Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15; Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; John 6:24-35
At many points in our lives we all must face and deal with change, change that requires us to abandon the old familiar patterns in which we live and move into new and unfamiliar ways of living. We seem at times to want change and when it occurs we don’t like it, don’t want it. President Obama promised us change and we find ourselves now in the midst of changes, many of which a lot of people don’t like at all. The collapse of our banking institutions a few years ago has brought with it changes that are causing many of us a whole lot of stress. Obviously our former spending based on credit is undergoing enormous change giving us new patterns of spending and habits of saving money. Fear, loss, anxiety, worry abound within us and around us as we face the joblessness that many are experiencing.
In times of change our emotions must cope with fear of the unknown. The loss of our sense of security forces us to muster up the courage and strength to enter into what changes bring to us in the way we think, feel, and act. Fear plays upon us, causing us to resist change; and because change always brings loss with it, the loss of our former securities and patterns of living that we both want to change and don’t want to change. Deep within our hearts and souls insecurity conflicts with security in a war between each other. We experience an internal war between two states of being, passivity and change.
The readings we just now heard in today’s Mass are all about change. The Israelites were held in bondage under the Pharaohs of Egypt. Crying out to God for deliverance He sent them Moses who led by him out of Egypt and their slavery into the Sinai desert. In the first reading we find them now complaining about the very deliverance they wanted while they were slaves in Egypt.
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
When you stop and reflect on what transpired it is quite astonishing to hear them wanting to go back into slavery, especially when they had just experienced God’s tremendous care for them. Couldn’t they trust God to provide food for them? But because of the prayers, the trust, and the faith of Moses God sent them food in the form of manna bread from heaven. Later they complained about that also!
In today’s Second Reading we face change once again. St. Paul writing to the Ephesians calls them, and us with them, to change their ways from living as unbelievers live to living as Christ taught them:
“… you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
The biggest change of all comes to us in today’s Gospel account. It presents us with the central reason why you and I are Catholics, namely the Eucharist. Jesus declares:
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him,” What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” So Jesus said to them,” Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father 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.”
Jesus was asking His listeners to change their hearts and minds in order to see God in a new light. Instead of asking for bread for their stomachs as their ancestors did when Moses led them out of Egypt they should ask for the Bread of Life, the Bread Jesus was going to give them, His Body and Blood. Recall that Jesus had previously taught His followers to pray what we now call the Lord’s Prayer, that prayer in which we ask our Father in heaven to give us each day our daily bread.
When we ask God to give us our daily bread we need to pay attention to that for which we are praying, not bread for our bodies but for the food that nourishes our hearts and souls, the Bread that strengthens our spirits, the Bread with which we nourish each other’s hearts and souls with the presence of God living within us.
What is the core conversion, the biggest change of all that our Blessed Lord is seeking within us? Nothing less than to accept the God who wants to live within us. The God of the ancient Israelites was the God who lived above us in His remote and distant heaven, the God we obeyed through observance of His laws and commands. Christ, however, is the Son of God who comes from His Father in heaven to live within us. That’s the astounding point — a huge change! God wants to live and love within you and me, asking us to receive Him in His Body and Blood. He came seeking not only our obedience but desiring to be up close and personal with us, seeking to live within us. The infinite God who lives far above us comes to us now inside our finite humanity, in our time, on our earth. Astounding!
This was radical, to say the least. This was revolutionary, requiring a complete change in our hearts, requiring that we recognize our real hunger, our hunger for the Source of all love, a relationship deeper than simply giving God our observance of His laws.
This is the Bread come down from heaven, Jesus declared, not the manna that left your forefathers still hungry. My Father, Jesus declared, gives you now the true Bread come down from heaven, Bread that gives life to your world, Bread that fills your hearts and souls with the life and love of God Himself.
Change is another word for conversion, and conversion means adopting a new version in living, a new way in which we see others and treat others, a new way in which we relate to each other and relate to God.
There are those whom we know who are hungering for respect, longing for friendship, starving for love, and who live lives feeding on nothing but spiritual junk food. There are those who are seeking the God whose presence they have not yet experienced. Are we sharing our “Daily Bread” with them, the Bread of Life? Give us this day, O Lord, our daily bread, the love you give us each day, that we may share its substance in the spiritually starving world around us.
Give us your love, your life, and your Holy Spirit in this Bread from heaven, O Lord, that we are about to receive in order that we may bring your loving Presence into the world around us, a world that desperately needs you. Help us to reveal your kingdom, your love, to those who need you so very much. End our hunger and fill us with your very presence and love that we may bring you to others and others to you.