"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, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal."
At one time I used to entertain myself with a fantasy: I would walk into a shop and offer an exorbitant amount of money for something they don't carry, something totally outside their line. It would be something I'm willing to pay any amount for just so I can have it although it is not, in fact, very expensive in its own department.
I wondered what would happen. Would the shopkeeper tell me to get lost? Would he look at me with utter incomprehension? Would he close the shop and go find the item if I offered enough?
It's a silly fantasy, and it's been a while since I played with it. And I've never had an exorbitant amount of money to spend, anyway. As Tevye sang, "If I were a rich man...."
But I think of that nonsense when I read Jesus' conversation with his pursuers there in Capernaum. He had fed them in the wilderness with fish and barley bread and so they wanted to make him king! As if he had the least interest in being their king! As if God had sent him to lead them in an assault on Rome.
My ministry is to Catholic Veterans in the VA hospital. I offer the sacraments of Anointing of the Sick, Eucharist and Penance. I have an endless supply of rosaries and brochures on how to say the rosary. I can offer personalized prayer and two defective but willing ears to listen to their stories, complaints, sorrows, hopes and dreams. I want to be the healing, welcome Presence of the Church for them.
Some of the Veterans don't have the slightest idea why I have appeared at their bedside. I've often heard that people are hungry for the Word of God. More often they want pablum. One fellow asks me about Noah's ark; another wants to know about the tarot deck. Some need assurance that their dogs will go to heaven too. They would say to God, "Love me, love my dog." Many people get their religion off The History Channel and think they know who I am and what I represent.
To know the Lord Jesus we have to ask the right questions; and yes, by the standards of Saint John's Gospel, there are stupid questions. We have to ask the questions that arise in our hungry hearts, not in the overstuffed, jaded brain that is sated with media entertainment.
The crowd asked Jesus in today's gospel, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" They are meeting the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior of the World; a window of opportunity has opened before them and they ask about irrelevancies! They're like children who are brought to the airport to meet the President of the United States but they ask only about his airplane.
In today's gospel Jesus warns them, "Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life." The food that perishes is useless information; the food that endures is the One on whom God the Father has set his seal.
The poet T.S. Eliot concluded his Ash Wednesday with the prayer,
Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden, Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still Even among these rocks, Our peace in His will And even among these rocks Sister, mother And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea, Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee