Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

August 2, 2015
Reading I: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15; Res Psalm 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54; Reading II: Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; Gospel: John 6:24-35

“There are two things the devil is deadly afraid of: Fervent Communion at Eucharist and frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament.”– St. John Bosco

“In the Sacrament of the Eucharist we find God who gives himself to us. Without the Eucharist we are nothing, but with the Eucharist – the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus – we have everything.” – Pope Francis

Seeking and hungering after Jesus is like the story of the hungry Arab in the desert who sought a spring of which he knew, to quench his thirst. As he got up, he saw a bag, dropped by some traveler, and he joyfully exclaimed, “Here is food.” Eagerly he tore it open, and then in bitter disappointment he cried, “Alas, it’s only pearls!”

Similarly, nothing can feed the soul but Christ! To the hungry soul he is more precious than the gems of Golconda.

In another incident, a boy used to be consistently late for dinner. One particular day his parents had warned him to be on time, but he arrived later than usual. He found his parents already seated at the table, about to start the meal. Quickly he sat at his place, and then noticed what was set before him–a slice of bread and a glass of water. There was silence as he sat staring at his plate, crushed. Suddenly he saw his father’s hand reach over, pick up his plate and set it before himself. Then his dad put his own full plate in front of his son, smiling warmly as he made the exchange. When the boy became a man, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God was like by what my father did that night.”   

In today’s first reading, the Israelites saw themselves, their families, and their flocks growing thinner and as they saw day after day no likely source of food in the wilderness in which they were traveling, it became obvious to them that they were going to die unless something dramatic happened to reverse their plight. Their month’s journey had involved much care and effort, which now began to look to them as if it had all been expended in vain. Thus they begin to grumble. They claimed that they had in Egypt “all the food” they wanted. Remembering now what they had convinced themselves were the good old days, the people viewed the past differently from how they viewed it when it was happening.

God wasted no time in manifesting himself even more dramatically than through the pillar of cloud as a large visible object. God sends quail and manna for the Israelites. It is brief and obviously of secondary importance to the manna because the quail represented a one-evening supply of meat, whereas the manna was to be a daily occurrence for forty years and the more important food supply for that entire generation of Israelites.

In the second reading, Saint Paul gives us a graphic picture of the lost man today. “In the vanity of their mind” means the empty illusion of the life that thinks there is satisfaction in sin. That is not the life of happiness that God has planned for his children. It is the walk of a lost person, walking in the vanity of the mind. It is an empty illusion of life. What will change the Gentiles from their old nature? What are they to do? They are to listen to Christ. They are to hear him. They are to be taught by him. Those who are not his sheep will not hear him. The saved person looks to the Lord Jesus as his Shepherd. He listens to the Shepherd and he follows him. The unsaved person goes his own way. The truth is in Jesus. Jesus is the One who has been the pioneer; He is the example of life here on earth. There is no reason for any believer to be in the dark today or to be ignorant or to be blind. (Courtesy Fr. Marcel Barla, Capuchin, Rome)

Coming to the Gospel reading of today, Bread in Jesus’ day was the staple diet of those with a low income. It was usually made into flat cakes of wheat flour or barley flour. The grain was ground in a mill and the bread would be freshly baked.

So what did Jesus mean when he said, “I am the Bread of Life?” Did he mean that he had suddenly become a piece of bread?

What Jesus meant was that he alone could satisfy our deepest needs.

Let’s look at the background of the story. Jesus had just fed a crowd of man and women who had come to hear him preach. He then left but the crowd followed him. Why, because he had fulfilled a physical need – he had fed them when they were hungry. Now Jesus challenges them:

“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me not because you saw the signs but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life” (Jn 6:26,27)

What was Jesus’ mission on earth?

Was it to be a good teacher – Well, he was a good teacher.
Was it to be a miracle worker – Yes, he was a great miracle worker.
Was it to be a good example of how to live – Yes, Jesus gave us the best example of how to live.

But his mission on earth was more than that…. it was to satisfy our deepest spiritual needs. In other words when Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life” he was saying, I alone can fully satisfy your deepest needs. Interestingly enough, where was Jesus was born? He was born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”. Jesus came from the “House of Bread”.

What are these deep needs? How does Jesus satisfy them? Let us see how the letters B-R-E-A-D spell them out….

B – Belonging: Jesus came to this earth so that we could belong to the family of God. “Our Father in heaven” in the Lord’s Prayer would more accurately be “Our Dad in heaven.” (Mt 6:9)

 R – Relieves our fears: Just after the Resurrection, in John 20, the disciples were gathered behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. Jesus walks through the door and stands in the midst of them and says: “Peace be with you.” (Jn 20:19)

E – Expels our doubts:“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (Jn 20:27)

A – Answers our questions: Nicodemus came to Jesus by night to ask Jesus questions. And Jesus gave him answers, though not in the way he was expecting them. (Jn 3)

D – Draws us close to him: Jesus said: I have called your friends, for everything I have learned from my Father, I have made know to you (Jn 15:15)

How can we apply what we have just read to our lives?

  • We need to be bread-sharers rather than just bread-eaters.  We are called to be bread broken for others. Persons are more important than what we consume.
  • God is everlasting Food.  God is the real food that sustains our lives for ever.  Appam  or Appa?  God must have top priority in our lives over all material needs.
  • The Word of God is Food indeed.  “Not by bread alone.”  The Word of God is more important and satisfying than wealth or power (making bread-giver a king to get more bread). (Courtesy Fr. Franco SDB, Kuwait)

The two dimensions of the Eucharist – Its being both the “source” and “summit” of Christian spirituality – reveal how the Eucharist, being Christ himself, brings God and man together in a saving dialogue, a mutually giving and receiving relationship. In short, in a covenant of love. The Eucharist is at once the Father’s gift of himself in Christ to us and, through Christ, our offering of Christ and, with him, of ourselves – our minds and hearts, our daily lives – to the Father.

As the source of Christian spirituality, the Eucharist reveals that our salvation begins with God, not ourselves. God offers himself to man in Christ first. At the same time, as the summit of Christian spirituality, the Eucharist is man’s supreme, grace-enabled, freely-given offering of himself back to God through Jesus Christ, our high priest, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The union or intimate, personal fellowship between God and man realized through God’s gift of himself to man and man’s faithful response, we call communion.

“If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” –St. Maximilian Kolbe

 “Who is Jesus to me?  Jesus is the Word made Flesh.  Jesus is the Bread of Life.  Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the cross.  Jesus is the sacrifice offered at holy Mass for the sins of the world and for mine.  Jesus is the Word – to be spoken.  Jesus is the Truth – to be told.  Jesus is the Way – to be walked.  Jesus is the Light – to be lit.  Jesus is the Life – to be lived.  Jesus is the Love – to be loved,” – Mother Teresa

Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.

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