Jesus said to the crowd, “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. For 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, “Very 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.”
After the miraculous multiplication of the loaves, Jesus sent his disciples across the lake to Capernaum. As for himself, Jesus disappeared from the crowd because he knew they were thinking to proclaim king. But this kingship that they wanted was a worldly one and was not identical with Jesus wanted.
The crowd was persistent. When they could not find Jesus and his disciples, they started to search for them by setting out by boats to cross the lake. Eventually, they located Jesus in Capernaum and asked him why he had come there. In today’s gospel, Jesus told them very clearly that the free bread he had given them was their main reason for seeking him and not his teaching or his miracles as they should be understood.
Unlike the synoptic gospel writers, who related the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, instead, St. John gives a long discourse on the Eucharist that Jesus delivered to the crowd at Capernaum on the day after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.
It would be natural that the mind of more than 5000 people, who were fed at the multiplication of the loaves, recalled the bread from heaven which God had given to their ancestors in the desert at the time of the Exodus. However, on the next day, the crowd hoped for another free meal rather than looked for religious instruction from Jesus, despite that they knew and admitted he was the second Moses, the prophet from God as we learned at the gospel of last Sunday. We can see that their thoughts focused on worldly matters. They were not interested in things spiritual and the everlasting life.
Jesus told they how wrong their attitude to life was because they were concentrating all their thoughts and efforts o the things of this life. Instead of looking for the bread which brought real but transitory value, Jesus told them, they should look for the bread that bring them eternal life. He tried to tell them that he could give them this “food which endures” because God sent him on earth so that people would accept and believe him.
Having heard this, the crowd demanded further proofs because manna was given by God to their fathers. In reply, Jesus explained to them that the manna given to their fathers was not bread from heaven, it was earthly food that preserved earthly life. But, he went further, God was now giving the true bread from heaven – Christ himself. He had come down from heaven and was to give them eternal life, if only they would believe in him because acceptance of Christ as God’s intermediary with men was the first essential step on the road to eternal life.
In today’s gospel we hear of the lack of faith of those people who were fed by Jesus’ multiplication of loaves but still did not believe him being sent by God. We must bear in mind that it was only with the full revelation given by Christ that men learned of God’s wonderful plan for them. We should give our thanks to God for we have this full knowledge today. The questions that we should ask ourselves today are: Do we appreciate our good fortune? Do we live up to the teaching which we know is true? Do we ever allow our focus on worldly affairs and forget that this earth is not our home? Amen.