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Engaging the Word: August 3, 2014

Today’s Gospel reading begins with Jesus getting news of the death of John the Baptist. John was Jesus’ cousin, who began his preaching many years before Jesus. John’s mission was to prepare the way for Jesus, and his message was clear and urgent: “Repent!” John told both rich and poor, strong and weak to turn away from their sins without delay. He even challenged King Herod, who was living in a sinful marriage. In retaliation Herod ordered John beheaded.

In the second half of the Gospel reading, Jesus feeds the crowds through the miraculous multiplication of loaves of bread. We cannot help but think of a still more important miracle to come, when Jesus gives us the true Bread of Life, his own Body and Blood, to eat and drink.

It is no coincidence that we are reminded of John’s message before reading about the miracle of the loaves. Sinning is like eating cardboard or dirt—something that will fill our bellies but make us sick instead of giving us nutrition. We have to give up this false food before we will have an appetite for true bread. This reality is also why baptism and confession, the sacraments that free us from sin, must come before we receive communion. No other food can compare to the Bread of Life!


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