The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
Then the Lord said to Moses, "I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.
"I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.'
In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.
What we have heard and know,
and what our fathers have declared to us,
we will declare to the generation to come
the glorious deeds of the Lord and his strength
and the wonders that he wrought. (R./)
He commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven;
he rained manna upon them for food
and gave them heavenly bread. (R./)
Man ate the bread of angels,
food he sent them in abundance.
And he brought them to his holy land,
to the mountains his right hand had won. (R./)
This I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way, life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?"
Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. or it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
Then Jesus said to them, "Truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
The classic satire Don Quixote (Cervantes) tells how the absurd, chivalrous Quixote sets out to perform deeds of heroism to win the admiration of Spanish ladies. Quixote was so open to adventure that he decided to go wherever his horse Rosinante would lead him. But when the horse is given free rein, it naturally returned to the place it knew best, its own stable. We might find ourselves going the same way, doing the same thing, returning to the same haunts again and again, drifting aimlessly, telling the same set of stories we've told for years . . . or perhaps itching to try out some new fad or sensation, or letting ourselves be lured by the latest fashion or style.
St Paul holds that aimless living will lead us exactly nowhere. He urges his Christians, "not to go on living the aimless kind of life that pagans live." As he sees it, the lack of moral direction in paganism has led to faults and moral indecency of every kind, even to total spiritual collapse. The alternative he proposes is that we should "grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is joined together" (4:15f). On the other hand, if we are engrossed with trivia and pleasure-seeking, our understanding gets darkened, and our hearts become insensitive to real values. Falling away from noble ideals can be gradual and barely noticeable, for nobody becomes decadent all at once. When first we realise that we are developing bad habits, we may feel some mild regret about it. But if we continue to ignore conscience and go our merry way, the unused conscience falls asleep, and we can sin without any feeling of guilt, hardly capable of knowing right from wrong.
The people gathered around Jesus along the lakeshore focused their attention only on the physical miracle he had worked. They were so impressed by whatever he did to multiply the loaves and fishes that they wanted to make him their king. They were blind to the meaning of the miracle and the spiritual message Jesus wanted to teach through it. "Do not work for food that cannot last," he warned, "but for food that lasts to eternal life." What about ourselves? Are we are willing to follow Jesus, but only on our own terms? Are we like the fickle crowd who just as quickly turned away from him. We must stay close to Christ to learn from him, on his terms rather than our own. Then he becomes the bread from heaven by which we are nourished in God's love, and shaped for eternity. Unlike those who abandoned him when miracles seemed to cease, we need to persevere and stay near to him.
It appears that many things produced today are not made to last. Take our modern buildings for example. In Dublin we live in a city with some beautiful buildings that are centuries old. The old house of Parliament, now the Bank of Ireland, in College Green comes to mind; it is almost three hundred years old now. I wonder how many of the building that have gone up in recent years in the city will still be there in three hundred years time. Much of what we buy on the domestic level, like furniture for our homes, does not seem to last very long either. The clothes that we wear have a shorter life span compared to a generation or two ago. We live in a throwaway culture, even if some of what made today will last into the future. There are probably some books of our own time will have an enduring value too. Some movies and plays that are presently being made will be watched and enjoyed for generations to come. We always retain the capacity to create something of enduring value, that has the capacity to engage people not just in the present but into the future. They last because their value is great.
On our journey through life we tend to seek out what might be of lasting value because we sense that it can enrich us and make us better human beings. Having found something of real value we often return to it, whether it is a book, a poem, a piece of music, a painting or a building. We know from our own experience that what we really value are not so much objects or things but people. A good friend is worth so much more to us than a good book, or a good piece of music, or a good painting. There is nothing more valuable to parents than their children. For those who are in love, their treasure is the beloved. Everything else is on a much lesser scale of value. We want the people we value to last forever, which is why the death or the loss of a loved one is such a devastating experience.
In today's gospel the crowds of people whom Jesus fed in the wilderness come back, looking for him, wanting more of this bread he had provided. Jesus takes the opportunity to point them towards more enduring. His advice is, 'do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life.' The horizon of Jesus is not the mere horizon of this world but that of eternity. When he speaks of what truly lasts he means what it is that lasts into eternity. For Jesus what is of lasting value is not just what is remembered for generations into the future, but what will continue to have value in eternity. It is hard to keep that horizon of eternity before us, especially in these times when our universe seems so all absorbing. Yet the horizon of Jesus is the horizon of eternity. Certainly he takes this earthly life very seriously; he has invested himself in showing us how to live in this life, by his teaching, his way, relating to others. He gave himself over to meeting the basic needs of those he met. He healed the sick; he comforted the bereaved; the fed the hungry; he befriended the lonely. He told us to do the same and declared that what we do for others we do for him. Yet, all the time the backdrop was an eternal horizon. In living in this way, we are preparing ourselves to live forever. Those who live by the values of the kingdom of God will inherit the kingdom of God.
When Jesus called himself the way, he meant the way to live under God's influence; he shows us how to live this present life as the way to eternal life. His message is about what endures not just into successive generations but what into eternity. Since human beings were created by God to live forever, Jesus came to show us how to gain that eternal life and to help us on our way to it. In a great metaphor, he speaks of himself as the bread of life who nourishes us into eternity. If we stay with him our deepest hungers and thirsts will be satisfied in this life and more fully in the next. When we wonder about what endures, we should think first of Jesus. He is the gateway to enduring life, for ourselves and for all we love and value.
Na daoine a bhailíodh timpeall ar Íosa ar imeall an locha níor cuireadar suim in aon rud ach ach sa mhíorúilt a tharla os comhair a súl. Bhí siad chomh sásta leis an méid a rinne sé leis na bollóga agus na h'éisg gur theastaigh uathu rí a dhéanamh de. Bhí siad dall ar bhrí na miorúilte agus an ceacht spioradálta a bhí Íosa ag iarraidh a mhúineadh dóibh. "Ná bí ag saothrú ar son bia nach maireann,", "ach le lorgaígí an lón síorraí" Cad mar gheall orainn féin? An bhfuil muid sásta Íosa a leanúint, ach amháin ar ár dtéarmaí féin amháin? An bhfuilimíd cosúil leis an slua guagach a d'éirigh agus a d'imigh leo abhaile. Ní mór dúinn fanacht i n'gar do Chríost le foghlaim uaidh, cluas le héisteacht a dá bhfuil á rá aige seachas aird a thabhairt ar ár dtuairmí féin. Ansan i sea a thagann an lón síorraí a chothaíonn grá Dé, agus a leagann múnla síorraí orainn. Ní mór dúinn fanacht dílis dó nuaur a thagann trá ar na míorúiltí, murab ionann agus iad siúd a thréig é.