Truth be told, one cannot but marvel at the zeal and energy with which these people sought after Jesus in the gospel reading of today. Many had to abandon their works, some left their families behind, some didn’t really care about the mode of transportation, they were ready to trek any distance in order to see Jesus. That’s really incredible. The same way I marvel and get wowed on Sunday mornings and some other days of the week when I see the number of people in churches for one programme or the other. I know even angels rejoice to see such. But then, is it not possible that one can be seriously labouring, struggling and seriously busy doing everything except what one should do? I was really disturbed the first time in my life when I came across the scriptural passage where Jesus says, “not all who call me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom…” for me then and for many today, seeking and calling the name of Jesus is all that is needed; such as we sing: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus…’ Jesus says, you look for me… oh, that is commendable really.
But for what reason? That is question we need to really reflect on. Yes, you have decided to follow him, but for what purpose; do you even know where he is going? It is important because if you don’t know where he is going, you find yourself asking a needless question that the people ask Jesus today, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’ You see why Jesus didn’t answer that question. Jesus has no time to beat about the bush, he had no time to celebrate their sycophancy, he was never going to be carried away by their hailings, owo meji f ’eeyan kan, baba rere baba ke, as these our go about their hailing. He says, you look for me just because of loaves of bread, just for the sake of your belly. You mean they made their appetite the essence of their being. They searched him just for food. How I wish the advice of Paul in Philippians 3:19 had come to them earlier; Paul says, “… their god is their stomach/appetite, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” He concludes saying, ‘their end is destruction’. A man who lives only for his appetite will in no distant time consume himself too. Living for one’s appetite is the genesis of many evil: It is the father of Mr. greed, mother of Engr. lust, adviser of Dr. murder, aunt of Sis. backbiting and uncle of prof. pride; for Habakkuk says, “an arrogant man is never at rest, he enlarges his appetite like sheol and like death he is never satisfied.
” Hab. 2:5. Many have therefore gone to their early graves because they live only for their appetite; many are in perpetual bondage now because of their appetite; many have traded their glory for their appetite. If you doubt me ask Esau, the porridge eater (Gen. 25:29-35); ask Gehazi and how he fared with Naaman’s gifts; ask Jezebel how far her position took her, ask Judas the many mansions he built with the 30 pieces of silver. So, in the first reading, the sin of the people is not just in giving in and being led by their cravings, their sin was that they doubted God’s ability to supply their needs and they doubted God’s concern for their welfare. God cares and he will supply our needs, that’s why will say ‘Chukwu n’enye, Oba Olupese.’ The word of God and his miracles are to draw our attention to God, and not to the miracles. The miracles are like the wrappings we use to package a gift, the main focus is the gift which is God himself. But many are in Church today because of the wrappings and not because of the gift. Many are even on the pulpit sweating and laboring but for their belly. Jesus was emphatic, he says, don’t work for food that perishes but for that which lasts forever and gives life.
What do you work and labor for? For life eternal or for life temporal? Some person can afford to tie down cows for prestige but cannot give a meat to a neighbor who really needs, some can buy cartons of beer for friends just for ego but cannot buy a tonic for a friend on a sick bed. What is the essence of life and what are you hungry for? If we do not hunger for the truth of God, or hunger for the love of God or hunger for life in God, or seek and accept God’s will for us in life and yet are always found shouting ‘blood of Jesus’ and moving from mountains to valley seeking miracles, then we are not different from those who have made their belly their god. Let us seek God sincerely and he will supply our needs according to his riches in glory. Have a grace filled Sunday and wonderful week ahead. God bless.
• Rev. Fr. Paul Owolabi Ijileke is a Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria.