. It is his work in our lives. He gives the life. We receive the life. He offers his body as food, the bread of life: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (Jn 6:35).
We receive the Lord, the bread of life and are transformed in his likeness, so our own lives could become a sacrifice for others. We become like him who we eat in the Eucharist. Again, this isn’t our work. It’s God’s work for us.
Sometimes, like the people who followed Jesus because he fed them, we believe that we can work our way to salvation. We believe we can have this life in God by our human efforts only or by our strategic planning. We kind of ask: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (Jn 6:28). We focus on the physical efforts to be made. We easily forget the inner demands of faith that have to inspire whatever we desire to do for the Lord. We forget that it is not action in faith, but faith in action. We tend to live as if salvation is our works bringing about our faith. We ignore the biblical model of our faith inspiring our actions.
Scripture tells us that the Lord replies that the work of God is to believe in him, Jesus Christ, whom God the Father has sent (Jn 6:29). When we believe in the Lord, our poor faith will grow into mature faith.
We will see in the coming week (next Sunday), how the deepening of this faith, its highest form of encounter, is in the Eucharist, the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
In the meantime, for your prayerful experience this week, you may want to ponder on why you believe in the Lord and how that faith is rooted, not simply in what the Lord will give to you, but in what you will become in God.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[18thSunday Year B: Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.