26 March 2006

Where Shall We Buy Bread?

Today we hear that the Lord God again leads a crowd into the wilderness. Like the first time, it is near the time of the Passover. Like the first time, the Lord has done signs and wonders which draw them to trust Him. And so a great multitude follows Him, because they see His signs which He performs on those who are diseased. And like the first time, the Lord gives bread in the wilderness not because a crowd follows Him, not because the disciples clamor for it, but because He has compassion on them. It is mercy, and solely His mercy, that prompts Him to act.

Yet His intention is also to test the disciples. For He Himself knew what He would do. So our merciful Jesus says to Philip, Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat? Do you truly think I will send these people away hungry? Do you honestly believe that I will forsake anyone who follows Me, anyone who longs to hear My word, anyone who looks to Me for any help? Have I been with you so long, Philip, and still you do not know Me? To whom else are they looking? Upon whom else do they rely? The eyes of all wait upon Me, O Philip! And I give them their food in due season. I open My hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. For I am the Bread which comes down from heaven. I am the Bread of Life. And I am the Living Bread. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. So, Philip, Where, O where, shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”

With words like these, Our Lord urges Philip and the others—and even you and me—to believe that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights. And Our Lord also urges us to believe that it lies in our hands not to make our own way, but to trust and obey, to receive and submit to Our Lord precisely because He is compassionate, faithful, and merciful. The more we see that, the more we understand that we are at a loss to give anything—except to give thanks; and to do anything—except to do whatever Our Lord commands.

The following is an excerpt from today's sermon.


Fredric J. Einstein said...

Christ fulfills what the Children of Israel (who were at a very low level of "attachment to and understanding of God" upon leaving Egypt) called the heavenly bread "mah-nah" (translated to English -- what I pray is it?).

May I surmise (and correct me if I'm wrong) that the disciples and those at the "Last Supper" were at the same low level of "attachment to and understanding of God" as the Children of Israel were upon leaving Egypt???

However, now, God's heavenly bread was no longer a mystery and the Christians no longer needed to ask "what I pray is it?" Since now God had given them the answer and swore to provide His Heavenly bread to His children for all eternity -- it is indeed the Body of God!

fr john w fenton said...


You've asked an intriguing question, but I would need to understand more fully what is meant by the phrase "low level of attachment to and understanding of God." If that is akin to "little faith" or "faith that is not completely formed," then I would agree that the disciples, on the night of the Lord's betrayal, were such. The evidence could be found in a number of things, not least of which is the fact that they all forsook Him and fled after hearing, for several years, that this night would come.

And you are quite right: Our Lord sacramentally given in His flesh and blood is the answer to the "manna" question. This is among the chief things that He tries to impress upon the Jews in John 6.

Fredric J. Einstein said...

Thanks for answering my question. Rabbinic (Pharasitic) scholarship from the time of the Macabees (300 or so years before Our Lord's Incarnation) had taught that the Children of Israel, upon leaving Egypt and entering their 40 year sojourn in Sinai, had been turned into a people who "did not know their Creator" and were therefore unworthy and unable to immediately enter the land and begin their purpose as God's Holy people. Their lack of faith in God and His Torah was demonstrated time-and-time again during the first year or so of their sojourn, culminating in the episode of the Golden Calf when their "period of exile" was fixed at forty years.

In God's mercy and wisdom, he therefore required His beloved people to sojourn for 40 years so that a new generation, untouched by slavery and the idolotry of Egypt, could grow up and learn to TRUST God, so they could worthily be His beloved nation.

Thus they, for those thirty-eight years or so, did nothing but study God's Word and the promise of His Son's imminent Incarnation, led by the Holy Spirit through the Elders of Israel (Caleb and Joshua in addition to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam).

Re-phrasing my question:

Did not the disciples (as evidenced by the betrayal of St. Peter, the doubting of Thomas, and the unbelief of the others) need to go through their own "40 years" of education and learning, led by the Ressurrected Lord Himself before they were seasoned enough to receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost?

fr john w fenton said...

Ah, now I see what you're asking, Fred. In fact, you're not so much asking as suggesting that the 40 days of the disciples with Christ in His resurrected, glorified body coincides with the 40 years of catechesis by the Children of Israel. They "shed," as it were, an entire generation while the disciples "shed," their little-faithness; although not entirely since there is still a hint of that in the question asked right before Jesus ascends (cf Acts 1). Hence, another 10 days is needed. Here 10 might refer to a time of additional "perfecting" until the fullness (i.e,. 50) is reached.

Now, you'll turn quickly and ask, "Where is this in the fathers?" Frankly, I've not looked. But it sounds so likely...

David L Lichtenstein said...


Great point.

So Fr.,

the 40 years in Sinai was God showing forth his mercy to his children?