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. Certainly we have more than enough of those things in there shelter in place days, and that’s to say nothing of those who suffer from the coronavirus, or those who toil on the front lines these days. I think that’s something of the same 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 thinking. 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 those 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.
So if all we hunger for is peace and security, bread for today, then we will certainly miss receiving the Bread of Life, a far greater reality. Our hearts have to be open, and our desires have to be for the deepest longings. And very often, those deep longings take a lot more waiting and effort than the bread for today. If we remember to long for the One who wishes to give us his very self, we can receive 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.” In him, we will never need anything more.
Because Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!