The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
II Kgs 4:42-44 + Eph 4:1-6 + Jn 6:1-15
July 29, 2018
“…He withdrew again to the mountain alone.”
At the end of today’s Gospel passage, “Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry Him off to make Him king, [and so] He withdrew again to the mountain alone.” This sentence by itself seems strange, but it reveals an important point to keep in mind throughout the five Sundays beginning today. We will hear almost the entirety of the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel account over the course of these five Sundays.
The sixth chapter of John focuses our attention on Jesus’ teaching about the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. But today’s passage—John 6:1-15—makes up the chapter’s prologue. These introductory verses prepare for Jesus’ teaching about the Eucharist by clearing up a few misconceptions.
Your average human being, if he knew that a crowd were wanting to make him a king, would not retreat into solitude. In the culture of the Internet, an individual by means of a blog or YouTube can quickly become a celebrity with an avid group of followers. Jesus did not want to be a celebrity. Jesus did want crowds to follow Him, but only for the right reason, mindful of the goal towards which He wanted to lead them.
Both at the beginning and end of today’s Gospel passage, the crowds are following Jesus for wrong reasons. At the beginning, when “Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee”, “a large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs He was performing on the sick.” This large crowd is mistaking the means for the end. They think that Jesus is in this world to be some miraculous physician. They don’t understand that His miraculous cures are meant to be attention catchers, not the object of Jesus’ life.
At the end of the passage, after the multiplication of the loaves, the people proclaim Jesus to be “‘the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.’” “They were going to… carry Him off to make Him king.” They think Jesus is in this world to rid it of hunger. They don’t understand that the miracle of feeding five thousand is meant to be an attention catcher, not the object of Jesus’ life.
Both miraculous signs—healing the sick and feeding the hungry—beg an important question. What was the object of Jesus’ life on earth? What were all of Jesus’ miracles advertising? In an important sense, the rest of John 6 answers this question.
Take your own bible and put a bookmark at John 6. During the next four weeks, read the entire chapter often. In most versions of the Bible, the chapter is not even three pages long. Allow the Word of God to move your attention away from whatever is distracting your attention from God’s will for your life. Whatever God may ask of you, rely for strength upon the grace of the Word made Flesh: the Son of God who offers us His Body and Blood as strength for the journey, and a foretaste of the Love that awaits at journey’s end.