Today’s gospel occurs immediately after the feeding of the 5000 with five loaves of bread and two fish by our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the fourth of seven signs, or miracles, that St John uses to establish Christ as king of all. Today’s gospel deals with the fifth sign, Christ walking on water and the Paschal discourse given by Christ to his followers.
All people are sceptical when it comes to miracles. We only need to remember last week’s reading where St Thomas says after being told of the resurrected Christ that “unless I see in his hand the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Indeed, as St Paul reminds us, it is important to question and test all things so that we can hold what is good. Thomas, we must remember, was committed to Christ. He was prepared to die for Christ. He truly believed – yet he needed to see for himself that the person that he had seen crucified had broken the laws of nature and had been resurrected to life. Hence, he touched man and declared God for his status after putting his hand into the nail holes and into his side “my Lord and my God.” I have no doubt that each one of us, had they been in the place of Thomas, would have also said “my Lord and my God” in acknowledging a miracle.
However, a lot of people nowadays do not believe in miracles. They say that everything is capable of rationalisation and nothing that the mind cannot understand is capable of existence. They say that all creation is bound by the laws of nature which cannot be broken. Therefore anything that is a miracle, such as walking on water, cannot exist. To them miracles are nonsense as they rupture nature’s laws which cannot be altered under any circumstances. In other words their God is nature.
That is not the position of the Christian. The Christian believes in God who created heaven and earth and all things visible and invisible. We believe that God exists inside and outside of creation. By that we mean that God is so great that he sustains all creation within himself. Therefore Christ is never missing in our world nor has he ever left it because that is an impossibility. To explain: consider God as a singer and creation as a song. Whilst God sings his creation we exist. If God chose to stop singing then the song would end and creation would cease. The singer, however, would continue to be, as the song depends on the singer for existence and not the singer on the song.
In a sense such a thought is scary as we understand we are reliant upon the goodwill of the singer to continue singing the song thereby keeping creation in existence. Fear not, God created this universe out of absolute love. Indeed, we are assured that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Given that the miracle of creation is continuous then how can such a thing as walking on water cause us to scoff at the idea of miracles. Indeed, we are in the process of celebrating the greatest miracle and that is the resurrection of Christ after three days in the tomb. This miracle ruptures all known laws on the sustenance of the life force, yet we accept that miracle indeed. Yes, miracles do indeed happen.
The Paschal discourse is an extension of the miraculous transformative nature of Christ. Here Christ says to the people following him that they did so for the wrong reason. “You seek me not because you saw signs (or, to use another word, miracles) but because you ate your fill of the loaves”. In other words people didn’t stop and reflect on what had occurred, namely the feeding of the 5000, but focused on the benefit of a full belly without even thinking about the awesome event that had occurred. It is a bit like seeing God’s glory in a sunrise and turning your back to that glory because some mundane matter preoccupied you. In other words you close your eyes and ears to the presence of God and only concentrate on your own personal gain. That is not what Christ wants you to do. He wants you to enjoy God gifts and bounty. Indeed he says “do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the son of man will give you; for on him has God the Father set his seal”. In other words look for the things that matter. Do not worry about the small things and remember that in life we can strive for the things that we consider important and yet in doing so ignore the really important things in life. What are the really important things in life? It occurs to me that you coming with your children to church is one of the greatest gifts you can give. As parents we want our children to be safe in their own homes. As children of God we are all God’s children in his house. No parent turns out their young child and does not fend for it. Neither does God. He welcomes us all including those that are noisy and those that are quiet. No parent should feel apologetic that their child is seeking attention. Any parent who hears a child in distress runs to that child’s assistance. Just like God – he leaves the 99 to find the lost one.
It is only by coming to church that you can tap into the waters of eternal life. Whoever drinks of this water given to him by Christ, that water becomes in him a spring of eternal life. That is the most important thing in this world. By taking part in the Eucharist and becoming one with Christ not only have we obtained food that doesn’t perish but also everlasting life – and isn’t that the purpose of our being in this world? Amen.