At our core, we all want peace and security in our lives. We don’t want rough waters, or pain, or discord in our families, and that’s all understandable. I think it’s that sentiment that is behind our Scripture readings today.
The Jewish people, the elders and the scribes, the religious establishment of the time, had their laws and customs, and for them, following those laws and customs represented a peaceful and secure life. So they were not at all open to any kind of teaching that challenged their way of life. Saint Stephen points out that whenever a prophet called them to a deeper reality – a deeper sense of God’s call – rather than accept that teaching and reform their lives, their ancestors instead murdered the prophets. And so their response was to prove his point. They could not accept Stephen’s own prophecy that Christ in his glory was the key to human salvation. So they stone him to death, with the tacit approval of a man named Saul, a man for whom God had future plans.
The crowd in the Gospel reading wants peace and security too. They had recently been fed in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. But they had missed the point. They wanted just the bread they could eat for today; they didn’t get and didn’t want to get the bread Jesus really wanted them to have – the bread of eternal life. And so they ask today for another feeding sign. Just like Moses was able to provide bread from heaven, they wanted Jesus to feed their physical hunger too. But Jesus is more interested in their spiritual hunger, and longs to provide that in himself, he who is the Bread of Life.
But if all we hunger for is peace and security, bread for today, then we will certainly miss receiving the Bread of Life. Our hearts have to be open and our desires have to be for the deepest longings. Then we can receive our Savior who wants to give us everything we truly need. “I am the Bread of Life;” he says to us. “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”