First Reading Commentary
As mentioned in last week’s commentary, the First Reading and the Gospel are chosen because of their similar theme. It also gives us the opportunity to see the symbolism of the First Reading become the reality or fulfillment in the Gospel Reading. This weekend’s Readings are no exception.
In this, the First Reading, “the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron” because of their hunger. God satisfies their desire by raining “down bread from heaven.” We don’t even need to read today’s Gospel to know that the bread we receive at Mass is not only from God, but also is God.
The complaints of the Israelite community are very indicative of our human weakness, sinfulness and inability to understand the ways of God. How often do we complain and long for those things that have only a temporary satisfaction? In the case of food, that satisfaction lasts only a matter of hours.
Since the beginning of salvation history to this very day our Lord has listened to many complaints even though He has everything under control. Nevertheless, He has continued to love us and care for us beyond our understanding. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:25-26, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink. Is not life more than food? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” It would seem that Jesus wants us to long for the things which offer eternal satisfaction, such as the Bread of Life; while at the same time trusting in the Lord that the needs of this life will be met.
Second Reading Commentary
“I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do.” In Saint Paul’s day much of the struggle was with the Old Covenant versus the New Covenant; also, loyalty to God versus paganism. Today, the battle we face is somewhat different but the principles that Paul is teaching still apply.
Today’s struggle is more about trying to live a holy life in the midst of an onslaught of secularism. The temptations of this day and age can be overwhelming. We live in a world that suggests that abortion and euthanasia are okay and adultery is not that big of a deal because so many are committing it. Immorality has become an accepted way of life in our culture.
Saint Paul tells us in this Reading that the “truth is in Jesus.” That was true when Paul declared it and it is still true today. In baptism we were buried with Christ and raised up to a “new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” and no matter what society tries to convince us of, we must pursue and continually grow in the holy and never-changing ways of our Lord. Prayer is a great way to do this. The more time we spend with our Lord, the less time we have to be a target of secularism; or at least receive the heavenly wisdom to recognize immorality when it tempts. We should not only pray for our own growth in holiness, but also pray for the conversion of others; and like Saint Paul, be living examples of holiness.
“Rabbi, when did you get here?” The crowd is “looking for Jesus” not necessarily because they look at Him and see a Man of great holiness; it’s more because He is able to take care of their temporal needs such as hunger. But Jesus tells them to “not work for food that perishes but for the Food that endures for eternal life,” and Jesus is this Food. “For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” The crowd seems to interpret this statement from our Lord to mean that Jesus accomplished miracles in His Father’s Name, therefore the Father shows His approval of Jesus by granting Him these miracles; and perhaps wanting that same power, the crowd immediately asks, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the One He sent.” Probably not the answer they were looking for but it is the answer that comes from a loving God Who longs for their salvation.
“What sign can You do, that we may see and believe in You?” This is a puzzling question since they have already witnessed His miracles. It also seems that they are trying to put Jesus on the spot by comparing His merits with that of Moses. In their eyes, Jesus feeding 5,000 people doesn’t stack up to the 600,000 Israelites that “ate manna in the desert” for forty years. This begins Jesus’ discourse on the “Bread of Life.” Jesus is saying that the bread which came through the prayer of Moses is only a figure of Himself; and He is the “true Bread” which came “down from heaven” to give “life to the world.”
“Sir, give us this Bread always.” This statement from the crowd leads both Saint Augustine and Saint John Chrysostom to believe that it is at this point that the crowd believes that Jesus is God because they do not implore Jesus to ask His Father for this Bread, but instead they ask Jesus Himself for this Bread.