First Reading: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15 (113B)
Psalm: Psalm 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
Second Reading: Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
Gospel Reading: John 6:24-35
In the first reading today, we hear the selection of Exodus' account of the manna in the desert. This is very appropriate given the scriptural reference for today's Gospel. How soon into their desert journey does Israel forget the miraculous crossing of the sea (Exodus 14-15) and begin complaining - or "murmuring," as the scripture names it. First, it is about the lack of water (Exodus 15:22-27), and shortly after that, it is about bread and meat (today's text). How faithful and merciful is our God not only in putting up with their complaints, but in continually supplying their needs. The Jewish people were reminded that God is merciful and always delivers.
Psalm 78 is one of the Psalms that recounts Israel's history - of God's merciful promise to pour down manna from heaven. Manna is a sweet substance secreted by insects on a certain kind of tree, common in the desert areas of Sinai. For the hungry Israelite desert wanderers, it was bread from heaven! That is how they looked at manna.
In today's Gospel, Jesus entreats us not to work for bread that perishes, but rather to work for the bread that endures for eternal life. Of course, it is necessary an important for us to work well here on earth for our human needs; however, all out material goods are means to serve the higher good of our union with God. Today, Jesus teaches us that he is the true bread of life truly present in the Eucharist whom we encounter at every Mass. Jesus brings the people to a new level of understanding. There is a difference between food to nourish the body and spiritual food that nourishes the soul. The latter is what they should hunger for even more. This spiritual food that Jesus offers is the true bread from heaven, the bread that gives eternal life.
Today's readings also should raise us to a new level of awareness within a social justice perspective in the Church. In the first reading - the Jewish people are literally complaining, and are yearning for food - because they, in fact, are hungry. These readings are a perfect reminder to us of those who are yearning for bread and food in our world.
A recent article in The Washington Post, entitled, "US poverty on track to reach 46-year high; suburbs, underemployed workers, children hit hard," speaks of the official poverty rate climbing as high as 15.7% That would put poverty at the highest level since 1965. Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged and disgruntled workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out - which most of the time doesn't even cover the full household budget.
These are not just issues within the middle class - even as we watch the middle class diminish. Millions could fall through the cracks as government aid from unemployment insurance, Medicaid, welfare and food stamps diminishes. Poverty does not discriminate either - it crosses all boundaries of ethnicity and race, socio-economic levels, nieghborhoods, gender, religion and sexual orientation. Sadly, some of the hardest hit are children.
We don't have money for bread, but we have money for guns.
We don't have money for bread, but we have money for obsessive military spending.
We don't have money for bread, but we have money to pour into political candidates and their extravagant campaign races.
We don't have money for bread, but we have money to build a wall from making sure that "those people" don't cross the boarder.
May the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob not only deliver us with "manna" from heaven, but may we open our hearts to hear the call of justice - to the words of Jesus, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
O God, who, being both good and almighty, provides for all creatures, give us, we pray, an effective love for our brothers and sisters who suffer hunger, so that famine may be banished and that they may have strength to serve you with free and troubled. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
(Collect from the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, #33 -Ritual Mass- In Time of Famine or For Those Suffering Hunger)