They were looking for him, not because of their faith and love for him but because he fed them. (We might pause right here for a while to reflect on our own motivation in following Jesus, in coming to mass, in joining church activities, etc.)
For five consecutive Sundays, we will be reading almost in its entirety chapter 6 of the Gospel of John which deals with the holy Eucharist. (This insertion of John 6 is done because Mark’s gospel is too short to cover all the Sundays of Year B). Last Sunday, we heard the account of the feeding of five thousand men with only five barley loaves and two dry fish. Today’s gospel tells us how Jesus, after feeding the crowd, masterfully led the people from seeking material bread to the bread of life. Let’s do a little text analysis.
The people began by asking Jesus, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Perhaps they were surprised to see that he had left them so soon after feeding them. Jesus ignored their question-a mere curiosity-and went straight into the heart of the matter: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” Right off, Jesus tells them to their face that their motivation in following him was tainted with selfishness. They were looking for him, not because of their faith and love for him but because he fed them. (We might pause right here for a while to reflect on our own motivation in following Jesus, in coming to mass, in joining church activities, etc.)
Then comes an invitation: “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life.” This is the turning point in the gospel story. Jesus begins to speak of another kind of food, one that does not grow stale but rather endures for ever-for eternal life. This means that there must be another kind of hunger which only that bread can satisfy. At once, that deeper hunger begins to surface in the people’s mind as they ask: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” How quickly has Jesus changed the people’s outlook!
Now that he has brought the people’s attention away from material
food unto the things of God, Jesus goes on to impart his intended instruction on “the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” It doesn’t take long for him to convince the crowd. At once the people express their newly-felt hunger for the newlyfound bread: “SIR, GIVE US THIS BREAD ALWAYS.” What a wonderful catechist Jesus was. Step by step, he prepared the people to listen to his most startling revelation: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”From a simple hi-hello to the discovery of the life-giving bread.
Unfortunately, the gospel story does not end on this happy note. Succeeding events will show that the people’s interest in and hunger for the living bread were more apparent than real, as we will see in the forthcoming Sundays. For the moment, however, let us reflect on today’s gospel passage.
There is no denying that physical hunger is a serious problem in the world, aggravated by the current global economic crisis and by the relentless increase of the price of prime commodities. Attached to this reflection is a chart showing some figures on the extent of the problem of hunger in the world. Keeping a printed copy of that chart posted near our dining table might easily arouse in us a sense of gratitude to the Lord for the food set before us-of which millions of people are deprived. As followers of Christ we must do our very best to alleviate, if not to overcome, this problem.
At the same time we must realize that there are deeper and more important kinds of hunger being felt by the people, such as hunger for justice, for peace, for freedom, for equality, for respect and for acceptance. And, yes, hunger for God. These forms of hunger, perhaps more subtle but in no way less real, must be addressed too. We who feed regularly on the living bread of Christ’s body must commit ourselves to become bearers of life and hope to others.
The world hunger problem:
Facts, figures and statistics
• In the Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank has called “absolute poverty”
• Every year 15 million children die of hunger For the price of one missile, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for 5 years
• The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is wellfed, one-third is under-fed one-third is starving- Since you’ve entered this site at least 200 people have died of starvation. Over 4 million will die this year.
• One in twelve people worldwide is malnourished, including 160 million children under the age of 5. United Nations Food and agriculture
• The Indian subcontinent has nearly half the world’s hungry people. Africa and the rest of Asia together have approximately 40%, and the remaining hungry people are found in Latin America and other parts of the world. Hunger in Global Economy
• Nearly one in four people, 1.3 billion – a majority of humanity – live on less than $1 per day, while the world’s 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world’s people.
• 3 billion people in the world today struggle to survive on US$2/day.
In the U.S. hunger and race are related. In 1991 46% of African-American children were chronically hungry, and 40% of Latino children were chronically hungry compared to 16% of white children.
• The infant mortality rate is closely linked to inadequate nutrition among pregnant women. The U.S. ranks 23rd among industrial nations in infant mortality. African-American infants die at nearly twice the rate of white infants.
• One out of every eight children under the age of twelve in the U.S. goes to bed hungry every night.
• Half of all children under five years of age in South Asia and one third of those in sub-Saharan Africa are malnourished.
• In 1997 alone, the lives of at least 300,000 young children were saved by vitamin A supplementation programmes in developing countries.
• Malnutrition is implicated in more than half of all child deaths worldwide – a proportion unmatched by any infectious disease since the Black Death
• About 183 million children weigh less than they should for their age
• To satisfy the world’s sanitation and food requirements would cost only US$13 billion- what the people of the United States and the European Union spend on perfume each year.
• The assets of the world’s three richest men are more than the combined GNP of all the least developed countries on the planet.
• Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger
• It is estimated that some 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition, about 100 times as many as those who actually die from it each year.
as published on August 5, 2012 Parish Bulletin