One of the early practices of the Church I have read about is the agape feast or agape meal, which was a common meal eaten among Christians, separate from the Eucharist. From what I read it had its start in Jewish tradition, and was likely even practiced by Jesus and his disciples. Today there are some Christian based groups that continue with these meals, and like every free meal I am certain that there are many that come simply to have their bellies filled. As Jesus gathered large crowds around him, and fed them, He too had those that followed him for that banquet while ignoring the banquet of His teachings. Those are the people He addresses in todays reading.
Jesus answered them and said,
“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.
In thinking about this little passage, I also can think of the modern disciples that gather around many Christian institutions, and I can wonder about some of the agendas people might have other than Christ’s message. There are the networkers, those trying to advance their careers, those trying to make a sale, and those trying for an enhanced social standing. There are those that simply come for the pot luck suppers, the social camaraderie, and even a good game of Bingo. None of these are bad things in themselves, but should they be the primary reason for being part of the Church?
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
Its odd to think that these things happened as Christ preached. Imagine witnessing the multiplication of loaves and fishes, and only walking away with some lunch. It is an odd thought, but really is part of what Jesus addresses in His encounter with some of His followers. They were only concerned about what they could get to meet their material needs, and placed little thought on their spiritual needs. Part of Christ’s dialogue is that this spiritual food is as necessary as that which feeds our flesh and bones. These gatherings might start as a meal of earthly concern, but end with Christ declaring “I am the bread of Life.”
This could easily turn into a long unfocused rambling rant, but it really boils down to folks focusing on selfish earthly needs while ignoring their spiritual needs. More importantly is the ignorance of truth, and a type of thievery towards the almighty, no matter how benign it might be. It is a focus on the manna in the desert, and an ignorance towards the splendor of who delivered it.