The central idea that links the first reading and the gospel is the food that God provides for his people. In the desert Israel received manna, a food which could give strength to a perishable body. Now, God feeds his people with the bread of life, with his Word, Jesus Christ our savior.
The second reading shows the kind of transformation this bread can work. Those who assimilate it will become new people. The first reading begins with the grumbling of the people who after their first enthusiasm for their new freedom, feel a sentimental yearning for Egypt. Isn’t this the experience of us all? As soon as the initial hoy for the new life we received in baptism passes, don’t we feel a sort of yearning for our old life? The gift of manna on the one hand is a help to his people; on the other it is a test, a stimulus to help us grow in our faith. The test consists in this: the people of Israel were not to gather food for the following day, they must be satisfied their daily bread, they must show that they trust the provident love of their God.
In the second reading St. Paul says, Christians are often tempted to go back to the old ways that they gave up on their baptism. They should never forget that they are new creatures. Paul uses the image of old man and the new. It is a very effective comparison: the old man represents the life of sin, the misery of one seduced by passions. The new man is a new creature born in the water of baptism and completely transformed. Aren’t we tempted, at times to put ‘the old man together with the new?’ Can we who have agreed to live according to Christ compromise with the vices of pagans?
In the gospel, Jesus read the mind of the people following him. He performed the miracle of multiplication of bread and fish out of necessity. However, like the Israelites, his followers become obsessed with food. They were carried away by physical hunger. They came to search for their daily bread but, failed to recognize that Christ was the bread of life.
One important lesson for us today is that when we pay too much attention to material things, we forfeit the spiritual meaning of life. So, our relationship with God and, indeed with others must not be based solely on how much material things we are able to get from them. Unfortunately, at times we act like the Israelites by murmuring against God. Imagine them preferring food and slavery to freedom. Like Esau, they were ready to sale their birth right for a plate of porridge (Gen 25:29-34). For some of us, “God is good” only when things are okay. However, when we are faced with difficulties, we forget all his goodness.
Finally, the gospel and the church teach us that Christ is the bread of life. He is present in the Holy Eucharist. Each time we celebrate Him, we celebrate and receive life. He strengthened the Israelites in the desert when: “He gave them bread from heaven.” Hence, to strengthen us for our spiritual journey on earth, Christ offers us himself at every Mass. We are indeed blessed as we pray at every Mass: “Blessed are those called to the Lord’s supper.”BACK TO LIST