August 5, 2018

THE BREAD OF LIFE

BIBLE READINGS
Exodus 16:2-15
John 6:24-35

REFLECTION

Being parents to Abia has become a steep learning curve for both my wife and myself. There are so many things that we have to learn.

I still remember the first few days after Abia went home with us for the first time. We have to learn to change our sleeping habit to accommodate his needs.

On the second or third night, I was awakened by his crying. But Rita was still fast asleep. So I got out of bed, took the milk from the fridge, and warmed it up. I was hoping that by the time I finish warming up the milk, Rita would finally be awakened by his crying. But she was not.

So I proceeded to feed Abia and managed to change his nappy too. And Rita was still asleep after I finished doing all those. In the morning, I told her what happened during the night and she was so surprised. She knew nothing about it. She was so deep in her sleep that she didn’t know what was going on around her.

 But that was a long time ago now. Nowadays, my wife has become so attentive to his crying. Any small noise that Abia makes will wake her up immediately. Even when she is busy in the kitchen or somewhere else in the house, she still can hear his crying. Even I myself get to the point of hearing his crying in my mind when I’m alone in the house!

 Indeed, dealing with a child’s crying is a normal part of being a parent. And crying is a necessary part of a child’s development. A couple of days ago, we left Abia in the crèche for the second time ever. He was screaming all the time. The staff told us that he was angry because his mum and dad left him. And it was normal. The staff told us that it was part of the separation process. He needed to learn that his mum and dad would only leave him for a while and that we would be back. We should be worry when he was not making such noise.

 When a baby is born, his or her cry is a good sign that he or she is healthy. Indeed, a child’s crying helps us know that he or she needs something. In other words, his/her ability to complain is healthy.

 I think it should be the same in our relationship with God. Our ability to complain to God can become a sign of a healthy relationship between us and God. And being a parent to us, God must be attentive to our complaints and cries.

In the Bible, complaint was a normal part in the life of the people of Israel. It is easy for us as outsiders to label Israel’s complaint as a sign of their faithlessness. And it is true that there are parts of the Bible that label complains as faithlessness. But that’s not the whole picture. There are other parts in the Bible that see complaints as a legitimate part of Israel’s spiritual life.

When they were in the desert, the people of Israel complained to God. They were hungry and the desert wasn’t a particularly promising place to find something to eat. It was called the desert for a reason: it was the place where nothing grew.

The people of Israel had left behind Egypt: the place that had provided them with food and water. They were now entering the second month of their journey in the desert. That means it would take them a month to walk back to Egypt if they decided to return. And they didn’t know how much longer it would take to reach the promised land. They were stuck in the middle of nowhere with no more food to eat.

So, as much as it brought much discomfort to Moses’ and Aaron’s ears, the people’s fear was legitimate. They had trusted God to leave the comfort of Egypt and travel with Moses and Aaron into the desert. And now, they were in danger of dying because there was no food left for them.

But God listened to their complaint. God did not ignore their fear. In a desolate place, God nourished them with food. God responded by giving them with what they needed.

But physical sustenance was not all that the people of Israel needed. They needed also to learn to trust in God, just like Abia needs to learn to trust his parents.

Yes, physical sustenance is necessary. When someone is hungry, he or she needs food not words! But food is not all that we need to have a fulfilling life. After our physical need is met, we have to achieve higher goal in life. That goal is to know God and to align our life with God’s purpose and will.

When Jesus was asked where to find the heavenly bread that will give life, he said, “I am the bread of life.” This statement reminds us of the name that God gave to Israel. Moses once asked God what he should tell the people of Israel when they asked who sent him. God told Moses to tell the people, “I Am who I Am sent you...” God was known in Israel as the great I Am. Jesus also called himself using the same I am formula when he said, “I am the bread of life.”

In other words, the fullness of God resides in Jesus. To have a deep and meaningful relationship with Jesus is to have a deep and meaningful relationship with God. This relationship is what will sustain us in life, not only the bread and the food that we eat.

Yes, the food that we eat is a sign of the presence of the living God that provides nourishment for our body. But Jesus is the ultimate sign of God’s presence in our life. Jesus is the food that satisfies our deepest hunger and longing in life. Jesus is the bread that gives us hope at all time, not only at dawn or dusk.

 So friends, God is not ignorant to our need. God hears our cries and complaints. And God responds to our deepest longing by giving us Jesus Christ, the bread of life that doesn’t perish.

May we receive him and find fullness in our life.

Amen.
Toby Keva