Many of us have seen it on the evening news. Emaciated children and long lines of people waiting for food. Homes destroyed by earthquakes, tornadoes, or in the cases of Africa and the Middle East–by war. Presumably the greatest need at the moment is for food. Once that need is met, likely other reparations will follow.
In the biblical readings for the eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the primary focus seems to be on nourishing food. (Ex. 16:2-4, 16-18 and John 6:24-35) In the reading from he book of Exodus, the Israelites are crossing the desert fleeing Egypt.
They have already crossed the sea, but now are complaining about their lack of food. They tell Moses that at least in Egypt they had something to eat. The Lord hears their grumbling and sends them manna from heaven. So, the people have food to eat. Moses tells them, “…This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.” (Ex. 16:15)
In the Gospel reading (Jn. 6:24-35), many people are looking for Jesus, find him, and ask him why he seemed to be running away. Jesus is able to penetrate the actual motivation for this apparent concern when he replies to the people, “…You are looking for me not because you saw signs (of healing) but because of your fill of the loaves.” (Jn. 6:26) Obviously he was talking of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.
Then Jesus comes to his basic point of reference. “Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you…” (Jn. 6:27) No doubt this comment must have resulted in a few raised eyebrows.
What did Jesus mean? Basically, the context for the answer comes a few verses later in the chapter. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Jn. 6:35)
That is to say that people who are constantly accompanied by Jesus and believe in his person and ministry, will never be hungry nor thirsty. How does this happen? Well, when you are talking about “never” being thirsty nor hungry, in a spiritual sense, you are talking about some kind of super food. And what is this kind of super food?
Especially for us Christians, this kind of super food would be Scripture and the Eucharist since both are quite well known to be very nourishing.
In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), we find various references to the nourishing word of God. One of my favorites is from the book of Isaiah.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes our from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Is. 55:10-11)
That is to say that just as rain and snow is effective so is the word of God. It fulfills what it is supposed to do, namely, be as nourishing as the rain and snow. So, patient study and reflection of Scripture can be very nourishing.
And for the Eucharist? Receiving it makes Jesus more present to us than Baptism, because it is a separate Sacrament building upon Baptism which gives us a greater sense of openness to his presence and to the needs of others.
If nutritionists tell us that blueberries are a super food for the body, why can’t Scripture and the Eucharist be a super food for the soul? Who would not want to be nourished by this super food?