Cling to Jesus, not earthly goods, for eternal life

| Deacon Matthew Northenscold | July 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

In the Scripture reading for July 19, we heard how Jesus miraculously multiplied the bread and fish to feed the 5,000. This Sunday, the story picks up on the next day, when the crowd wants Jesus to feed them again. Instead, he tells them: ”Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

But the crowd is not interested in this mysterious, intangible food Jesus offers; they want bread, like he gave them the day before, and like God had given their ancestors in the desert. Indeed, it doesn’t take them long to draw the comparison between the two miraculous feedings.

Interestingly, the manna in the desert, which we hear about in the first reading, is a food that perishes. A few verses after the reading concludes, it says that if anyone gathered more than the allotted portion and tried to save it for the next day, it rotted and became infested with worms (Exodus 16:19-24). Food that perishes indeed. But it wasn’t simply a matter of time, since on the day before the Sabbath, the Israelites were to gather twice as much manna as usual and save it for the Sabbath, when they were not allowed to gather it. And on the Sabbath, the manna didn’t rot.

I think the lesson here is that God wanted his people to trust, not in their abundance of food, but in him. They were to trust that he would give them their daily bread each day. This is a lesson for us, too. Living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it’s easy to place our confidence in a well-stocked pantry, or ultimately, a healthy bank account. It is easy to place our confidence in the things we have, rather than in God, who has given them to us.

We should strive to place our hope and our confidence in God himself, not in any earthly thing. Why? First, because all earthly goods are ultimately “foods that perish,” they are not secure. Fire, flood, theft, any number of things can quickly take away all that we work for and cling to. If our hope is in them, we will be let down. Second, earthly goods cannot give us true life. They can give pleasure, and we need some of them to sustain life, but they cannot give us true joy, happiness and the life that we were created for, which Jesus calls “eternal life.”

“Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” The food that gives eternal life is the Eucharist, since it is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Only in this food, in God, is our hope secure, and only this divine food can fulfill our desires for true happiness and eternal life. Let us not put our trust in an abundance of foods that perish, but in Jesus, the bread of life, for “whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Deacon Northenscold is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His teaching parish is Immaculate Conception in Columbia Heights. His home parish is St. Timothy in Maple Lake.


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Category: Sunday Scriptures