COMMENTARYAGAPE BIBLE STUDYPRACTICAL APPLICATIONCATENA AUREALECTORS

18th Sunday of Year B

FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY (15:02) – 2003 podcast from Bishop Robert Barron on John 6:1-15
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR

Key Points to the Readings

FIRST READING

Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15

The Lord provides what we need

  • The people speak of death twice in this passage, which reflects anxiety due to hunger.
  • When God provides manna and quail, they ask, “What is this?”
  • This all occurred one month after leaving Egypt.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

 

SECOND READING

Ephesians 4:17, 20-24

Be renewed in the spirit of your mind; put away your old self

  • The young Church is persuading the people to put away the ways of the world, possibly numerous gods and immorality—much as it is in any society at any time.
  • The passage moves back and forth between denunciation and urging.
  • The central point is that a radical change is needed.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

GOSPEL

John 6:24-35

Do not work for food that perishes; work for food that endures for eternal life

  • Jesus appears to be aware that the people are shallow in their commitment.
  • The crowd has focused on the sign and failed to believe its message.
  • Jesus is the manna, the provision from God to quench spiritual hunger; he is the Bread of Life.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.


Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA

HEARERS OF THE WORD (PDF)

Navarre Bible

SUNDAY COMMENTARY (PDF)

COMMENTARY

Click to access 18-ordinary-time-year-b.pdf

Sources include The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and The Navarre Bible. In addition, Church History by Laux (TAN Books), Introduction to the Bible by Laux (TAN Books), A Guide to the Bible by Fuentes (Four Courts Press), and Sharing Our Biblical Story by Russell for background information. We also included quotations from The Faith of the Early Fathers (3 volumes) by Jergens and Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (many volumes) edited by Odum.
SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese.
Raymond E. Brown

Introduction to the New Testament

The IMPERATIVE OR PARAENETIC SECTION OF THE BODY (4:1–6:20)

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OT FEASTS AND THEIR REPLACEMENT (Chaps. 5-10)

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Ave Maria Press

A Catholic Study of God’s Word

THEMES IN EPHESIANS

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Niell Donavan

Sermon Writer

saint louis university

Scripture in Depth

PREACHING THE LECTIONARY by Reginald Fuller

FIRST READING: The manna [was] a sweet excretion from certain insects and the quail [were] migratory fowl that often drop[ed] dead from exhaustion in their flight over the Sinai desert.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM: The bread from heaven becomes the “bread of the angels,” a further step on the road to its typological interpretation of the messianic banquet and the Eucharist.

SECOND READING: Running through this passage is the contrast between the old pagan life and the new Christian life.

GOSPEL:There is a major dispute as to whether the evangelist already has the Eucharist in mind in this first part of the discourse or whether that theme does not really come to the fore until John 6:51-58 (regarded by some as the addition of a redactor).

RELATED:

  1. THE WORD EMBODIED: The Bread of Labor
  2. HISTORICAL CULTURAL CONTEXT: Faith = Believing in Jesus
  3. THOUGHTS FROM THE EARLY CHURCH: Theophylact
  4. LET THE SCRIPTURES SPEAK: Bread and Faith
  5. SPIRITUALITY OF THE READINGS: Endlessly Softly
  6. GLANCING THOUGHTS: Eleonore Stump
  7. THE PERSPECTIVE OF JUSTICE: Becoming Providers
  8. A POEM TO SIT WITH: Rooms to Let
Visit liturgy.slu.edu for more resources (e.g PRAYING TOWARD SUNDAY, MUSIC OF SUNDAY, GENERAL INTERCESSIONS) to help you reflect on the spirituality of the scriptures before Mass.

18th Sunday of Year B

INTRODUCTION

Bread from Heaven

Our psalm response sets the theme for this Sunday’s readings: “The Lord gave them bread from Heaven.” In the First Reading, the children of Israel grumbled that God was not meeting their needs on their exodus out of Egypt and journey to Canaan. To show them that He was ready and able to care for their needs, God gave the children of Israel manna, bread from Heaven, to nourish them on their journey to the Promised Land. This miracle foreshadowed the “bread from Heaven” Christ makes possible in the “Thanksgiving” sacred meal we call the Eucharist, from the Greek word for “thanksgiving,” Eucharistia, the Greek translation of Toda, the Hebrew word for the sacred “thanksgiving” communion meal of the Old Covenant (Lev 7:11-15/7:1-5; Num 15:9-10).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
First Reading

God Gives Bread from Heaven

Our psalm reading recalls the history of the past generations of the Israelites and God’s gracious deeds on their behalf. First, He nourished them on their journey out of Egypt by feeding them manna, the “bread of angels.” Then, Yahweh took them to His holy mountain at Mt. Sinai, where He elevated the children of Israel above all other peoples on earth, making them His holy covenant people. God is gracious in the same way by continuing to provide for the needs of His New Covenant people. He feeds us the “living bread” from Heaven, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of God the Son in the Eucharist.  He provides this miracle feeding to nourish us spiritually in the exile of this earthly life as we make our journey to God’s Sanctuary in the Promised Land of Heaven.

COMMENTARY

Context

The people’s suffering as they traveled through the desert was greater and more widespread than in the previous crisis when the Egyptians pursued them to the Yam Suf (Red Sea) in Exodus 15:11-12 or the thirst the people and animals experienced described in Exodus 15:24. They accused God’s agents, Moses and Aaron, of intending to lead them to die of famine in the desert.


