Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’ (John 6: 28- 29)

In today’s Gospel (John 6:22-29) the people had been given free bread, so the next day they went out of their way to look for Jesus so as to receive more. Understanding their motivation, Jesus tells them not to look for bread that will eventually go stale and have no value, but for the “food that endures to eternal life.” They then ask what they must do to receive this. It is here that Jesus tells them to believe in the one God has sent.

“The ‘work of God’ is singular in nature, namely to believe the one sent by God. Belief in the one sent by God is not mere intellectual assent bur a complete reorientation of one’s life and personal relationship with him” (S.M. Lewis SJ)

Eugene, who had spent so many years “looking for happiness outside of God” knew this well and expresses this in a letter to one of his Oblate missionaries in Canada in 1857.

Then, in spirit, I pressed you to my heart, touched to the point of tears by all that you have had to suffer to conquer those souls for Jesus Christ, who has clothed you with his power and sustained you by his grace among so many difficulties. But also, what a reward you will have beyond this world, when one thinks of the wonders that have been brought about by the power of your ministry. One has to go back to the first preaching of Saint Peter to find anything similar. An apostle like him, sent to proclaim the Good News to those savage nations, the first man to speak to them of God, to bring them to knowledge of Jesus the Savior, to show them the way that leads to salvation, to give them rebirth in the holy waters of baptism – one can only prostrate oneself before you, so privileged are you among your brothers in the Church of God by reason of the choice that he has made of you to work these miracles. 
Letter to Fr. Faraud 28 May 1857

How is the pandemic leading me to re-orientation of my life and relationships? Where am I looking for the food that leads to eternal life?

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I have had to work my way through this reflection today. It has taken me longer than I wanted to spend here but I needed to work my way through rather than jumping and skipping over and possibly missing something important for me.

    I have not thought of the COVID19 pandemic as ‘leading’ or even ‘inviting’. I have viewed it as ‘demanding’ and ‘controlling’. It seemed to want to rob me of my freedom and ways of doing, limiting me and pushing me away from life.

    I “looked for happiness outside of God” – a way of reverting ‘back to’ rather than looking forward. I see though how it has invited and cajoled me into ever deepening journey of myself and others that has demanded its own courage and strength.

    I am learning to be fed, learning to eat and be nourished in a new way, with my Church and her sacraments still there, but not so accessible to me. I miss our congregating and being with, I miss receiving the Eucharist. But I am reminded this morning of the men in the Sahara desert – that beautiful small community of Oblates who are missionaries in every way that there is even if they cannot go about evangelizing in the normal ways that we automatically associate with missionary life and evangelization. I wrote about them in my final assignment for this past course because their lives, their ways of being spoke so deeply to me. They remind me how the Church feeds me in new ways. I do not know if I would have written about them if this pandemic had not come along, but it did and so I focused on how they had to re-orient themselves, their lives in order to be who they have been called to be.

    It is in a new light that I find myself looking at those men in the Sahara, at St. Peter and Eugene and those around me, even myself. Perhaps this is a part of re-orientation in a new ‘normal’ that has been brought about by the pandemic. God is still God, the Church is still the Church, people are still people, and even our planet is still our planet. But I perceive them a little differently now, there is a new depth, a new beauty and a new grace in life.

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