July 26, 2012

17th Sunday - B

John 6: 1-15

The New Law-Giver, and the New Passover

John wrote this passage with many details to point out that Jesus is the new law-giver.

It was on the mountain where Moses received the Law from God, then gave it to the people.  Here, this passage begins with Jesus going up to the mountain.  He then sits down, taking the position of one who teaches.

Next, comes the time of the event, it is near Passover.  In the Jewish religious tradition, the celebration of Passover recalls the events that God freed their ancestors from slavery, which highlights the crossing of the sea, and the manna God gave them in the desert.

This passage reports in details the miracle during which Jesus gives people food to satisfy their hunger, just as Moses gave the people manna.

The chapter will continue (though we don't read it here) with the disciples crossing the sea in a boat, struggling against strong winds.  Jesus later crosses walking on the water.  Once Jesus is in the boat, it "immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading." (6: 16-21).

In both the miracle of feeding the people and the crossing of the sea, Jesus surpasses Moses in his power and the effects of the miracles.

There are also the difference between the manna that Moses gave and the food from Jesus.  In the case of the manna, anything that was kept overnight, against Moses' command, would perish (Exodus 16).  Here, "Jesus' gift must not be lost.... They have not perished; they are still available." [1]

And that gift of Jesus is still available to us today in the Church.  We continue to live and are nourished by the actions of Jesus, again recorded carefully here by John.  In the celebration of the Eucharist, Jesus continues to "take" the bread, gives thanks, and distributes his gift to us, the gift that lasts forever.

[1] Francis J. Moloney, SDB., The Gospel of John, Sacra Pagina Series.  Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998; p. 198.

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