The People Complain

The Israelites depleted the food supplies they brought with them from Goshen. Living in Egypt, they became accustomed to a healthy diet of staples like bread and barley beer [henket], vegetables like leeks, lettuce, cucumbers, garlic, lentils, beans, chickpeas, and onions. They also enjoyed fruit like dates, figs, melons, grapes, olives, and pomegranates. In addition, they had a plentiful supply of fish and, more rarely, wild game and chickens (Chronicle of a Pharaoh, pages 94-95; Num 11:5; 20:5). The Israelites complained to Moses that it would have been better to die of old age in slavery than to die prematurely by starvation in freedom. The response of the Israelites to their suffering shows a lack of gratitude for their redemption from slavery and a lack of faith in God’s divine providence. One might ask if the people were hungry, why didn’t they kill some of their livestock? It was because they knew that their future prosperity depended on their flocks and herds. A dead animal would never reproduce or give milk or wool. Therefore, they needed to preserve their animals for their future prosperity.


The Two Ways God Tested the People

There are two ways in which God tested the people on the wilderness journey to Mt. Sinai (Ex 6:4-5):

  1. He tested them by allowing them to go without food and water to teach them to trust Him and demonstrate that they could depend upon Him for their survival.
  2. The regulations concerning the rationing of the manna and the command to collect a double portion on the sixth day but to rest from all work on the Sabbath tested Israel’s willingness to demonstrate obedience to God’s commands and trust in His providence.

The journey from Egypt to Mt. Sinai provided the introduction to an intimate relationship with Yahweh for the children of Israel. God intended for the hardships they endured on the journey to humble the people and teach them to trust and depend on Him for their every need. However, despite the miracles God worked on their behalf, the Exodus generation remained rebellious and ungrateful. Rendering His divine judgment, God condemned the Exodus generation to forty years of wilderness wandering until every member of their generation died except for two faithful men: Joshua (a prince of the tribe of Ephraim) and Caleb (a Gentile convert), and a new generation, trained in obedience, grew to maturity.

In his last discourses to the new generation covenant people in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses recalled their testing in the wilderness. He reminded the new generation of Israelites who had grown up during the forty years of that experience.  He urged them to remember and Learn from this that Yahweh your God was training you as a man trains his child, and keep the commandments of Yahweh your God, and so follow his ways and fear him (Dt 8:6 NJB).


Between the Twilights

12 “I have heard the Israelites’ complaints.  Speak to them as follows: At twilight [bein ha-‘arbayim = “between the twilights,” plural ending] you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have bread to your heart’s content, and then you will know that I am Yahweh your God” (NJB). […] = literal translation (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, Vol. I, page 184).

Between “the twilights” of a day is noon; it is the middle of the day occurring between the twilights of dawn and dust. God assured the people that at noon (between the twilights), they would eat meat, and in the morning, they could have as much bread to eat as they wanted. Noon was the usual time to take the main meal, and in a desert journey, one didn’t travel at the hottest time of the day. The purpose of these miracles was for the people to know that Yahweh is their God and not just the God of their forefathers (Ex 3:13). The manna blessing continued for the next forty years, but Scripture only mentions the gift of the quail twice (in the first manna feeding in Ex 16:13 and Num 11:31-32).

13 In the evening, quail came up and covered the camp.  In the morning, a dew lay all about the camp, 14 and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.

“Evening” began after the sun reached its zenith at noon and began to descend into the night. Sundown signaled the end of one day and the beginning of the next day. That day, at the noon meal, they ate quail, and the following morning, they ate “bread from Heaven.”


The Meaning of the Word “Manna”

The meaning of the word “manna” is a puzzle. The Hebrew text used man hu in Exodus 16:15 when the people asked “What is this?” However, later Scripture uses the Hebrew word man for the miracle bread: The House of Israel named it “manna (man).” It was like coriander seed; it was white, and its taste was like that of wavers made with honey (Exodus 16:31). Some Biblical scholars have suggested that the Hebrew words man and man hu derive from the Egyptian word mannu, which means “food” (Davis, Studies in Exodus, page 189). The expression man hu is usually translated, “It is manna,” but the Greek Septuagint translation of this verse is ti esti touto, “what is this?” as in the NAB translation. “What is this?” became the most widely accepted explanation of the meaning of “manna” and is supported by the rest of the Scripture passage following man hu in 16:15 when the Israelites asked, “What is this [man hu]?” and Moses told them: This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.”


The Miracles of the Quail and the Manna

Some scholars have attempted to associate the miracles of the quail and the manna with natural phenomena occurring in the Sinai Peninsula. For example, in the autumn, large flocks of quail migrate from Syria, Egypt, and Arabia, flying southward to central Africa and returning in the spring. In this long migration, sometimes large flocks of birds fall to the ground from exhaustion.  Since the quail feeding only took place twice (Exodus 16:13 and Num 11:31-32), it could have been a natural phenomenon. However, no one can deny that God used what might have been a “natural” occurrence at a specific time and place to address the needs of the Israelites.

Some have suggested that the manna was not a miracle but was a gum resin produced by several varieties of flowering trees in the Sinai. Others suggest that the manna was a substance from the excretions of two species of scale insects found on branches of the tamarisk trees in June in the Sinai (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, “manna,” page 511; Davis, Studies in Exodus page 192). However, these natural substances only occur seasonally. They cannot be ground into flour and baked into flat cakes or boiled into mush like the manna described in Exodus 16:23 and Numbers 11:7-9. Nor are these other substances found covering the ground with the morning dew as in the Biblical text, nor do the natural substances occur year-round in large enough quantities to feed at least two million people. St. Paul called the manna spiritual or supernatural food (1 Cor 10:3). Jesus compared Himself to the “bread which came down from heaven” (Jn 6:31-65) and not to the secretions of insects or tree resin. And other Bible passages describe the manna as supernatural food previously unknown (Dt 8:3, 16; Ps 78:24; 105:40; Neh 9:20).


Prefigurement of the Eucharist

The miracle feeding of the manna prefigures the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we also have rules which govern receiving the miracle:

  1. Only baptized covenant members, in full communion with the Church and in a state of grace, can receive the Eucharist (1 Cor 11:27-28; CCC 132213852042).
  2. Christ commanded His faithful to partake of the Eucharist (Lk 22:19-20; Jn 6:53; CCC 1341-441384).
  3. We must believe Christ is truly present in what appears to be bread and wine, or we bring judgment upon ourselves (see 1 Cor 11:29-32).
  4. We can only receive Christ’s “living bread” at the most twice in a single day and a minimum of once a year (preferably at Easter). However, the Church encourages the faithful to receive the spiritual nourishment of the Eucharist on all Sunday celebrations of the Mass and all holy days (CCC 138920422181-82).

As the New Covenant children of God, we are obliged to submit in obedience on our journey to salvation in Heaven in the same way God tested the obedience of the Old Covenant people of God on their journey to the Promised Land.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Responsorial Psalm

Heavenly Bread

Response: The Lord gave them bread from Heaven.

Our psalm reading recalls the history of the past generations of the Old Covenant people and God’s gracious deeds on their behalf. Among God’s wondrous works was His gift of manna to feed the Israelites for forty years after leaving Egypt. They first received His gift of the “bread of angels” on the journey out of Egypt to God’s holy mountain, at Mt. Sinai, where He took Israel as His covenant people. Then, He continued to feed them on their journey to the “holy land” He promised to the Patriarchs where they were to build His Temple on “the mountain” of Moriah.

In the same way, God is gracious in providing for the needs of His New Covenant people. He feeds us the “living bread” from Heaven: the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of God the Son in the Eucharist. He provides this miracle feeding to nourish us spiritually in the exile of this earthly life as we make our journey to God’s “mountain” Temple in the “holy land” of Heaven.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Second Reading

New Life in Christ

In the Second Reading, St. Paul reminds the faith community of Christians at Ephesus that their lives are spiritually transformed and configured to Christ in the Sacrament of Baptism, through which Jesus calls Christians to a life of holiness. Acknowledging our transformed lives, we must commit to leaving behind our old sinful lives of selfish desires and self-deception. Paul’s message is that a life of sin will only alienate us from God. Instead, Christians receive a divine calling to live in the image and the likeness of our Holy Savior, Jesus Christ.

COMMENTARY

Paul’s Contrast

St. Paul contrasts the Christian’s “new life in Christ” with the sinful life of the pagan Gentiles that was far from the holiness of Christ. The “futility of their minds” refers to the pagan’s concept of what was divine that was an invention of their understanding instead of knowing the One, True God. Having learned the truth of Christ, Paul writes that we must “put away the old self” (verse 22), and the “new self” (verse 24) must take hold to make the Christian a new creation in the image and likeness of God. Christians “put on” the new self (verse 24) in the Sacrament of Baptism. When a Christian submits in obedience to Christ’s command to receive the gift of God’s sanctifying grace in the Sacrament of Baptism (Mt 16:16), he or she, adult or child, dies to the old self that was a child in the family of Adam. The baptized person is reborn as a sinless new creation in Christ Jesus and a child in the family of God.  As Paul writes in Galatians 3:27 ~ For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Gospel

Jesus Christ, The Bread of Life

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus begins His “Bread of Life Discourse” the day after the miracle feeding of 5,000 men. God the Son promises to meet the needs of everyone who has faith in Him and submits in obedience to Him in the Sacrament of Baptism (Mk 16:16). He will take care of His covenant children just as Yahweh fed the children of Israel on their exodus out of Egypt. God the Son will nourish them on their journey through the perils of their earthly lives. As promised in His Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus provides the heavenly bread of the Eucharist to everyone who accepts Him as Savior and Lord on their exodus from this life while making their journey to the Promised Land of Heaven.

COMMENTARY

Juxtaposition of Three Events

Notice the significant juxtaposition of three events in John Chapter 6:

  1. Jesus feeding the multitude (Jn 6:1-15)
  2. Jesus’s water miracle in walking on the Sea of Galilee (Jn 6:16-21)
  3. Jesus’s “Bread of Life” Discourse (Jn 6:22-71)

The key to these three seemingly unrelated events is the statement in John 6:4 that it was near the time of the Passover Feast. It is also significant that the event in our reading takes place on the Jewish Sabbath. The annual feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits, falling within eight days, celebrated the liberation of the Exodus experience when Moses led his people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea to freedom (Lev 23:4-14). The “baptism” of the children of Israel in the Red Sea (Yam Suf = Sea of Reeds) was another creation story (1 Cor 10:1-2). In the first Creation, the division of the waters created land. However, in Moses’ Red Sea miracle, the divided waters created a nation as the children of Israel emerged from the waters of chaos, no longer as slaves but a free people.


God’s Care for His People

As Moses led the Israelites across the wilderness, God continued to care for His people by miraculously feeding them manna, the bread from Heaven. Within these three related events in John Chapter 6, during the time just before the Passover, John shows us Jesus as a new Moses.  Like Moses, Jesus miraculously fed a multitude, made a water miracle, and then, in the Synagogue in Capernaum, those who witnessed the miracle feeding of the multitude the day before sang Moses’ Song of Victory (Ex 15) that was part of the Sabbath liturgy. In Chapter 6, John’s Gospel presents Jesus as the new Moses who will lead a new Exodus liberation. Jesus, like Moses, will lead His people out of bondage by liberating them from slavery to sin and death.  Jesus is the future prophet-redeemer God promised to Moses and the people: From their own brothers I shall raise up a prophet like yourself; I shall put my words into his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  Anyone who refuses to listen to my words, spoken by him in my name, will have to render an account to me (Dt 18:18-19 (NJB).


