It is fitting that on the feast of St. Athanasius, the Monday of the Third Week of Easter, the gospel passage in the lectionary is the beginning of The Bread of Life Discourse. The discourse is found in the first part of the Gospel of John which is referred to by biblical scholars as the Book of Signs, the terminology used by the author of John’s gospel to refer to miracles. What is interesting about John’s account is that it differs from the Synoptic tradition in which faith precedes miracles; in John’s account, the signs are what move people to faith in their encounter with Jesus.
Our passage today deals with the very topic of faith. The people following Jesus are looking for Him after they encountered the great sign of the feeding of the five thousand; an account which is found in all the gospels. The people who are searching all over Galilee finally find Jesus and how did He respond? Jesus rebukes the crowd because their response to the sign of the miraculous feeding wasn’t assenting to faith, but rather a want for their bellies to be full once more. Jesus says:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
Jesus’ words echo Deuteronomy which is He quotes to Satan when Satan tempted Him in the desert:
“It is written:
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’ ”
The temptation narrative is not found in the Gospel of John, but Jesus’ point remains the same, and what St. Augustine would later learn, our souls are restless until they rest in God. So, how can our souls find rest? The Gospel of John answers:
What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
Jesus makes a startingly revelation answering the crowd; there’s nothing anyone can do unless God makes the first move—it is the work of God for us to have faith in Him. It is the work of God in which we participate in His grace when doing good works. We are given the gift of faith, but this gift needs our response for it doesn’t exhaust our free will, we must repent and convert our entire lives to the work of God to which He calls us. If we’re looking to live a life of holiness, a life of righteousness, we must give everything to Him—the one sent by the Father. In your daily prayers today, think about if there is anything that is preventing you from giving your entire life to Christ and ask Him to help you.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 6:26–27.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 4:4.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 6:28–29.
I just read this tonight in Fulfillment of All Desire by Ralph Martin. He references God making the first move in the Bread of Life Discourse on page 197: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Jn 6:44) How beautiful of the Lord to line this up today! 🥰
Probably the hardest thing to adopt in a faith performing practice of being Catholic. "there’s nothing anyone can do unless God makes the first move"
That's not a dig or condemnation, it's just our distracted, disconnected life.
"Faith performing" is my way of saying that once we've submitted to the Holy Spirit within the arms of our Church the string of practices that we do for both worship and sustenance can easily get turned into expectations. Not just from the Church, but from God.
Maybe if I add that moniker to my list of stuff to remember I'll better .... uh oh. There it goes again!