Our five week study of John 6 brings us today to verses 24 through 35. (Have you read the entire chapter of John 6, as you promised?). The crowd fed by Jesus are everywhere looking for him. What for? They want more bread and they have found a baker for that. The “sheeple” always depend on others for their thinking and to fill their bellies. And their wants, like all human wants, are insatiable.
Recall that last week, Jesus had to steal himself away from them as they wanted to forcefully make him a Bread-King. This would not be the first time He evaded the temptation to become a Baker instead of a Savior; and in Fulton Sheen’s phraseology, “to fill outer abundance while leaving inner nakedness.” You remember that the devil was the first to tempt Him into being a Baker; only this time, he disguised himself as a hungry crowd. Do we recognize that the false god of materialism seduces our society with promises of bodily satisfaction while turning many into spiritual derelicts? Jesus knows the intention of this crowd. They have eaten free bread and fish and want more. Period! No concern about His compassion and His message of eternal life. Hence, today we’ll reflect on the Eucharist as “food for our soul.”
While visiting sick people a few years ago at St. John’s Hospital Sapulpa, I met a guy who told me he goes to Sacred Heart. In a parish of 130 families, I pretty well knew every parishioner and was certain that I had not seen a face like that at Sacred Heart. When I told him so, his response was: “Well...I don’t really go to your services, but I do go to your fish fries.” Confused, I explained that we did not have fish fries, to which he responded: “You don’t do that anymore?” I later learned from older parishioners of Sacred Heart that in the 60’s and 70’s they did organize Fish Fridays at the old Sacred Heart Church, Downtown Sapulpa. Hence, the gentleman was a fish fries member of the Church, not a member of the Eucharistic assembly. I have heard some argue that in order to bring back straying Catholics who go to the TV-churches, we need to introduce a rock band type of Mass. My answer is that once you introduce the rock band Mass, you should have handy things that go with rock music. We saw from the gospel that one miracle is not usually enough for the crowd who seek it.
It boils down to the question of identity. What makes one a member of St. John’s parish? Deeper than this, what makes one a Christian, a Catholic? Does baptism do it? Theologically “yes,” but not necessarily so, “existentially.” Some of the proud atheists and Satanists in our country were baptized and may have attended Catholic schools. How about attendance at Mass? Maybe, but not absolutely! There are many active members who are unable to attend due to sickness or age or both. The “fragments left over” we spoke about last week are taken to them so they may share fully in the Eucharistic assembly and receive food for their soul. On the opposite side of the spectrum are some who attend Mass but do not live a Christian life, not only outside this building, but even within. Those are the mean-spirited individuals who gossip and spread gossip to destroy others; the abortionistas—politicians, lawyers and judges who make laws to promote infanticide while claiming to be devout Catholics; the unscrupulous who cheat, who back-bite continually and firmly intend to keep living that way. They, like the crowd seeking Jesus today are hungry for more bread, more gossip, more innuendos to spread, and hardly food for their soul.
St. Paul exhorts us today not to share in the same empty way of thinking and living, peculiar to the pagans. They, according to Ephesians 4:18f, are darkened in their understanding, alienated from God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. Christians are called to clothe ourselves with the new self, made according to the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness.
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo