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“Don’t Work For Food That Perishes…”: Challenging Words For Challenging Times

Most of us basically inherited our Catholic faith from our parents who taught us the basics of our religious beliefs, e.g. how to make the sign the cross, how to say a prayer, and most importantly about God particularly His Kingdom in Heaven and the Church community we belong. During our childhood days, it was impressed upon us that Heaven is where God’s Kingdom is, where angels and saints reside and where “good” people go after life. Usually, parents would advise their children to do good and avoid evil so as to enter Heaven.

Taking the cue from some of the Sunday Gospel readings for the month of August which delve on Jesus’ teachings about Him being the Bread of Life and His offer to us for an Eternal Life, one of the readings was relative to Jesus challenge to His disciples, which states: “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life”. Further, our Lord Jesus Christ stated: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” These words of our Lord Jesus are timely and relevant for all of us, specifically during these challenging times not only in light of the Covid19 pandemic (and its variants) which continue to ravage the world and widen economic and social disparity, but also on other issues being proudly flaunted on the web and in social media where some of us are completely engrossed in reacting to unnecessary posts, at times creating a divide among groups of people, social class, and even among families and church communities. Apart from all these, there is the continued onslaught of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and typhoons that inflect destruction and human suffering. All of these are some of the problems being experienced at present by everyone.

The aforesaid challenges made us miss certain things we have had in our lives during those “normal” days (almost two years ago prior the onset of Covid virus) when we were able to travel and wander around with family and friends, when we could freely afford to shop till we drop in malls without masks and other health protocols, when professionals, office workers and students had oodles of time with colleagues, officemates and friends especially during Friday nights coupled with a welcoming embrace, cheek to cheek and exchanging hugs to say goodbye without fear of being infected, and when the more religious people could attend the daily Holy Mass in Church, receive the Holy Communion and visit the Blessed Sacrament. Those days are gone especially for the younger ones and the elderly as oftentimes their mobility are being restricted for safety and health reasons. Those days are gone as office workers and students have now been used to work from home and study from home arrangements, respectively. Those days are gone as in-person attendance of daily Holy Masses are restricted and most of the time people prefer the online and live streaming options to avoid being infected by the virus. Our lives are unavoidably different with this pandemic, and seemingly it’s likely to stay that way until the virus is contained or effective treatments and vaccines become available to every citizen of every nation in the world.

But where is our Lord Jesus amidst these problems the world is currently facing? Where can we find Him in our everyday life so as to obtain the Bread of Life and ultimately achieve eternal life? As we all know, God is everywhere. Apart from receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist during the Holy Mass, we were also taught that as members of the Church, the Holy Spirit lives in us. As such, we have to pray to our Lord God to fill us with the Holy Spirit, to enlighten our minds and to guide us to the right path by performing good works and undertaking things that are in accordance with God’s will. To be drawn closer to our Lord God who is the Bread of Life, fervent prayers are very important. In the same manner keeping His Words and the Church’s teachings, and putting them into practice are equally important. We have to allow our Lord Jesus Christ to enter into our hearts and carry Him wherever we go so that we can always feel His love and share the same with others especially those in dire need. Otherwise, if we simply learn His teachings without practicing it for our good and for the needs of others, our efforts may be futile and we may not be able to achieve eternal life in the end.

Pope Francis, in one of his previous talks and homilies, encouraged everyone “to look beyond material needs and turn to Jesus who is the bread of life”. He likewise mentioned that apart from having this physical hunger for food to make our bodies healthy and strong, we all have this kind of hunger that cannot be satisfied with ordinary food, a food that is not corruptible, a food that will provide us spiritual nourishment, and which only God can give us because He is the Bread of Life. As such, to obtain the Bread of Life, the Holy Father further mentioned that we have to help in spreading God’s Words to others, we have to carry the Gospel anywhere we go, keep it in our bags, in our pockets, bring it to workplaces, and always in our hands. We have to open it everyday to read Jesus’ messages because He is there, He is with us, and He is even more present in the world nowadays. He likewise mentioned about nurturing the Kingdom of God that is already within us coupled with “prayer, worship, service of charity, but silently because the Kingdom of God is humble, not boastful”.

The Lord invites us to deepen and nurture our relationship with Him, to reinforce our faith in Him so we can be supplied with the “Bread” that we deeply need, that we long for. However, along the way, we stumble and fall, we tend to whine and complain whenever challenges come our way. Many of us tend to forget what God has done for us during good times and happy days because we have this notion that since we have become self sufficient, we no longer need His help. But when we encounter challenges, we tend to entertain negative thoughts with whining and complaints on what is happening with the world now, asking God where did we do wrong, why are we encountering such problems.

On the other hand, this pandemic and other challenges have been considered a blessing in disguise in so many ways. These challenges served as an eye-opener, a wake-up call for all of us to be more closer to God. As a matter of fact, almost everyone has been forced to slow down, and most families were afforded time to really see the beauty of the family, spending quality time where every member of the family dines together, joins at prayer time, among others.

As previously mentioned in my previous articles, the road to Heaven is no easy task at all. Working for food that endures eternal life is indeed a challenge posed to us by our Lord Jesus. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we might be endowed with wisdom and courage to fight and overcome our weaknesses. The Holy Spirit will enlighten our minds and fill our hearts so that we’ll be able to help in carrying out Jesus works to others. The road to eternal life wouldn’t be topsy-turvy and rough if we only say NO to evil and wicked ways. As the Bread of Life, Jesus gives us hope as He wants us follow Him more and more each day. He’ll never let us down. We are given so many second chances to rebuild our lives, no matter how bad and sinful we are. Change should begin with ourselves. We should have the determination to change our mindsets, our ways and actions. We should learn to do good so that we can teach others to do the same. We just have to ask God to grant us the strength to live our new lives with Him. We have to remember that God works wonders and produce abundant results at the end of the day. We have to remember that we always receive more than we give up in following Him.

Finally, it is only our Lord God who will grant and offer the prize to those who heed His calls when the day of reckoning or the final judgment comes, allowing the good ones to enter and witness the beauty of Heaven, where eternal life is. Surely, the said narrative to work for food that endures eternal life is such a challenge, but THIS should be the ultimate goal for every follower of Christ, pandemic or no pandemic.

(ccto for the photo)