A century and a half ago, a group of ex-soldiers were working to build a sawmill on the American Fork River in Western California. Their promised wages were $1.50 a day—nothing to sneeze at in those days. But while blasting away dirt from the new mill channel, one of the men saw a golden sparkle in the buried rocks. The year was 1848, and the California gold rush would soon start—all because some workmen found something much more valuable than what they were looking for!
Eighty years later, a Scottish doctor named Alexander Fleming, investigating the growth of harmful bacteria, was disappointed to discover that one of his samples had become contaminated with mould. He almost threw the dish away, but then stopped when he saw how the mould had stopped the harmful bacteria from growing. From studying this mouldy sample Fleming and other researchers eventually worked to produce penicillin—the first of many antibiotic medicines. In that mouldy plate, Dr Fleming found something much better than what he was looking for!
This weekend’s Gospel follows directly on from the story of the feeding of the 5000 that we heard last Sunday. It is not hard to imagine how impressed the people were and how word travelled around the villages about Jesus. This is the guy you have got to see! This is the wonder worker you just have to meet! It’s these same people who form the large crowd looking for Jesus that we hear about today.
The question on everyone’s lips was whether Jesus was going to keep performing those kinds of miracles? The people wanted more of the same! We might have expected that Jesus would be thrilled that so many people were looking for him. But Jesus explained to those people that, although they were looking for him, they were not looking for the things Jesus had really come to give them.
The truth is that they wanted more “signs”, more sensational miracles, more of the “bread” that would fill their bellies! Good, easy food! But Jesus challenged them to look beyond, go deeper than the loaves themselves. Jesus challenged them to realise the compassion of God in the miracle and the possibilities each one of them has to be that same “bread” of hope and generosity for one another.
Perhaps today, in listening to the readings, Jesus is challenging each one of us to go beyond our desire for instant gratification and quick fixes and discover the Word of God creating and animating our lives and our Caloundra and hinterland community. For the reality is that a life of true joy and meaning is driven not by “perishable” material things and fleeting experiences but by the “non-perishable” values of God.
Fr Peter Brannelly