By Fr. Lawrence Lew OP
HOMILY for 18th Sunday per annum (B)
Exodus 16:2-4. 12-15; Ps 77; Eph 4:17. 20-24; John 6:24-35
Christ is the “Bread of Life” (Jn 6:35). And the image is so familiar to us that we barely give it further thought. But let’s pause and consider why the sign of bread? What are its implications?
Bread, of course, is the staple diet of Palestine and of so many other places. As such it is an obvious image of nourishment, life-giving, and even of familiarity and comfort. Hence, Christ our God is our life-giver, he sustains and nourishes us, and he comforts us. Moreover, in using something so ordinary and commonplace as bread, Christ points to the presence of God in the ordinary and prosaic of his creation. After all, as the psalmist says, ”the Lord’s is the earth and the fullness thereof” (Ps 24:1, cf 1 Cor 10:26), so the Lord is present in earth’s good things for the Creator holds all in being through his love.
But Christ is the Bread of life “who comes down from heaven” (Jn 6:38): a clear reference to the miraculous manna given to the people of Israel. Again manna, this ‘Wayfarer’s Bread’, is a sign of God’s sustenance. More specifically it’s a sign of divine Providence. For God gives his children this food in the desert. In the wilderness, he provides for them day after day and comforts them in their distress and complaint. So, too, when we find ourselves in the wilderness and life is burdensome, our God is good and provides for our need; he quenches the deepest thirst of the human heart. Thus Jesus calls us to go to him and to believe in him (cf Jn 6:35).