So they said to Jesus,
"Sir, give us this bread always."
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
Today's gospel picks up immediately where yesterday's left off. The crowd had asked Jesus, "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.”
They seem at this point to be following Jesus. They ask about a sign to prove his authority as prophet and they make the connection with Moses and manna, the bread from heaven. He had just fed five thousand people in the wilderness with a few barley loaves and two fish. He is the promised, long-awaited prophet like Moses.
Jesus replies it was not Moses but "my Father" who gave them bread.
They respond reasonably, "Give us this bread always." The woman of Samaria had made a similar request at Jacob's cistern.
The last verse of today's gospel summarizes his promises, "Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." And we have arrived back where we started, "Believe in the one he sent."
As I try to follow events in the news with a particular interest in religious ideas, opinions and expressions I watch for signs of the Holy Trinity. Does the author, purportedly Christian, know the kenosis of Jesus? Does this writer appreciate the humility of the God whom Jesus loves, worships and reveals? Jesus, as we learned in the fifth chapter of John, does nothing which he has not seen in the Father.
The gospels describe Jesus as moving with extraordinary freedom. He eluded capture by enemies and admirers. Some crowds wanted to stone him, or hurl him off a cliff; soldiers came to arrest him and were awed and enervated by his authority. He sometimes avoided capture by moving to another territory, or he simply walked through their midst and went away. Who would not want such liberty? That ability to go where one pleases is fascinating and charming. Disciples and wannabe disciples hoped it might rub off on them.
The Samaritan woman, the crowd in Capernaum, and the sons of Zebedee did not know what they were asking when they made their requests. They wanted something of Jesus but they did not want what he could give them, a share in his life. They wanted ease, comfort and security; he offered a life of service to others.
Jesus' freedom is precisely his intense obedience to the Father. He does what he wants to do because he wants only what the Father wants. And the Father, since the time of Abraham, has humbly bent down to feed his people.
If we are to pull out of the vortex of suicide and drug addiction that began with abortion and sexual license it will begin with the return to sacrifice, service, generosity and a trust that goes the extra mile. Those who want to climb out of this fatal whirlpool by dint of power and privilege must destroy everyone else. Their hope is no hope for they offer no hope to others.
Saint Mark tells us Jesus gently chided James and John for their ambition, even as he encouraged them, "You will drink of the cup I drink." And then he taught them,
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
That is what I watch for in the Christian writer, that contempt for power and preference for service.