Gospel Lectio Divina for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 1, 2021
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 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.”
looking for Jesus
The crowd was looking for Jesus in the flesh, but how often do I seek him in my life in the many other ways he manifests himself? Do I seek the truth? Do I seek goodness and beauty? Do I seek the way and the life? God will not reveal himself to those who don’t want to find him. Frankly, he has better things to do. He wants a relationship with us. But who is going to pursue a relationship with someone who does not want one with them? God is not interested in us stringing him along. He’s not desperately longing to be a part of our lives. Sometimes we may think he is as we try to bargain with him. If God does reveal himself to us, it is a gift. If he does not, that is a gift as well because it is a lesson. Soon we will see how everything Christ does is a lesson. He is teaching us how to be more like him. So have I found Jesus? Sometimes I forget that I’m even supposed to be looking for him. In fact, whenever I go astray, it’s because I stopped looking for him.
Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life
Here is the lesson. Even in hiding from the crowd Jesus was teaching them. He was helping them to seek after the right thing: not the physical nourishment of bread, but eternal nourishment from him, the Bread of Life. How often do I contemplate the possibility that God is offering a lesson when he hides from me? How often do I just turn the other way and give up in my search for him when he does that? Quite often. This Gospel passage should help us notice that, no matter how hidden God is, and how hard it is to find him, it is worth it in the end. If we can’t find him, it’s usually because we are looking for him in the wrong places, and he is gently leading us to where he really wants us to look for him. This game of hide and seek is not too different from how we play with our own children. When they are young, we hide in obvious places so it’s not too hard for our child to find us. As they get older, we hide in more and more challenging places. As we do, the child matures in many ways. They improve in their ability to solve problems, their separation anxiety lessens as they learn to endure the absence of mom or dad for a while, they learn more about the world around them as they pay closer attention to things they may not have noticed before. God is teaching us many of the same lessons when he hides from us. He never abandons us, but every now and then he may hide the qualities by which we know him best so we can learn about other qualities he has.
“the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
It’s difficult for us to understand how the Eucharist gives life to the world, but it does. We may not think of the Mass as the universal source of grace that flows to all people, but it is. Just as God fed his people in the desert with manna, Christ feeds us with his Body. Then we go and spread that grace throughout the world. We may never see exactly how this distribution of God’s grace actually works, but I have a feeling the saints knew--and seeing how God distributed his grace throughout the world by way of the Mass probably inspired them to live the holy lives that they lived.
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). He is a man of his word. The crowd practically demanded, “Give us this bread always”, and God delivered. At every Mass, every day, Jesus gives us this bread. It’s understandable that the crowd wanted it so badly after Jesus described it the way he did. Do I long for the Eucharist as badly as they did? Do I believe it is the true bread from heaven that gives life to the world? Somewhere along the way I may have forgotten that, and it is worthwhile to be reminded as often as possible. The ways God reveals that truth to me are enough to last a lifetime, but the ways of the world tempt me to doubt. Only by faith can I understand the mystery of the Eucharist, and even that faith is a gift from God.
I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Hedonism is a philosophy of life where one seeks to maximize pleasure and minimize displeasure. The problem with the philosophy is that people often find the more we seek pleasure, the more we just want more of it; and the more we avoid displeasure the less life we experience, because displeasure is simply an inevitable part of life. I’ve met self-proclaimed hedonists who understand that dynamic, and are okay with enduring some displeasure as long as it eventually leads to pleasure. But Jesus says that when we come to him we will no longer hunger, and if we believe in him we will never thirst. Does this mean that when we abide in him, and he in us, we will no longer receive the pleasure of having our hunger and thirst satisfied? Call me crazy, but I kind of like satisfying my hunger with a hearty meal after a long hard day of work, and I like satisfying my thirst after a good run in the hot sun. What’s wrong with that? I’m not a hedonist, but I tend to agree with the idea that having desires is a good thing because there is a sense of fulfillment once they are satisfied…
… Once they are satisfied. And that is what Jesus is offering: no more longing, just satisfaction. In our fallen state, it’s hard to fathom how God will fulfill our every desire, because here on earth we have so many desires that are unobtainable. We get little tastes of satisfaction, and it just leaves us wanting more. In saying we will never hunger or thirst again, Jesus is saying he will constantly satisfy our desires. Imagine an eternity of endless discovery and satisfaction. Think of something that intrigues you, something that motivates you, something that inspires you to get up in the morning as you pursue it. Now imagine an eternity of not just pursuing that thing, but obtaining it in all its beauty and wonder every day. That is God. He gives us mere glimpses of himself here on earth to whet our appetite, but here we will always remain hungry and thirsty for the things we desire. The divine life that the saints obtained, the beatific vision they saw that made them holy, satisfied them so much that they considered all their desires to be fulfilled. Being so filled with God, they had the freedom to fulfill the needs of others. Ultimately, that is what Jesus is teaching. Once our desires are fulfilled, we are free to serve others. But only God can fulfill all our desires.
Lord Jesus, fulfillment of all my desires, I praise you for your goodness and the abundance of your grace. You never cease to offer your gifts. All I can ask is for you to help me appreciate them more. Help me to see how the gifts you give me are better than the ephemeral things the world offers. Help me to desire you and eternity above all else. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
What do you want more than anything? Christ is not a genie, but he can lead us to notice how everything we want is right in front of us for the taking if we simply abide in him. It’s easy to miss his grace. All we have to do is focus too much on ourselves and our problems. But if we think of God first, all the opportunities he puts before us will be revealed to us; and they are endless. Seek him in the quiet now. He is waiting across the sea.
David Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.