When Did You Come Here?

Simon-Peter’s brother, Andrew, perhaps remembering Elisha’s miracle, offered Jesus the boy’s barley loaves and fish that would become the meal multiplied to feed the great multitude of men, women, and children. Wheat bread was more desirable than barley bread, and since barley bread was cheaper, it was the food of the poor. The same account in Luke 11:5 seems to indicate that the loaves were small and that three loaves were an adequate meal for one person.


Jesus’ Eighth Use of the Double “Amen”

Verse 26 is Jesus’s eighth use of the double “amen” in St. John’s Gospel. Jesus always uses it when making an emphatic statement.  In verses 26-27, Jesus combines a teaching about “works” and “faith,” which cannot be separated (Jam 2:14-26). James, Bishop of Jerusalem, taught in James 2:26, As a body without a spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds [works]. In verse 27, Jesus told the crowd not to “work” for ordinary, earthly “food.” He was using “food” as a metaphor for earthly, material wealth. His point was that all earthly “works” would perish.  Earthly food is necessary to sustain earthly life. However, it has limited use because it is perishable. Therefore, it is not sustainable beyond its earthly limitations; it cannot safeguard against death (Jn 6:49). Even the manna that came down from Heaven in Exodus 16:20 was perishable. Only Christ can give the food that satisfies eternally by both sustaining spiritual hunger and giving eternal life. He offers what Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 55:2-3, Why spend money on what cannot nourish and your wages on what fails to satisfy?  Listen carefully to me, and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy.  Pay attention, come to me; listen, and you will live. The supernatural food that Christ promised and Isaiah prophesied is His Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. This teaching will become more apparent as the narrative continues (Jn 6:50-58).


Jesus as Son of Man

Verse 27 refers us back to John 5:27, where Jesus told the people that God the Father has given the Son authority to execute judgment because He is the “Son of Man.” The title not only points to His humanity, but Jesus intends to remind His listeners of the Messianic passage in Daniel 7:13-14 of the glorious figure who looked like a man but was to receive from God the eschatological kingdom and eternal rule. “Son of Man” is the mystical term from Daniel’s vision identifying Jesus as the divine, conquering Messiah who has the power from the Father to rule the nations of man. Describing his vision, Daniel wrote: I saw one like a son of man coming on the clouds of Heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, he received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:13-14).

Jesus will use this title for Himself ten times in John’s Gospel. At this point in John’s Gospel, Jesus has referred to Himself as the “Son of man” in John 1:51; 3:13; 3:14; 5:27; 6:27. He will also use the title in 6:53; 6:62; 8:28; 12:23; and 13:31. Except for Acts 7:56, Revelation 1:13, and Revelation 14:14, the title “Son of man” appears only in the Gospels. In all the Gospel accounts, “Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite title for Himself. Only He uses it, and it is always a Messianic reference linking Jesus to Daniel’s prophecy of the divine Messiah in Daniel 7:13-14.

The “seal” that God set on the Son in verse 27 is the seal Jesus received at His baptism by God the Holy Spirit (i.e., Mt 3:16). The third Person of the Most Holy Trinity is the power of God operative in Jesus’s signs (see Mt 12:28Acts 10:381Cor 1:22Eph 1:13 and 4:30). There may also be a connection to the seal placed on bread by the baker. The Greek word used for “seal” is sphraagizo, which means “to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation (literally or figuratively); by implication to keep secret, to attest,” and also means a “baker’s mark” (Thayer’s Greek Dictionary).  It gave assurance that the bread was “sealed” by the baker who made the bread, just as Christ, the true bread, is “sealed” or marked by God the Father.


The Crowd Challenges Jesus

In verses 28-31, the crowd challenges Jesus and quotes from Exodus 16:1a, saying: Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”  The Greek word for “do” or “doing” appears three times in the literal translation of the Greek text where the people say, “What must we be doing to be doing the doings of God?” (Interlinear Bible: Greek-English volume IV, New Testament; page 267).  The people still do not understand that it does not only depend on them.

In response to their challenge, Jesus told them they must believe in Him and stop trying to accomplish the works of God themselves. If they continue to do everything according to their power, they will miss the “doings” of God = Jesus the Messiah. The “new Moses” was telling them what Moses told the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 8:3. He told the new generation of the covenant people it was not manna that would continue to feed them but the five books of the Torah (notice the connection to the five barley loaves in John 6:9), the word of God. It also is what Jesus said to Satan in the Temptation when Satan challenged Him to turn stones into bread in Matthew 4:4. Jesus said, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

In verse 30, the people ask Jesus for a “sign” that His authority comes from God because prophets worked “signs” to signify their authority. They are asking for “works” from Jesus, but He is asking them for faith. Their faith in Him will be the “sign” that He is God’s representative. Jesus was telling them that faith in itself is a “work” of God. The “work” of God is to believe in Him. The people failed to understand what Jesus was telling them about “belief” (verse 29). So, they asked again, implying if they saw a convincing sign, something even more remarkable than anything witnessed before (verses 2, 14, 26), they would believe Him, meaning believe in His words.

