The first reading is from the Second Book of Kings (4:42-44). This is one of the many history books of the Old Testament. But it is not history as we like to think of it. These accounts are not written to tell us accurately about the past; the Jewish compilers of these works believed that they were chosen by God who at their best reflected in their activities and way of life the relationship of God to people, one chiefly of love and care but also sometimes of reprimand and being taught a lesson. These ‘history’ books are to make us think about what we should do in the present, here and now. This reading is from a small collection of miracle stories associated with the prophet Elisha from the ninth century BC. These tales remind us that the whole world is miraculous, and that there is always more to things and events than the immediate and prosaic interpretation that we thoughtlessly make of them; God is active in everything except sin. The reading illustrates that God’s care even exceeds our natural expectations of things.
The second reading is from the general letter called Ephesians (4:1-6), attributed to Paul. It contains an impressive expression of central Christian teaching for the people of that time. It begins with an exhortation to unity and follows with the basis for this ideal of unity in the commonality of our belief. Whatever the specific vocation of each Christian it must be conducted in a self-effacing, tolerant and loving manner – Paul himself is a prisoner for following his calling from the Lord. The feminine Greek word often translated as humility has the connotation of self-effacement. The seriousness of this imperative that Paul is urging on the readers arises from the acceptance of one hope towards the ultimate unity of all in God, Who is in everything that is good. This is significant for us today when it is read as the inspired word of God. The world is seen by the writer as a remarkable unit and the arena for the enterprise of God’s continuous and creative presence among us; a single unit of great complexity but complicated by the freedom that we humans have with respect to our calling in it. It tells us that we humans are all related to each other and to the rest of creation; we have a part to play in all of this and we now know the attitudes necessary for us to contribute to the overall plan of God for us within the family of humanity.
The beginning of Chapter 6 in John’s gospel (verses 1 to 15) relates the story told in all the gospels of the miraculous feeding of a multitude with food and producing an excess of leftovers. With the setting of the mountain and of the feast of Passover it clearly relates to the great event of the Exodus; this was the focus of the Paschal meal that recalled this miraculous start of the journey of the people of God from slavery towards the promised land; it was on this difficult journey of life through the desert that God surprisingly nourished the people with water from rock and bread (the manna) from heaven; for the Jews it was celebrated each year as a recall of God’s relationship to them and of the journey of their life towards the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom. Its importance in this Gospel is this journey towards the promised land and beyond to the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom. The crowd see Jesus as anticipating or bringing this to completion and want to make him king – he escapes this mistaken intention. Over the next few Sundays we shall read more of John’s development of ideas in this chapter.