Saturday, April 25, 2009

Free Lunch

First Reading: Acts 6:8-15
Psalm: Ps 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30
Gospel: Jn 6:22-29


A good friend likes to remind me that the center of the Catholic Church can be found in the sixth chapter of John. Since the rest of the readings this week deal with just that chapter, we will focus there. I do highly recommend reading them and reflecting on your own.

Let's set the scene: Jesus has just multiplied the loaves for five thousand people. They were astonished and sought to make him king (mighty useful to have a guy who can make bread from nothing). Jesus draws away and that evening, he comes to the apostles, walking on water. In the morning, the crowd discovers that Jesus isn't there anymore, so they go looking for him. When they find him, Jesus has this to say:
Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life" - John 6:26-27
He says this to stop them from focusing on the short-term results of the miracle. They come looking for Jesus because their physical hunger was satisfied, not because of his message.

We get caught up sometimes with the idea of the free lunch. The idea of getting something for nothing is very compelling. We like sales that tell us we're getting half-off, or a trip with the office that we can write off as a business lunch. Buy one get one (or a thousand, in this case) free. We use the tactic all the time to draw people in for short-term satisfaction of some form or another.

In our walk of faith, we sometimes want things to come to us free. We ask God for favors, then sit and wait. We ask for our faith to be strengthened, but do not take the time to pray. We might demand a healing, but do not attend Mass or receive the Eucharist. A few insist that they will not believe unless they can do as St. Thomas did and touch Christ themselves, but make no effort to see Him in the poor and needy.

Jesus here is steering us away from all of that. He wants us to focus on the long-term and the long-term is never free or easy. An education, a family, a career, a solid faith life. All of these things take hard work and sacrifice. There are no shortcuts, there aren't any coupons.
The long-term goals require a consistent belief that even though things are tough now, it must be done so that something of worth can be gained.

So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent." - John 6:28-29
Belief in Jesus sounds like an easy enough task, but as we will see in the later readings this week, it's no free lunch.

Heavenly Father, we thank You for the gift of this day. We are grateful for the many gifts that You have given to us. We pray that we might not seek the easy path, but the true path that leads to You. We pray for fortitude for the times when the path is not easy to walk and the temptations of a smooth road are great. We pray also for our brothers and sisters that have accepted the lie of an easier way, that they might be stirred back to seeking You. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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