There is a wordplay in the Greek text on the word “works” in verse 28, which translates “to work the works.” However, the term “work” in verse 28 does not mean what it does in verse 27, “to work for,” but “to perform,” as one performs the works that please God. In verses 26-30, “work” or “works” appears five times in the Greek text (Interlinear Bible: Greek-English, New Testament, vol. IV, page 267). In the symbolic significance of numbers in Scripture, five is the number of grace and the power of God. See the document on the Significance of Numbers in Scripture.

31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert — The crowd already sees Jesus as the “new Moses.” His multiplication of the loaves and fish links Him to Moses’ greatest miracle, the feeding of the multitude with the heavenly manna, the bread from Heaven (as does His walking on the water witnessed by the Apostles). Therefore, they think that He is referring to manna, and so they ask Him to provide the manna as Moses did as a “sign.” Their challenge to Jesus is, “What Moses gave us was bread from heaven; if you are the “new Moses,” can you do the same?”

To appreciate the significance of their request, it is important to keep in mind that there was a general belief that when the Messiah came, He would come as one “greater than Moses,” the great national prophet-hero of Israel, in the signs He would accomplish. A Jewish commentary on Ecclesiastes (Midrash Koheleth, 73) states: “The former redeemer caused manna to descend for them; in like manner shall our latter redeemer cause manna to come down, as it is written, ‘there shall be a handful of grain in the earth’ (quoting from Psalms 72:16).”  His questioners require a more extraordinary miracle than the multiplication of the loaves and fishes from one who claims to be the Messiah! The key to understanding the challenge the people made to Jesus concerning manna is the national expectation of the “prophet greater than Moses” promised in Deuteronomy 18:15-19 and a Moses-like sign.


Jesus as the Bread of Life

In verses 32-33, Jesus answered them: 32 So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from Heaven.  33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world.”  First, He corrects them, saying it was not Moses but God who gave the people the miracle feeding of the manna. The people respond to His correction by making a request: 34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 

Jesus’s response was remarkable: 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Jesus identifies Himself with a particular choice of words that recalls one of the most significant events in the history of Israel: the revelation of God to Moses in the incident of the burning bush (Ex 3:14). “I am”/Ego ami in Greek, recalls the Divine Name that God revealed to Moses: YHWH. But here and elsewhere in John’s Gospel, it forms the prelude to the explanation of a parable. In this case, the parable is revealed in the action. Jesus explains the gift of manna and the multiplication of the loaves as parables of His gift of Himself, the true bread from Heaven. Also, see John 8:24, where Jesus says, “That is why I have told you that you will die in your sins.  For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.”

Jesus has corrected two misapprehensions on the part of His questioners.  First, with another solemn “amen, amen, Jesus told them that Moses was not the giver of the manna. Moses was only the instrument of God’s action. Second, He told the people that while the manna was in a sense “bread from Heaven,” it was not the “true” bread of God. The true bread is “the bread of life.” While all bread is a gift from God, the bread Jesus offers is a miracle from God that gives not only bodily nourishment but a greater gift. What distinguishes the “true bread” from the manna in verse 33 is that the bread of God gives “Life” in the present tense, indicating something which is continually giving life. And it is offered to all humanity, not only to one nation or people.  It is the “Bread of Life” that is ever descending and “gives life to the world.”

Jesus made an explicit announcement in verse 35 when He stated: “I AM the Bread of Life.” The crowd was quite prepared for the idea of uniquely heavenly bread but not for such a mystical statement as “I AM the Bread of Life” and the claim such a statement carried. “The Bread of Life” means primarily bread that gives life, but, with Jesus’s following declaration in verse 35b, it becomes bread that is life itself!

Jesus made a two-fold promise to the crowd in verse 35 that is similar to the promise He made to the woman of Samaria in John 4:14 when He said, “No one who comes to Me will ever hunger” and “no one who believes in Me will ever thirst!” Jesus will take up Satan’s challenge in Matthew 4:3-4. Satan said: “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”  He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God'” quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. The Living Word of God transforms “hearts of stone” by feeding us the Word. He is the Son of God: the Word made flesh and the true Bread come down from Heaven to strengthen us in love and for our fight against sin. “As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life, and this living charity wipes away venial sins. By giving himself to us, Christ receives our love and enables us to break our disordered attachments to creatures and root ourselves in him …” (CCC 1394). “By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sins. The Eucharist is not ordered to the forgiveness of mortal sins—that is proper to the sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church” (CCC 1395).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

18th Sunday of Year B

LIFE RECOVERY NOTES

The Ways of an Infinite God

Job 38:8
“Who decreed the boundaries of the seas when they gushed from the depths? Who clothed them with clouds and thick darkness

New Living Translation (Hover cursor above the scripture reference to read the NRSV version)

JOB 38:2–39:30 God used a series of questions to illustrate how little Job knew about creation and God’s ways. If Job knew nothing of these mysteries, how could he know anything about God’s character? All Job could do was worship and trust God.

We, too, wonder why we suffer. We wonder why bad things happen to us and those we love. But like Job, we are finite and cannot understand the ways of our infinite God. All we can do is praise him and await his deliverance.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Care of Responsible Shepherds

Jeremiah 23:4
Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the LORD, have spoken!

JER 23:1-4 Shepherds—the leaders of God’s people—who were supposed to care for God’s “sheep” had scattered and forsaken them. Since Judah’s leaders had led God’s people astray, God promised to punish the leaders and gather his people “back to their own sheepfold.” He vowed to place them in the care of responsible shepherds who would love and tend them. Jesus is our good shepherd, loving us and tending us as his flock (see John 10:1-18).

