This week we continue the Bread of Life Discourse from the Gospel of John. Last week we heard the story of multiplication of loaves. This week the people are looking for Jesus and he says to them, “…you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”
In her reflection on today’s scripture Patricia Sanchez points out that “signs” is a particularly Johannine name for miracles. Each sign was intended to reveal something of the person and purpose of Jesus and to challenge and encourage those who witnessed the signs to believe – or to deepen their faith.
In the sign of the multiplication of the barley loaves and dried fish, Jesus was revealed as bread from heaven. God sent him to nourish humankind with the bread of his teaching and the bread of his very self so that all might know God’s love and be saved. In order to grasp this truth, Jesus’ contemporaries had to look beyond the gift of mere bread to recognize its deep significance. Jesus was giving his very self to them. Jesus was aware that the people had come in search of him in order to satisfy their physical hungers. He was trying to whet their appetite for the true bread from heaven, who gives life to the world.
In the first reading from the Book of Exodus God hears the grumbling of the people in the desert and he sends them quail and manna. God was satisfying the people’s physical need and he was also revealing his power and compassion. To cultivate their faith and trust, God told the desert travelers to take only what they needed for the day and rely on God to provide for all their tomorrows.
It reminded me of a man who used to attend weekday masses on a pretty regular basis. He had two young nieces who had experienced some serious physical setbacks. Each time he was at the weekday mass he would offer a prayer for them, asking God to give them what they needed this day. Implied in his prayer was a trust that God would give them what they needed. Each time we pray the Our Father, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. It is a petition that focuses us on the present. It is a petition that challenges us to be grateful for what we receive each day, to be aware how God blesses us each day.
Tonight, before you go to bed, think about the ways God has blessed you this day. Take a moment to give God thanks and ask God to help you be open to the signs you will receive tomorrow. Remember that there are many people who did not receive what they needed this day. They are the ones who remind us that God works through us to provide daily bread for those in need.