The Israelites were out in the desert, and they began to suffer from hunger. So great was their hunger that they longed for the ‘good old days’ of slavery in Egypt, when at least they had their fill of bread. What they did not know was that soon they would be eating “the bread of the mighty.”
All of us are in a desert, so to speak, suffering from spiritual hunger. So great is this hunger that we long for the ‘good old days’ of innocence, when life seemed simple and all our needs were satisfied. Jesus comes to us in this desert and gives us “the bread of life” so that we shall never be hungry again.
The readings from Exodus and John are about justice and holiness: providing all the people with our daily bread, and satisfying our spiritual hunger with “the food that remains unto life eternal.” The Church puts these readings together in this Mass to suggest to us that there is a connection between the ‘justice’ issue of hunger and the ‘holiness’ issue of the Eucharist. The work of God is to feed, and if we want to join in that work, we must become providers, doing all we can to see that no one goes hungry and to bring people to the Eucharistic table of the Lord.
Many persons today are physically hungry. Certainly the solution to starvation and malnutrition requires increased production and improved distribution of food. But it also requires a concerted act of solidarity by the nations and peoples of the world. Our sharing in the Eucharist inspires us to such solidarity, as well as to actions which express it; for sincere celebration of the Eucharist must lead to various works of charity and mutual help.
U.S. Bishops, The Eucharist and the Hungers
of the Human Family, 1975:11