If we are willing to seek out and follow his will for our life, there is hope for us, no matter how far we may have strayed.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Seeking Help During the Wilderness Periods of Our Life

Exodus 16:12
“I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’”

EXODUS 16:1-36 Next to our need for water (15:22-27), our need for food is the most critical. Again, the Israelites failed to believe that God would meet their needs. They lacked faith in God’s power and still didn’t understand their privileges as God’s people. But God faithfully provided for them anyway, and the people’s faith was given further reason to grow. This example of God’s gracious provision should encourage us to seek help during the wilderness periods of our own life.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Jesus Satisfies Our Deepest Hungers

John 6:35
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 6:32-40 After feeding more than 5,000 hungry people with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus explained that he himself was the bread of life. Jesus feeds the hungry with himself.

His is a perfect love that never rejects us, no matter what our past sins are. He satisfies the deepest hungers of our soul and wants to help us complete our recovery. Until the end of time, Jesus will work toward the healing and recovery of all the broken people in his world. Our part is to turn to him and believe in his power to help us.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL

Featured Commentaries

Mark: Prelude to the Feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:33-34)

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Exalting Jesus in Mark (Chr… by Juan Carlos Herrera

Mark: A Reader-Response Commentary - The Apostles look for a Quiet Place (6.30-34)

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Mark Commentary by Oscar Cabrera

Mark: A Theme Based Approach - Testimony of Three Miracles
SOURCE: Made available through SCRIBD. All rights reserved.
FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS – JOHN

What Must We Do to Perform the Works of God?

Faith is the “work of God” (v. 29) that we are to do.

GOSPEL: If you are a preacher who has heard a parishioner ask, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” John 6:22–29 provides rich homiletical material for a sermon about what God does for us. We do not make the bread; it comes from heaven. This bread is given as a gift that brings life. The bread does not perish, but will nourish us forever. Such is the beautiful picture of what God does for us; though there is yet something that we must do for God. We eat the bread. We do this by believing and trusting in the one who is the bread of life. Faith is the “work of God” (v. 29) that we are to do. Balanced preaching that declares what God does for us and what we can do for God is proclamation that enriches the church.

SOURCE: EXCERPT taken from FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS—JOHN. All rights reserved.
AFRICA STUDY BIBLE

Dependence on God

We should save with the idea that those resources will be available when they are needed for God’s work, not out of fear of tomorrow.

FIRST READING – We live in times of uncertainty, and we are all aware of the need to save enough for either retirement or, as some would say, for a “rainy day.” A Setswana proverb says, Mpa ke ngwana e a beelwa, meaning, “The stomach is like a child; save something for it for tomorrow.”

Many Israelites ignored God’s instruction and—because of their need for security and provision—hoarded their daily supply of manna. They kept some of it for another day. In this story, God is teaching us that he gives the bread we need each day. When you take more than is required of something, you may not actually end up with more. Hoarding, the kind of saving that is motivated by greed, makes people depend on themselves instead of on God for their daily needs.

We should save with the idea that those resources will be available when they are needed for God’s work, not out of fear of tomorrow. We should depend on God for our daily bread always and be willing to place our needs into his care.

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THE AFRICA STUDY BIBLE
PREACHER’S COMMENTARY

Belief, the Work of God

The food that Jesus shares is given by the Father. It is a work of grace, food that cannot be earned, only received.

GOSPEL: As tasty and nourishing as the loaves and fish may have been, this is food which perishes. The whole digestive process, so necessary to sustain physical life, is part of an order that passes away. Death is its inevitable end. How foolish then to make this food the end of all labor. Jesus does not despise the fleshly needs of human existence. If so, He would never have come in the flesh, nor fed these people. But He is speaking of an earthly system that will pass away.

However, there is a food which “endures to everlasting life” (v. 27). It feeds the deepest center of human existence, the spiritual self, and continues to satisfy. This food is not a reward that can be earned, but is given by the Son of Man, whose origin is in heaven, but who is identified with all men. He is the authentic Source of this everlasting bread because the Father approves what He does. He bears the seal of the Father’s ownership.

Still these people do not understand who it is that has fed them, nor the meaning of this gift. They only seem to hear the phrase “labor for the food” and assume there is more work they must do. What can they do to please God? They are caught in the old legalisms, slaves of the flesh. But the food that Jesus shares is given by the Father. It is a work of grace, food that cannot be earned, only received.

So it is the response of faith, believing in the One whom the Father has sent, receiving what He has to give; that is the “work of God.” The Greek word John uses for “believe” is pisteuo, an active verb, not the form pistis, a passive noun.

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THe Preacher’s Commentary, Complete 35-Volume Set: Genesis–Revelation offers pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders clear and compelling insights into the entire Bible that will equip them to understand, apply, and teach the truth in God’s Word.
LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE

Resist the Temptation to Make a Quick Escape

Focus on God’s power and wisdom to help you deal with the cause of your stress.

EXODUS 16:2 It happened again. As the Israelites encountered danger, shortages, and inconvenience, they complained bitterly and longed to be back in Egypt. But as always, God provided for their needs. Difficult circumstances often lead to stress, and complaining is a natural response. The Israelites didn’t really want to be back in Egypt; they just wanted life to get a little easier. In the pressure of the moment, they could not focus on the cause of their stress (in this case, lack of trust in God); they could only think about the quickest way of escape. When pressure comes your way, resist the temptation to make a quick escape. Instead, focus on God’s power and wisdom to help you deal with the cause of your stress.

