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Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Jn. 6:24-35

People whom Jesus had miraculously fed with five loaves and two fish came to Him with false expectations. Here was a man, they thought, to meet their material needs. Saint John tells us that as a result they wanted to make Him their king. But Jesus had something altogether different in mind.

He was aware of their physical needs, as had just been demonstrated, but now He began to talk about their spiritual needs. He spoke to them of eternal life and He offered Himself as the bread of life. He sought to lift their expectations and to expand their horizons; what they really wanted was someone who would make their lives a little easier. Their primary interest was food for the body, His was food for the soul - and the people went home.

This is still happening today. Many people have become disillusioned with their Christian faith, looking for something they have never found. Is this why people drop away from church and turn their attention to other matters? And what have been our own experiences?

There are times of comfort and peace in our faith, and of disappointment. We have waited for answers that never came, worked for causes that failed, searched for solutions and never found them. We have all known those moments when we felt that God had let us down. But read your Bible and you will find the same thing happened to better people than you and me - Who prayed from the Cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?"

Spiritual disappointments are a fact of life but perhaps it would help if we were to evaluate our expectations. What do we want from our faith? What can we realistically expect from Christ? Like the people in today's Gospel we sometimes turn to Christ in anticipation of what He has never promised to provide!

Somehow we have got the idea that faith in God is supposed to solve our problems, reduce the necessity for struggle and virtually eliminate suffering. But it did not work that way for Jesus! He never expected God to take care of Him in the sense that He would be sheltered from the harsh realities of life. Faith for Him was never a protective shield. It was, instead, a source of strength that enabled Him to face up to life - with all of its cruelty.

So what can we expect from Christ? His purpose is not to make life easy enough for us to handle, but to make us strong enough to handle life whatever it may bring. This is not to deny an element of comfort in our Christian faith. There is a gentleness and tenderness to Christ that is unsurpassed. He cares about all our needs; He shares our suffering; He enters into our sorrows – but He will not shield us from the challenges of life.

If we are looking for something that will turn our life into a bed of roses, then we may as well close our New Testament and lay it aside. If we are looking for Someone who can fill our life with eternal purpose and power, then come to Christ. We can expect that from Him and not be disappointed.

Lord Jesus, Your promise to us is, "I am the bread of life. No one who comes to Me shall ever be hungry; no one who believes in Me shall ever thirst again." In those words You are telling us that there we shall find all the help we shall need to handle whatever adversity life may throw at us.

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