On March 19, 1945, something very unusual happened in a town called Namba in Angola. The community was undergoing a severe famine after a whole year without rain. The wife of the director of a small SDA mission in the community encouraged the people to fast and pray for divine intervention following the experience of hunger and drought. After the third day of prayer, a little girl of about five comes home with a handful of white coriander-like substance. Her parents bewildered by the strange thing queries her about what she was holding, and she says that some European men she met asked her to eat because God has heard their prayer.
When the family followed her to where she met the Europeans, they could not see anyone. Instead, the entire place was covered by the substance which tasted like honey and wafer. It was at this point that the community realized that they had manna from heaven. Fast forwarding, every Wednesday, and Friday, the people would get manna. Remarkably after the destruction of the mission house at the manna field during the Angolan civil war, the manna stopped falling. But when it was reconstructed in 2010 the rain on manna continued till date and it has become a pilgrimage and research location. No doubt God is still in the business of supplying needs (Phil 4:19), not just wants.
There is nobody without needs even the wealthiest people in the world could still be in need though they may have all they wanted in life and may not even know they need something. Needs are often beyond our immediate grasp that is why they are needs anyways. In the First Reading (Exo.16:2-4, 12-15), we see the people Israel expressing their need for food, but they do so in a very nasty way by grumbling against Moses and Aaron who represent God
In their desperate need for food, they wished they could stay back in the bondage of Egypt where they had enough to eat. The people of Israel forgot the mighty deed of God on their behalf as their need for food shielded them from remembering that the one who divided the red sea and brought them to safety could also supply their need. God responds to their grumbling by providing them with a menu which consists of bread (manna) and meat (quails).
Are we not often like the people of Israel, quick to complain about our current struggles while forgetting the great successes we receive from God. Often, we see the challenges but have no faith in the chances. We see the darkness of the night but have no confidence in the sunlight of the dawn.
Last Sunday our Lord Jesus Christ multiplied five barley loaves of bread and two fish to feed more than five thousand people. In the Gospel of today (6:24-35), those who enjoyed the meal the previous day and more came searching for Jesus Christ. It was a desperate search as they hired boats to get to the other side of the sea of Capernaum to make sure they get him.
The people were looking for Jesus because they wanted more bread. There is always a motivation for every action. On the 16th Sunday of this liturgical year, we encountered people who were searching for Jesus Christ because of their hunger for spiritual shepherding. This Sunday, the search changes to the quest for a miracle and correctly, they wanted more multiplication of bread.
Our Lord tries to redirect their minds by telling them to work for the food that endures forever not the one that perishes. The instruction implies that they should expend the same time and energy to search for the eternal food instead of the one that would fill the stomach for a short time. The people were bent on getting bread for the moment, and they insist for a sign while quoting the miracle of the manna in the desert.
Most of us represent these miracle searchers as we continuously search for short-term fixes and immediate answers to current challenges; we seem to think less about eternal life which should be the greatest miracle in the final analysis of our earthly lives. Most people who attend prayer houses and run after men and women of God are searching for miracles and not for God. We are living in a world where people prefer signs to the real thing. The multiplication of the five barley loaves and two fish is a sign that God can increase and enlarge us if we put out trust in him.
We should not restrict our search for God to our bodily needs but to the wellbeing of our souls. A renewed way of searching for God would emerge when we put away the old self and put on the new self as St. Paul indicated in the Second Reading (Eph. 4:17, 20-24).
As we march into a new week, may we pay more attention to eternal values than temporary satisfaction. Those who had enough to eat became hungry the following day. God is still in the business of supplying all our needs (Phil 4:19). He knows what we need even before we ask (Matt. 6:8). We should, therefore, search for God not because we are in need but because we need Him, and He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).
May God bless you as you search for the eternal food and place your faith in God without grumbling against God over your temporal needs. Have a beautiful week ahead.