EXODUS 16:4, 5 God promised to meet the Hebrews’ need for food in the desert, but he decided to test their obedience. God wanted to see if they would obey his detailed instructions. We can learn to trust him as our Lord only by following. We can learn to obey by taking small steps of obedience.

SOURCE: EXCERPT taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE. All rights reserved.

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18th Sunday of Year B

JOHN 6:22-34

22. The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone;

23. (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)

24. When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.

25. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?

26. Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

27. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

28. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

29. Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

30. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?

31. Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

32. Then said Jesus unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

33. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

34. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

ANNOTATED INDEX

Third Century

  • Origen – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian) – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great” – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople) – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh) (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch) – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.) – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt) – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople) – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre) monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc) – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria

COMMENTARY

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xliii. 2) Our Lord, though He did not actually shew Himself to the multitude walking on the sea, yet gave them the opportunity of inferring what had taken place; The day following, the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto His disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples were gone away alone. What was this but to suspect that He had walked across the sea, on His going away? For He could not have gone over in a ship, as there was only one there, that in which His disciples had entered; and He had not gone in with them.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxv. 8) Knowledge of the miracle was conveyed to them indirectly. Other ships had come to the place where they had eaten bread; in these they went after Him; Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias, nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks. When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither His disciples, they also look shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xliii. 1) Yet after so great a miracle, they did not ask Him how He had passed over, or shew any concern about it: as appears from what follows; And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said unto Him, Rabbi, when earnest Thou hither? Except we say that this when meant how. And observe their lightness of mind. After saying, This is that Prophet, and wishing to take Him by force to make Him king, when they find Him, nothing of the kind is thought of.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxv. 8) So He Who had fled to the mountain, mixes and converses with the multitude. Only just now they would have kept Him, and made Him king. But after the sacrament of the miracle, He begins to discourse, and fills their souls with His word, whose bodies He had satisfied with bread.

ALCUIN.i He who set an example of declining praise, and earthly power, sets teachers also an example of deliverance in preaching.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xliv. 1) Kindness and lenity are not always expedient. To the indolent or insensible disciple the spur must be applied; and this the Son of God does. For when the multitude comes with soft speeches, Rabbi, when earnest Thou hither? He shews them that He did not desire the honour that cometh from man, by the severity of His answer, which both exposes the motive on which they acted, and rebukes it. Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxv. 10) As if He said, Ye seek Me to satisfy the flesh, not the spirit.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xliv. 1) After the rebuke, however, He proceeds to teach them: Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life; meaning, Ye seek for temporal food, whereas I only fed your bodies, that ye might seek the more diligently for that food, which is not temporary, but contains eternal life.

ALCUIN. Bodily food only supports the flesh of the outward man, and must be taken not once for all, but daily; whereas spiritual food remaineth for ever, imparting perpetual fulness, and immortality.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxv. 10) Under the figure of food He alludes to Himself. Ye seek Me, He saith, for the sake of something else; seek Me for My own sake.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xliv. 1.) But, inasmuch as some who wish to live in sloth, pervert this precept, Labour not, &c. it is well to notice what Paul says, Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Ephes. 4:28) And he himself too, when he resided with Aquila and Priscilla at Corinth, worked with his hand. By saying, Labour not for the meat which perisheth, our Lord does not mean to tell us to be idle; but to work, and give alms. This is that meat which perisheth not; to labour for the meat which perisheth, is to be devoted to the interests of this life. Our Lord saw that the multitude had no thought of believing, and only wished to fill their bellies, without working; and this He justly called the meat which perisheth.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxv. 10) As He told the woman of Samaria above, If thou knewest Who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water. (c. 4) So He says here, Which the Son of man shall give unto you.

ALCUIN. When, through the hand of the priest, thou receivest the Body of Christ, think not of the priest which thou seest, but of the Priest thou dost not see. The priest is the dispenser of this food, not the author. The Son of man gives Himself to us, that we may abide in Him, and He in us. Do not conceive that Son of man to be the same as other sons of men: He stands alone in abundance of grace, separate and distinct from all the rest: for that Son of man is the Son of God, as it follows, For Him hath God the Father sealed. To seal is to put a mark upon; so the meaning is, Do not despise Me because I am the Son of man, for I am the Son of man in such sort, as that the Father hath sealed Me, i. e. given Me something peculiar, to the end that I should not be confounded with the human race, but that the human race should be delivered by Me.

HILARY. (viii. de Trin. c. 44) A seal throws out a perfect impression of the stamp, at the same time that it takes in that impression. This is not a perfect illustration of the Divine nativity: for sealing supposes matter, different kinds of matter, the impression of harder upon softer. Yet He who was God Only-Begotten, and the Son of man only by the Sacrament of our salvation, makes use of it to express the Father’s fulness as stamped upon Himself. He wishes to shew the Jews He has the power of giving the eternal meat, because He contained in Himself the fulness of God.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xliv. 1) Or sealed, i. e. sent Him for this purpose, viz. to bring us food; or, sealed, was revealed the Gospel by means of His witness.

ALCUIN. To take the passage mystically: on the day following, i. e. after the ascension of Christ, the multitude standing in good works, not lying in worldly pleasures, expects Jesus to come to them. The one ship is the one Church: the other ships which come besides, are the conventicles of heretics, who seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ. Wherefore He well says, Ye seek Me, because ye did eat of the loaves. (Phil. 2:21)

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxv. 10) How many there are who seek Jesus, only to gain some temporary benefit. One man has a matter of business, in which he wants the assistance of the clergy; another is oppressed by a more powerful neighbour, and flies to the Church for refuge: Jesus is scarcely ever sought for Jesus’ sake.

