RCL Year B, Proper 13
Exodus 16:2-4 and 9-15; Psalm 78:23-29; Ephesians 4:1-16; Saint John 6:24-35
You’ve probably heard an old vaudeville joke about the food at a resort in the Catskills, “The food here is terrible,” one person says. And the other person, “And such small portions.” They are talking past each other. Each has a different complaint, a different idea to put across.
Jesus and his disciples in today’s Gospel talk past each other about the food in the miracle of feeding the five thousand. The disciples are following Jesus, they are seeking him, because he fed them. Maybe he will continue to feed them forever, they seem to wonder. On the other hand, Jesus fed them to show to them a sign about God and God’s generosity and loving-kindness, and to say to them that being a disciple is more than filling up on free food. Jesus wants his disciples to focus not on the food that perishes but on the food that remains for eternal life. He wants them to know the difference between the food one works for—our daily bread—and the food the Son of Man gives.
I don’t think anyone can keep body and soul together with the food—the bread and the wine—of the Eucharist, but everyone who participates faithfully in the Eucharist can find a meaning and a purpose for living. Finding that meaning and that purpose is what Jesus is trying to commend to his disciples in the Gospel. That meaning and that purpose have to do with serving and ministering in the same way that Jesus serves and ministers to us.
From within, in some people from deep within, a voice, a calling, a vocation can be heard. You may be called to feed the poor as you do with the Seasons of Love Dinners. You may be called to do what we can do to encourage people to give as generously as they have been given. You may be called to visit the sick or homebound as some do. Or, you may be called to something else. But you are called. Find your calling, find the food the Son of Man gives, as Jesus tells the disciples.
If the church is a “hospital for sinners,” as some say, then every single member, both lay and clergy, is both patient and worker in the hospital. When we gather, we gather not so much to evaluate the food, as though we were at a resort in the Catskills, but to offer our gifts and talents to improve the banquet. The disciples in today’s Gospel don’t seem to get it, but let us pray that we don’t follow their lead. Let us pray that we follow his lead.