by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, August 5, 2012:
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
The LORD rained down manna upon them to eat. (Ps. 78:24)
In this Gospel, we continue to see Jesus hounded by the crowds. They understand what Jesus offers: the miracle of food in an uncertain time. Jesus knows what they're up to. Jesus understands what they seek. But Jesus also knows that they need more than just a meal's worth of food.
At one point, the crowds ask him for a sign. I have a vision of Jesus sighing and wondering what more he can do. He’s multiplied food. He’s offered them parables and teachings. He’s healed the sick. What more do they want?
He also understands their deep hunger and yearning. They mention Moses, which leads me to believe that some of them miss the deep connection their ancestors had with God. Perhaps they thought it was easier in the desert, where they just went where God led them and ate the food God gave them. Perhaps they grow weary of the distractions of modern life, the diversions offered by Greek and Roman culture. They want to know where they can get some modern-day manna.
We might feel the same way.
Some of us might be willing to do rigorous tasks to get this spiritual nourishment, but Jesus reminds us that we simply need to turn to the bread that sustains us, rather than chasing after bread that cannot nourish. He says, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal" (John 6:27).
We might sigh heavily, thinking of our ever-multiplying to-do lists, the increasing tasks we must do simply to keep body and soul together. We might wonder how we can find time for one more obligation.
Again and again in the Bible, we see God, who simply wants to be with us. We don’t have to transform ourselves into spiritual superheroes. God will be content to watch the Olympics with us, to have fun with whatever creative play dates we’ve arranged with our children or our friends, to eat watermelon at picnics with us.
The Bible reminds us that God even wants to be with us during the not-so-fun times. When we’re stuck at work, eating microwave popcorn instead of dinner again, God wants to be there. When we’re trapped in traffic, God doesn’t mind commuting with us. When we’re so immersed in child rearing that we wonder if we’ll ever get to talk about adult topics again, God wants that experience too. When we’re feeling lost and lonely, God is willing to endure that too. When we don’t know how we’re going to put food on the table, God will help us sort that out.
The sustaining bread of life is right there, always ready, always fragrant and nourishing. The enduring food is ready to be shared, ready to be multiplied. The table is ready; come and eat.