22. The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone;
23. (Although there came other boats from Tiberias nigh to the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)
24. When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.
25. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, Rabbi, when came you hither?
26. Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
27. Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you: for him has God the Father sealed.
CHRYS. Our Lord, though He did not actually show Himself to the multitude walking on the sea, yet gave them the opportunity of inferring what had taken place; The day following, the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto His disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples were gone away alone. What was this but to suspect that He had walked across the sea, on His going away? For He could not have gone over in a ship, as there was only one there, that in which His disciples had entered; and He had not gone in with them.
AUG. Knowledge of the miracle was conveyed to them indirectly. Other ships had come to the place where they had eaten bread; in these they went after Him; However there came other boats from Tiberias, nigh to the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks. When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither His disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.
CHRYS. Yet after so great a miracle, they did not ask Him how He had passed over, or show any concern about it: as appears from what follows; And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, Rabbi, when came you hither? Except we say that this when meant how. And observe their lightness of mind. After saying, This is that Prophet, and wishing to take Him by force to make Him king, when they find Him, nothing of the kind is thought of.
AUG. So He Who had fled to the mountain, mixes and converses with the multitude. Only just now they would have kept Him, and made Him king. But after the sacrament of the miracle, He begins to discourse, and fills their souls with His word, whose bodies Ho had satisfied with bread.
ALCUIN. He who set an example of declining praise, and earthly power, sets teachers also an example of deliverance in preaching.
CHRYS. Kindness and lenity are not always expedient. To the indolent or insensible disciple the spur must be applied; and this the Son of God does. For when the multitude comes with soft speeches, Rabbi, when came you hither? He shows them that He did not desire the honor that comes from man, by the severity of His answer, which both exposes the motive on which they acted, and rebukes it. Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
AUG. As if He said, you seek Me to satisfy the flesh, not the Spirit.
CHRYS. After the rebuke, however, He proceeds to teach them: Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life; meaning, you seek for temporal food, whereas I only fed your bodies, that you might seek the more diligently for that food, which is not temporary, but contains eternal life.
ALCUIN. Bodily food only supports the flesh of the outward man, and must be taken not once for all, but daily; whereas spiritual food remains for ever, imparting perpetual fullness, and immortality.
AUG. Under the figure of food He alludes to Himself you seek Me, He said, for the sake of something else; seek Me for My own sake.
CHRYS. But, inasmuch much as some who wish to live in sloth, pervert this precept: Labor not, &c. it is well to notice what Paul says, Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs. And he himself too, when he resided with Aquila and Priscilla at Corinth, worked with his hand. By saying, Labor not for the meat which perishes, our Lord does not mean to tell us to be idle; but to work, and give alms. This is that meat which perishes not; to labor for the meat which perishes, is to be devoted to the interests of this life. Our Lord saw that the multitude had no thought of believing, and only wished to fill their bellies, without working; and this He justly called the meat which perishes.
AUG. As He told the woman of Samaria above, If you knew Who it is that said to you, Give me to drink, you would have asked of Him, an He would have given you living water. So He says here, Which the Son of man shall give to you.
ALCUIN. When, through the hand of the priest, you receive the Body of Christ, think not of the priest which you see, but of the Priest you do not see. The priest is the dispenser of this food, not the author. The Son of man gives Himself to us, that we may abide in Him, and He in us. Do not conceive that Son of man to be the same as other sons of men: He stands alone in abundance of grace, separate and distinct from all the rest: for that Son of man is the Son of God, as it follows, For Him has God the Father sealed. To seal is to put a mark upon; so the meaning is, Do not despise Me because I am the Son of man, for I am the Son of man in such sort, as that the Father has sealed Me, i.e. given Me something peculiar, to the end that should not be confounded with the human race, but that the human race should be delivered by Me.
HILARY. A seal throws out a perfect impression of the stamp, at the same time that it takes in that impression. This is not a perfect illustration of the Divine nativity: for sealing supposes matter, different kinds of matter, the impression of harder upon softer. Yet He who was God Only-Begotten, and the Son of man only by the Sacrament of our salvation, makes use of it to express the Father's fullness as stamped upon Himself. He wishes to show the Jews He has the power of giving the eternal meat, because He contained in Himself the fullness of God.
CHRYS. Or sealed, i.e. sent Him for this purpose, viz. to bring us food; or, sealed, was revealed the Gospel by means of His witness.
ALCUIN. To take the passage mystically: on the day following, i.e. after the ascension of Christ, the multitude standing in good works, not lying in worldly pleasures, expects Jesus to come to them. The one ship is the one Church: the other ships which come besides, are the conventicles of heretics, who seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ. Wherefore He well says, You seek Me, because you did eat of the loaves.
AUG. How many there are who seek Jesus, only to gain some temporary benefit. One man has a matter of business, in which he wants the assistance of the clergy; another is oppressed by a more powerful neighbor, and flies to the Church for refuge: Jesus is scarcely ever sought for Jesus' sake.
GREG. In their persons too our Lord condemns all those within the holy Church, who, when brought near to God by sacred Orders, do not seek the recompense of righteousness, but the interests of this present life. To follow our Lord, when filled with bread, is to use Holy Church as a means of livelihood; and to seek our Lord not for the miracle's sake. but for the loaves, is to aspire to a religious office, not with a view to increase of grace, but to add to our worldly means.
BEDE. They too seek Jesus, not for Jesus' sake, but for something else, who ask in their prayers not for eternal, but temporal blessings. The mystical meaning is, that the conventicles of heretics are without the company of Christ and His disciples. And other ships coming is the sudden growth of heresies. By the crowd, which saw that Jesus was not there, or His disciples, are designated those who seeing the errors of heretics, leave them and turn to the true faith.
28. Then said they to him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
29. Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.
ALCUIN. They understood that the meat, which remains to eternal life, was the work of God: and therefore they ask Him what to do to work the work of God, i.e. obtain the meat: Then said they to Him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God?
BEDE. i.e. By keeping what commandments shall we be able to fulfill the law of God?
CHRYS. But they said this, not that they might learn, and do them, but to obtain from Him another exhibition of His bounty.
THEOPHYL. Christ, though He saw it would not avail, yet for the good of others afterwards, answered their question; and showed them, or rather the whole world, what was the work of God: Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.
AUG. He does not say, That you believe Him, but, that you believe in Him. For the devils believed Him, and did not believe in Him; and we believe Paul, but do not believe in Paul. To believe in Him is believing to love, believing to honor Him, believing to go to Him, and be made members incorporate of His Body. The faith, which God requires of us, is that which works by love. Faith indeed is distinguished from works by the Apostle, who says, That man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. But the works indeed which appear good, without faith in Christ, are not really so, not being referred to that end, which makes them good. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes. And therefore our Lord would not separate faith from works, but said that faith itself was the doing the work of God; He said not, This is your work, but, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him: in order that he that glories might glory in the Lord.
AUG. To eat then that meat which endures to everlasting life, is to believe in Him. Why do you make ready your tooth and your belly? Only believe, and you have eaten already. As He called on them to believe, they still asked for miracles whereby to believe; They said therefore to Him, What sign show you then, that we may see and believe You? What do you work?
Catena Aurea John 6