By Father Kavungal Davy, C.M.I.
LAST SUNDAY WE meditated on the feeding of a hundred people with 20 barley loaves and the miraculous feeding of 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. This weekend, we also read and meditate upon the same theme of bread. From the first reading we hear about God feeding the people of Israel. God provides for them food by sending manna from heaven. The Gospel passage explains about Jesus’ teaching on the Bread of Life.
Food, clothing and shelter are the basic needs of every human being. People will be uncomfortable if any of these needs is lacking. The Israelites experienced the miraculous power of God during their exodus journey. But when one of their basic needs was lacking, they grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
They said to them, “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!”
Food makes everyone happy. During family reunions, weddings or any other celebrations, delicious food makes everyone joyful. God sent manna and quail to make the Israelites happy. Moses reminded them, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.” It is a lesson for us even when we get free food that it is a gift from God.
The Gospel passage that we read today follows the multiplication of the bread. People who got free food miraculously went home excited. They could feel the prophetic power of Jesus. They went looking for Jesus. They probably were searching for one more free meal. This time Jesus decided to teach them little bit of the theology of bread. Jesus knew that their stomachs were full and they were ready to accept His preaching.
During my missionary apostolate in Kenya, East Africa, I read about the history of the evangelization in Africa. The Irish Holy Ghost missionaries went to Kenya to preach Christianity. The local people couldn’t welcome the white people. When they saw them coming to their villages on horseback, they ran away. They were afraid.
The missionaries offered beverages to the local elders to drink. Then they welcomed them. When they were satisfied, the missionaries started preaching about religion. Many were baptized and Christianity took root in Kenya.
Nourish Bodies, Then Minds
Food is a basic need for any human being. When people are hungry, better to feed them before we teach or preach. Jesus knew that the people, having had their physical needs met, were now able to accept the true bread from heaven. They were now free to hear and receive the Good News that Jesus had to offer them, the bread of life.
Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation of India, once said of the hungry people in India, “If Jesus comes today he will appear in the form of bread.”
How many times do we meet the basic needs for food, clothing or shelter? Our St. Vincent De Paul Society, soup kitchens and shelters take care of the basic needs of the people. It doesn’t end there. It is the responsibility of every volunteer to share the faith also with them. Mother Teresa’s lifestyle is a good example for us to follow. The institutions where social services are offered also become a prayer and powerhouse for the people who enter.
The living message of Pope Francis challenges us today to bring joy to the world by taking care of the sick and the poor and then imbue the faith in them. This is the secret recipe of real joy.
Social Worker and Evangelizer
Therefore, let us follow the examples of Moses and Jesus by being both a social worker and evangelizer. Moses reminded the people that the bread is given from the Lord. Jesus asked the people to look for the life-giving bread. That is why He revealed to them, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.”
As we go home after receiving the Holy Eucharist, the everlasting bread, let us be bread to the hungry. Let the prayer, ‘Our Father…,’ remind us that the bread given to us daily is from God.
Readings for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15
Psalm 78: 3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
Ephesians 4: 17, 20-24
John 6: 24-35
Father Davy, a member of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.), is the pastor of St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus parish, Greenpoint, and coordinator general of the CMIs in the U.S. and Canada.