In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to the crowds about what sustains our existence. Jesus was speaking on a spiritual level, indicating that he was the bread of life. The crowds, making reference to their ancestors in the desert and the story of the manna, were thinking in physical terms. They didn’t get it. They were in need of a fresh, spiritual way of thinking.
In the book of Exodus we read about the “grumblers,” those Israelites who complained about being led out into the desert by Moses and Aaron. The grumbling was the result of thinking about the fleshpots of Egypt which at least filled their bellies. But now in the wasteland, they were in danger of starvation. Perhaps we would grumble too.
But God intervened and gave the Israelites flesh in the evening and bread in the morning. Thus gifted, they began to have a new way of thinking, the way of gratitude. God was gifting them with freedom from the oppression of Egypt.
So what is it that offers us a new, fresh way of thinking? Prayer can do it.
Faith informs us that through the goodness of God, gifts without measure come our way. Think about the gift of family and friends, freedom and education, creation and life itself. If we think clearly, we come to realize that we are totally indebted to a gracious, extravagant God. The healthy response here is gratitude, being a eucharistic community and taking nothing for granted.
What else offers a fresh, spiritual way of thinking? Only one thing makes us whole and complete and that is the grace of love. To live in the gaze of God’s eyes is to become whole and complete. Struggles and challenges will still be there, but we will have the one thing necessary: the grace of being loved. Then, once having received the gift, we are to give it away in a life of service.
Listen to our Gospel acclamation. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Life is more than the body. We live on God’s word — the words, love and forgiveness and compassion.
By putting up the mind and heart of Christ we develop a fresh, spiritual way of thinking, of feeling and living. Then we become that new person “in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth.”
Questions for reflection
1. What are your current thoughts about life, God, yourself?
2. How do we change our way of thinking, feeling and acting?
3. Why do “thoughts” matter?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.