One of the great debates of life is what is really meant by labels on food these days that say things like, “Use or freeze by….”, “Sell by…”, Best if used by….”. There are great deliberations as to how to interpret such instructions. For example, if we do not use the item by the date stated, should we throw it away? If an item is sold by a certain date, how much longer after it is sold until it goes bad? If it is best by a certain date does that mean that even though it may not be as good, it is alright to use it indefinitely? Whatever the interpretation, what we do know for sure is that at some point the food will spoil. It is perishable. Like everything else that is alive in our world. Everything ages, deteriorates and eventually spoils or dies.
The perishable world we live in is often difficult to accept. People go to great lengths to hide their true age. It is difficult to see our parents age or even to watch our own children grow up. We get impatient with illness and upset when things break. Even though life is much more temporary than permanent, we often carry within us a fantasy about the durability of life.
In the Gospel, Jesus tries to shake us out of the fantasy of life’s imperishable nature by calling himself “living bread” that is not perishable (John 6:24-35). He wants us to feed on the food of his unconditional love for us. So distracted are we in our quest to disprove life’s perishability, like the disciples, we want signs of this love. His words are not enough. We want proof. True love never has to prove itself, it is, as we say these days, what it is.
Food that spoils takes the form of competing with others for God’s love, trying to figure out how we can get God to love us more and endless judgments about who is worthy of God’s love and who is not. The food that does not spoil is the living bread of God’s unconditional love for us. Jesus is not interested in proving himself to us nor does he want us to prove ourselves to him. He just wants us to know the difference between food that will spoil and food that will not.