GREGORY. (xxiii. Moral. [c. xxv.]) In their persons too our Lord condemns all those within the holy Church, who, when brought near to God by sacred Orders, do not seek the recompense of righteousness, but the interests of this present life. To follow our Lord, when filled with bread, is to use Holy Church as a means of livelihood; and to seek our Lord not for the miracle’s sake, but for the loaves, is to aspire to a religious office, not with a view to increase of grace, but to add to our worldly means.

BEDE. They too seek Jesus, not for Jesus’ sake, but for something else, who ask in their prayers not for eternal, but temporal blessings. The mystical meaning is, that the conventicles of heretics are without the company of Christ and His disciples. And other ships coming, is the sudden growth of heresies. By the crowd, which saw that Jesus was not there, or His disciples, are designated those who seeing the errors of heretics, leave them and turn to the true faith.

ALCUIN. They understood that the meat, which remaineth unto eternal life, was the work of God: and therefore they ask Him what to do to work the work of God, i. e. obtain the meat: Then said they unto Him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God?

BEDE. i. e. By keeping what commandments shall we be able to fulfil the law of God?

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlv. 1) But they said this, not that they might learn, and do them, but to obtain from Him another exhibition of His bounty.

THEOPHYLACT. Christ, though He saw it would not avail, yet for the good of others afterwards, answered their question; and shewed them, or rather the whole world, what was the work of God: Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxv. in Joan) He does not say, That ye believe Him, but, that ye believe on Him. For the devils believed Him, and did not believe on Him; and we believe Paul, but do not believe on Paul. To believe on Him is believing to love, believing to honour Him, believing to go unto Him, and be made members incorporate of His Body. The faith, which God requires of us, is that which worketh by love. Faith indeed is distinguished from works by the Apostle, who says, That man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Rom. 3:28) But the works indeed which appear good, without faith in Christ, are not really so, not being referred to that end, which makes them good. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom. 10:4). And therefore our Lord would not separate faith from works, but said that faith itself was the doing the work of God; He saith not, This is your work, but, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him: in order that he that glorieth might glory in the Lord.

AUGUSTINE. (xxv. 12) To eat then that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, is to believe on Him. Why dost thou make ready thy tooth and thy belly? Only believe, and thou hast eaten already. As He called on them to believe, they still asked for miracles whereby to believe; They said therefore unto Him, What sign shewest Thou then, that we may see and believe Thee? What dost Thou work?

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlv. 1) Nothing can be more unreasonable than their asking for another miracle, as if none had been given already. And they do not even leave the choice of the miracle to our Lord; but would oblige Him to give them just that sign, which was given to their fathers: Our fathers did eat manna in the desert.

ALCUIN. And to exalt the miracle of the manna, they quote the Psalm, As it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlv. 1) Whereas many miracles were performed in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the desert, they remembered this one the best of any. Such is the force of appetite. They do not mention this miracle as the work either of God, or of Moses, in order to avoid raising Him on the one hand to an equality with God, or lowering Him on the other by a comparison with Moses; but they take a middle ground, only saying, Our fathers did eat manna in the desert.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxv. s. 12) Or thus; Our Lord sets Himself above Moses, who did not dare to say that He gave the meat which perisheth not. The multitude therefore remembering what Moses had done, and wishing for some greater miracle, say, as it were, Thou promisest the meat which perisheth not, and doest not works equal to those Moses did. He gave us not barley loaves, but manna from heaven.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xxv. 1) Our Lord might have replied, that He had done miracles greater than Moses: but it was not the time for such a declaration. One thing He desired, viz. to bring them to taste the spiritual meat: then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. Did not the manna come from heaven? True, but in what sense did it? The same in which the birds are called, the birds of heavenk; and just as it is said in the Psalm, The Lord thundered out of heaven. (Ps. 17) He calls it the true bread, not because the miracle of the manna was false, but because it was the figure, not the reality. He does not say too, Moses gave it you not, but I: but He puts God for Moses, Himself for the manna.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxv. 13.) As if He said, That manna was the type of this food, of which I just now spoke; and which all my miracles refer to. You like my miracles, you despise what is signified by them. This bread which God gives, and which this manna represented, is the Lord Jesus Christ, as we read next, For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

BEDE. Not to the physical world, but to men, its inhabitants.

THEOPHYLACT. He calls Himself the true bread, because the only-begotten Son of God, made man, was principally signified by the manna. For manna means literally, what is this? The Israelites were astonished at first on finding it, and asked one another what it was. And the Son of God, made man, is in an especial sense this mysterious manna, which we ask about, saying, What is this? How can the Son of God be the Son of man? How can one person consist of two natures?

ALCUIN. Who by the humanity, which was assumed, came down from heaven, and by the divinity, which assumed it, gives life to the world.

THEOPHYLACT. But this bread, being essentially life, (for He is the Son of the living Father,) in quickening all things, does but what is natural to Him to do. For as natural bread supports our weak flesh, so Christ, by the operations of the Spirit, gives life to the soul; and even incorruption to the body, (for at the resurrection the body will be made incorruptible.) Wherefore He says, that He giveth life unto the world.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlv. 1) Not only to the Jews, but to the whole world. The multitude, however, still attached a low meaning to His words: Then said they unto Him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. They say, Give us this bread, not, Ask Thy Father to give it us: whereas He had said that His Father gave this bread.

AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxv. 13) As the woman of Samaria, when our Lord told her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall never thirst, thought He meant natural water, and said, Sir, give me this water, that she might never be in want of it again: in the same way these say, Give us this bread, which refreshes, supports, and fails not.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.

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