Bulletin: August 1, 2021
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel is a sequel to last week’s account of Jesus feeding a large crowd with five barley loves and a few fish. Here, Jesus is challenging the crowd to see in the bread they have eaten a sign of God’s generosity in providing for all the blessings in their lives, as well as the blessing of life itself. The first reading, from Exodus, recounts how the escaped Hebrew slaves were fed in the wilderness, first with quail, then with manna. The psalm is a later reflection on the manna as the bread from heaven and a blessing from God. The selection from the letter to the Ephesians sketches the image of putting away the “old self” and putting on the new, emphasizing that a person’s life in Christ needs to differ from their previous life, just as the life of a free person differs from that of a slave.
SIGNS AND WONDERS?
Today’s Gospel continues into a second day the narrative that had begun the day before when, after crossing the lake to look for Jesus, a large crowd are fed with five barley loaves and two fish. The following day (today’s reading), after more lake crossings, the people who had been miraculously fed are again searching for Jesus. However, they do so (as Jesus puts it) “not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (John 6:6).
In John’s Gospel, the word “sign” has a distinct meaning. At the wedding at Cana, after telling how Jesus turned water into wine, the Evangelist notes “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs” that “revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him” (John 2:11). For John, signs are not just wonders to behold; they are about the revelation of God and a response of faith in Jesus.
OR MAYBE THE SIGN IS THE WONDER
When the crowd first arrives, Jesus notes that they had not appreciated the sign that he had already given; they are still focused on their physical hunger. When they ask for a sign, “that we may see and believe in you” (John 6:30), they refer to their ancestors who ate manna in the wilderness. Can Jesus top that? Can he give them more bread that will relieve them of their daily worries about going hungry?
Jesus reminds the crowd that it was not Moses who gave the “bread from heaven,” but his Father. Further, the Father can give them the true bread from heaven that comes down and gives life to the world. There is a parallel in the Greek between working for food that perishes and doing the works of God, which is believing in Jesus as the one God has sent. This is the sign that the people missed the day before, the sign that Jesus is pointing out to them.
Like the Evangelist, the Church uses the word “sign” for its sacraments. Like the crowd, we are called to see similar “signs” of God’s generosity in all the blessings of our lives.