‘Work for food that endures to eternal life’

Eighteenth Sunday of the Year B

When the crowds misinterpret the sign worked by Jesus, he makes it clear that his message is not be about material survival, but about life in its fulness. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.

John 6:24-35

24 When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ 26 Jesus answered: ‘I tell you solemnly, you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat. 27 Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’
28 Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ 29 Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’ 30 So they said, ‘What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? 31 Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’
32 Jesus answered: ‘I tell you most solemnly, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; 33 for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
34 ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘give us that bread always.’ 35 Jesus answered: ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.’

Other readings: : Exodus 16:2-4,12-15 Psalm 77 (78) Ephesians 4:17,20-24


After the multiplication of the loaves by Jesus, once the crowds have caught up with him again, there is a dialogue concerning the sign Jesus has worked. The crowds have interpreted the sign in a materialistic way. They want to make Jesus their king so that they can be sure of their supply of bread. The sign has not been understood.

Jesus invites them to believe in the one God has sent, but they clamour for a new sign. They disparage Jesus’ works by referring to the manna Moses gave in the desert. Once again, Jesus challenges their interpretation. It is God who is the source of all good gifts. The new gift God is giving, if they could accept it, is the gift of himself, the ‘bread of life’. The conversation should not be about material survival, but about life in its fulness. The theme of the ‘bread of life’ will continue as the chapter unfolds.

To what extent do I misunderstand the signs Jesus gives me?

Do I understand what it means to ‘work for God’?

We pray for an understanding that faith can resolve our human concerns.

We pray for a deeper love of Christ as the one who satisfies our deepest needs.

INT-IMG_5349 Fr Adrian Graffy (3)Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.

Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”

He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”

Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).

Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy