Synopsis of OT XVIII [B] (August 5) Homily on John 6:24-35 (L-18)
Introduction: Today’s readings challenge us to be more concerned with spiritual food than physical food and to get our spiritual food regularly from the word of God and from the Holy Eucharist – the Heavenly Bread, because only God can satisfy the various forms of our spiritual hunger.
Scripture lessons: The first reading shows us how God satisfied the physical hunger of His chosen people in the desert by giving them manna and quail. The restrictions imposed by God for the collecting of manna remind us to acknowledge humbly our total dependence on God and to trust that He will always provide for what we need. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 78), refers to manna as “Heavenly bread” and the “bread of angels” which God provided for Israel and provides for us today. In the second reading, St. Paul advises the Ephesians to satisfy their spiritual hunger by turning away from their former evil ways and by leading renewed lives of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. Paul reminds us that our acceptance of Jesus as the real source of our life and the nourishment of our souls effects a total transformation in us. Having been nourished by the Bread from Heaven and the word of God, we need to bear witness to Christ by living lives renewed by the Holy Spirit. Today’s Gospel passage is taken from the “Bread of Life Discourse” in John’s gospel. Here Jesus makes the unique and bold claim: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Jesus is offering the crowd Bread from Heaven, Bread that nourishes them for eternal life, the Bread available to people who have Faith in Jesus Christ. When Jesus instructed those, who had sought after him for earthly food, that they should be fed by the Bread of his word or teaching, some accepted his teaching. But others turned away disappointed, because Jesus’ challenge required a commitment that they were unwilling to make.
Life messages: 1) We need spiritual nourishment from the word of God and from the Holy Eucharist: In the Holy Mass, the Church offers us two types of bread: a) the Bread of Life, contained in God’s Word and b) the Bread of Life, contained in the Holy Eucharist. Let us nourish our souls with this Heavenly manna and carry Jesus to our homes and workplaces, radiating his love, mercy and compassion all around us. But we should not take for granted the Divine generosity that provides these gifts so readily and gratuitously by sharing in the Bread of Life simply as a matter of habit, without repenting of our sins or showing due attention and proper respect. 2) We need to accept God’s gifts of spiritual life and strength by understanding what the Holy Eucharist gives us: The Sacrament gives us 1) Courage to carry out God’s work in the world, 2) Help to live the life God wants for us, 3) Inspiration to know the will of God in our lives, 4) A deeper Understanding of the holy mystery of Christ’s Presence, 5) Encouragement to love others and strengthen the Faith community, 6) Grace to overcome temptation and avoid sin and 7) Joy and Peace of heart, knowing that Christ lives in us and will bring us to God’s Heavenly Kingdom. Let us remember that the “Bread of Life” is Jesus Christ himself, not merely human bread. He is Food for our souls giving us a share in God’s life and assurance of eternal life with Him.
OT XVIII [B] (Aug 5): Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35
Anecdotes: #1: All about food, earthly and Heavenly: In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about food. The two biggest sellers in any bookstore, according to Andy Rooney, are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food, and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it. Orson Wells once said, “My doctor has advised me to give up those intimate little dinners for four, unless, of course, there are three other people eating with me.” Champion archer Rick McKinney confesses that he regularly eats chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. He refers to “the basic four food groups” as a Big Mac, fries, a shake and a lemon tart. A California scientist has computed that the average human being eats 16 times his or her own weight in an average year, while a horse eats only eight times its weight. This all seems to prove that if you want to lose weight, you should eat like a horse. (Sunshine Magazine). That’s a subject most of us know too much about. A recent survey found that 41% of men and 55% of women consider themselves overweight. In one way or another, many of us are obsessed with earthly food. Think what a difference it would make in our lives if we were equally obsessed with Heavenly Food, the Food that Christ gives us.
# 2: “I’ve got a piece of him.” William Barclay tells us that when Admiral Lord Nelson was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral, a party of his sailors carried his body high into the cathedral. His coffin was draped with a magnificent Union Jack. Later they carried his body to the graveside. One who saw the scene writes, “With reverence and with efficiency they lowered the body of the world’s greatest admiral into its tomb. Then as though answering to a sharp order from the quarter deck, they all seized the Union Jack with which the coffin had been covered and tore it to fragments, and each took his souvenir of the illustrious dead.” All their lives that little bit of colored cloth would speak to them of the admiral they had loved. “I’ve got a piece of him,” they said, “and I’ll never forget him.” In a sense, when we leave this Church this morning after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, each of us will take Jesus with us and covey the spiritual nourishment he gives us to others as we come into contact with them. The “Eu” in Eucharist, as the Lord’s Supper is often called, means “good,” and “charis” is the root of our English word “caress.” The Lord’s Supper is the “good caress.” In this Sacrament God comes to us spiritually and physically and touches us and says, “I love you.” He alone touches and satisfies our deepest needs. He alone allows us to reach out and touch one another.
# 3: The Great Depression Bread-lines. In the depression years of the 1930’s millions of Americans were out of work and many thousands were hungry. In a number of cities, religious groups set up bread-lines to feed the hungry. One of these was the Franciscan monastery in Cincinnati, Ohio. Every evening, the Friars, Brothers and lay volunteers prepared and gave a nourishing sandwich of bread and meat to hundreds of hungry men and women. It was interesting to note the reactions of the recipients. Many accepted the well-prepared and well-wrapped food with a smile and a thank you. Others, with heads hanging, snatched the food package and shuffled off. Some tore the bag at once and started eating as they hurried away. Most of them ate every last crumb after a silent prayer and put the wrapping into a nearby container, though some would eat only the meat and discard the bread on the roadside. A few discontented ones just opened the package and then threw the entire contents away in protest. The way those hungry unfortunates reacted to that little lunch is a lot like the way his listeners received the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel.
Introduction: Today’s readings challenge us to trust in the providence of a loving and caring God and to hunger and thirst for the Bread of eternal life – the Holy Eucharist. As human beings, we hunger for many things besides food and material possessions. We hunger to be recognized and honored, to love and be loved, to be listened to and to be appreciated, to help, console and encourage people and receive gratitude. But only God can satisfy our various forms of spiritual hunger. St. Augustine said: “O God, You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” (Confessions, I, 1.).
The first reading shows us how God satisfied the hunger of His chosen people in the desert by giving them manna and quail. The restrictions imposed by God for the collecting of manna remind us to trust that God will always provide for our needs. Sometimes we have to be stripped of our usual sources of support in order to be reminded that our ultimate sustenance comes only from God, and then to acknowledge humbly our total dependence on God. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 78), refers to manna as “Heavenly bread” and the “bread of angels” which God provided for Israel and provides for us today. In the second reading, St. Paul advises the Ephesians to satisfy their spiritual hunger by turning away from their former evil ways and leading lives of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. Paul reminds us that our acceptance of Jesus as the real source of our life and the nourishment of our souls effects a total transformation in us. Having been fed on the Bread from Heaven, we need to put aside our old selves, steeped in ignorance and self-interest, and put on a new self, created in Christ’s image. Having been nourished by the word of God, we need to bear witness to Christ by living lives renewed by the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes the unique and bold claim: “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.” Jesus was offering the crowd Bread from Heaven, Bread that nourishes for eternal life, Bread available to people who have Faith in Jesus Christ. When Jesus invited those who sought after him to be fed spiritually by the bread of his word or teaching, some accepted the nourishment. But others turned away, disappointed because Jesus’ challenge required a commitment that they were unwilling to make.
First reading, Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15, explained: The passage from Exodus describes how the people complained to Moses of the acute shortage of food in the desert and accused him of leading them from Egypt, where food was plentiful, into the desert, to “die of famine.” God heard the complaint of His people and lavished on them “food from heaven” in the form of fleshy quails in the evening and delicious manna in the morning. The restrictions imposed by God for collecting the manna remind us to trust that God will always provide what we need. Sometimes we have to be stripped of our usual sources of support in order to remember that our ultimate sustenance comes only from God, and to acknowledge humbly our total dependence on God. The fact that the Israelites were given bread from Heaven even after their murmuring reminds us that God’s generosity is not dependent on our virtue, but on His Goodness. According to Bible scholars, quails and manna are occasional phenomena in the Sinai desert. Arranging for these gifts to arrive at the moment they were needed to meet the people’s need, however, was God’s work alone, His miracle. The quail might have been migratory birds that often drop down in groups to the Sinai deserts due to exhaustion after their return flight from Europe over the Mediterranean Sea to their autumn habitats. Manna is the secretion of two species of scale insects on the tamarisk shrub during the months of May and June. But it was God’s doing that the fall of manna occurred daily (except Sabbaths), for the 40 unbroken years of their wandering in the desert. As the secretions drop from the shrub’s leaves to the ground, they cool in the night air and become firm. If gathered early before the parching desert sun melts it, the manna provides a tasty, nourishing meal. Bedouins in the northern Sinai call it mann and still use it as a sweetener. The fact that the occasional occurrence of the manna and quail can be explained scientifically does not, in any way, lessen their theological importance in demonstrating God’s love for His people; indeed, the Israelites rightly ascribed these nourishing, timely gifts from the desert to the loving providence of their God.
Second Reading, Ephesians 4:17, 20-24, explained: In the selections from Ephesians which we have read on these past two Sundays, St. Paul showed us how God effected a new unity of His once separated peoples, the Jews and the Gentiles, by making both Christians. In today’s second reading, St. Paul encourages the Jewish and Gentile Christians to live out the consequences of their unification, by treating each other like members of one family. He also demands of the Gentile Christians of Ephesus radical changes from their pre-Christian way of life. They must a) “put away the old self of their former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires,” b) “be renewed in the spirit of their minds,” and c)” put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” They must put away the old pagan life and put on the new Christian life, just as the catechumens divested themselves of their outer garments to go down into the Baptismal waters and, after emerging, were clothed in Baptismal robes. Here, St. Paul is challenging all baptized believers to personal holiness.
Exegesis: The context: Today’s Gospel presents an introduction to Jesus’ famous discourse on the Holy Eucharist in the form of a dialogue between Jesus and the Jews who had gone around the Lake and come to Capernaum searching for him. The people were looking for a repeat performance of their miraculous feeding. In answer to their question about his arrival, Jesus told them that they looked for him for another free meal and that such meals would not satisfy them. Hence, he instructed them to labor for food that would give them eternal life.
Believing is the first condition: Although Jesus identifies himself as “the bread of life” (v. 35), he is not yet speaking about the Sacramental Eucharist in this part of his Eucharistic discourse. Here, the emphasis is placed on the Faith-acceptance of the teaching of Jesus. In other words, Jesus states that he is nourishment, first of all, as one who offers us the life-giving words of God about the meaning of our lives. His message only gives life when we accept it and when it leads us from selfishness to selfless and sacrificial service for others. Jesus states that he is the bread of life for the one who “comes” to him and “believes” in him (v. 35). Jesus offered to satisfy the spiritual hunger of the people gathered around him on one condition. They must believe him to be the Messiah, sent with the message that God is a loving, holy, and forgiving Father, and not a punishing judge. Belief in Jesus is not simple intellectual assent, but an authentic, total commitment to Him of loyalty and solidarity. There is no reference yet to eating His Body or drinking His Blood, which will come later. Here, we are reminded that only a believing reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus will bring us true life.
Demand for a sign from Heaven: In reply to Jesus’ claim that he was the Messiah sent from Heaven to give eternal life to those who believed in him, the Jews demanded a sign from Heaven. Moses, they said, had given a Heavenly sign to their ancestors in the manna rained down on them from Heaven. The Jewish rabbis taught that the Messiah would repeat the miracle of manna and the prophet Jeremiah would reappear and unearth the Ark of the Covenant from its hidden place to show the Jews the original manna kept in the Ark. Jesus corrected their understanding of Exodus 16:15 by stating that it was not Moses but God, Jesus’ Father, who had given, and continued to give, bread from Heaven. Jesus is apparently speaking to two groups: those who witnessed the miracle of the loaves (last Sunday’s Gospel) and those who had not seen the miracle but had heard about it and wanted to see a similar sign as proof. Jesus tells the former group that there is something much deeper in this event than “perishable food” being multiplied; the real “food” is his own Body later to be offered on the cross and glorified by Resurrection, and the word of God proclaimed, its power and authority manifested in the miracles of the loaves. Jesus reminds the latter group who seek a sign as the Israelites sought a sign from Moses, that it was not Moses himself but God working through Moses Who provided food in the form of manna. The same God has given His people new bread for the new covenant — the Risen Christ.
The Giver and the Gift: Jesus not only gives the Bread of Life (John 6:11, 27) — He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48). The Giver and the Gift are one and the same. As the Bread of Life from Heaven, Jesus claims that only he can satisfy man’s spiritual hunger. While bodily food helps us to stay alive in this world, spiritual food sustains and develops our supernatural life which will last forever in heaven. Through God’s infinite love we are given, in the Blessed Eucharist, the very Author of the gifts of Faith and sanctifying grace. Thus, the Eucharist is not a mere “symbol” of Jesus; rather, it is a Sacramental sign of Jesus’ Real Bodily Presence in his glorified risen Body. This Bread of Life — which is Jesus himself — gives mankind a new relationship with God, a relationship of trust, obedience and love.
“The Son of Man” and “works of God” and I AM.”: this expression has been the subject of considerable debate by scholars over the last 30 years. In its original Semitic (Hebrew or Aramaic form), “a son of man” was simply a human being, generically speaking. However, Jesus’ use of “THE Son of Man” as a title to refer to Himself seems to suggest, either that He Himself is the ‘paradigm’ of what it is to be human, or is perhaps an allusion to the “one like a son of man” who is seen by the Old Testament prophet Daniel (7:13, “one like a human being” in the NRSV translation), mounted on the clouds, and coming with God’s power to judge the earth. The exact meaning that Jesus intends this phrase to carry continues to be argued by scholars. “The works of God”: although this phrase can be understood in several possible ways, it seems from the context here to mean “the works commanded by God and expected of His people.” “I am the Bread of Life”: throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus uses the expression “I am …” seven times (indicative of completeness) to introduce various key images by which He describes His person and His mission: “I am … the True Bread … the True Light … the Gate … the Way … the Good Shepherd … the Resurrection and the Life … the True Vine”. However, on an even deeper theological level, the Greek expression egô eimi (“I am”) relates back to the scene in Exodus 3:14, when God tells Moses to use this name (a shortened form of the divine name YHWH, “I Am Who I Am”) in asking Pharaoh to free the enslaved Israelites. “I Am” is, therefore, an explicitly divine title, and by using it repeatedly throughout this Gospel, Jesus is making a radical claim to BE the God that the Israelites had known in the time of Moses and the Exodus. . (Dr. Watson Murray).
“The source and summit of the Christian Life:” The emphasis in this segment of the Bread of Life Discourse is placed on the Faith-acceptance of the teaching of Jesus. In other words, Jesus is nourishment first of all as one who offers us the life-giving words of God about the meaning of our lives. Moreover, this Divine message, if it is to nourish for eternal life, must be accepted in a way that leads us from self-centeredness to unselfish love and sacrifice for others. It is for this reason that Jesus states that he is the bread of life for the one who “comes”? to him and “believes”? in him (John 6:35). In fact, what the Eucharist is not a kind of “static” presence of Christ, but the living and perfect self-offering of Christ to his Father, carried out by giving himself to us and for us. We believe that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian Life“(Lumen Gentium), because it contains the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Jesus Christ Himself. The Eucharist is a Sacrament of love that unites us with Christ who lived, died and rose again to bring us salvation, strengthens and makes holy our relationship with our fellow-Christians, nourishes us with the transforming power of grace and prepares us for the future glory of God’s Heavenly banquet.
Life messages: 1) We need spiritual nourishment from the word of God and from the Holy Eucharist: In the Holy Mass, the Church offers us two types of bread: a) the Bread of Life, contained in God’s Word and b) the Bread of Life, contained in the Holy Eucharist. Unfortunately, many of us come to Mass every week only to present on the altar our earthly needs without accepting spiritual nourishment by properly receiving God’s Word and the Holy Eucharist. Let us nourish our souls with this Heavenly manna and carry Jesus to our homes and workplaces, radiating his love, mercy and compassion all around us. It is perhaps the plainness and ordinariness of the consecrated Bread and Wine and their easy availability in our Churches that sometimes prevent some of us from appreciating the great gift of God in the Holy Eucharist. But we should not take for granted the Divine generosity that provides these gifts so readily and gratuitously by sharing in the Bread of Life simply as a matter of habit and without showing due attention and proper respect.2
2 We need to gain the benefits of the Holy Communion. Holy communion acts spiritually, as bread and wine act materially. Bread and wine, i.e., material food, (1), Assimilates itself to the body; (2), Maintains life, promotes growth; (3), Dispels fatigue and weakness and imparts strength to the body; (4), Affords a certain satisfaction by pleasing the palate; (5), And influences the mind by the medium of the body. In a similar way the action of Holy Communion upon the soul may be described. 1. By Holy Communion we are united most closely to Christ. Our Lord says: “He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood, abides in Me, and I in him” (John vi. 57) . By Holy Communion Jesus unites himself to each individual member of the human race. 2. Holy communion imparts actual graces, and also maintains and increases sanctifying grace in the soul. It imparts strength and power to withstand temptation and to practice virtue. 3. The force of evil concupiscence is lessened by holy communion, and we are freed from venial sin by means of it. He who communicates frequently will feel less sharply the stimulus of anger, envy, uncleanness, and other evil propensities. 4. Holy communion often affords much refreshment to the soul. 5. Holy communion sanctifies the body, and implants in it the germ of a future glorious resurrection. The temporal penalties of sin are cancelled by holy communion according to the measure of our devotion. (https://bellarmineforum.org/bf_catechism/the-catechism-explained/).
3) Multiply good works like the loaves and fishes, (Pope Francis July 26, 2015) “Jesus satisfies not only material hunger, but the most profound of hungers, the hunger for meaning in life, the hunger for God. In the face of suffering, loneliness, poverty and difficulties of so many people, what can we do? Complaining, does not solve anything, but we can offer what little we have. We certainly have a few hours of time, some talent, some expertise. … Who among us, does not have his or her “five loaves and two fish”? If we are willing to put them in the hands of the Lord, we will bring a little more love into the world, a bit more love, peace, justice and joy. God is able to multiply our small gestures of solidarity and make us partakers of his gift.”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
1) Internet Safety Resources for Parents from ICRA:
2) http://www.youtube.com/?tab=w1on the controversial (pre-Vatican?) Catholic TV (Church Triumphany TV) by Michael Voris.
For Michael’s strong conservative articles in Google search visit
http://www.catholicblogs.com/search/michael-vortex 3) Catholic Search Engine: http://www.newadvent.org/
4) Catholic news, analysis and opinion from an independent but “orthodox” Catholic perspective: http://www.newoxfordreview.org/
Humorous cartoon of the week
17 Additional anecdotes: 1) McDonald’s, Burger King, Burger Chef, Arby’s, Subway, Pizza Hut: Most Americans eat well. To have three square meals a day is not uncommon. Indeed, many eat five or six times a day, if coffee breaks, evening snacks and other times of eating are counted, in addition to breakfast, lunch, and supper. Drive through a town of any consequence and count the number of fast food places and restaurants that are found. At some corners of major roads or along a block or two of a busy thoroughfare you may find five to ten feeding establishments. It is not uncommon to find in close proximity McDonald’s, Burger King, Burger Chef, Arby’s, Subway, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Dairy Queen, Long John Silver’s, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell as well as lesser-known or local look-a-like fast food establishments. Go into a major supermarket and count the variety of products that are similar. The only discernible difference often is in the trade name. Whole aisles will be filled with a vast array of cereals. Another aisle will be filled with competing brands of soft drinks: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Royal Crown, 7 Up, and lesser known or store brands. Try to find in the same area a religious bookstore. Compare the size of the religious book and supply store with the supermarket. It does not appear that people are as eager to be fed spiritually as they are to be fed physically! In John 6, Jesus takes the preoccupation of the crowds with food and drink as an occasion to move from physical eating and drinking to the more important needs of the spirit. Nourishment is needed for spiritual life and growth.
2) A modern Good Samaritan: A few years ago, the news media carried the story of a modern-day Good Samaritan who packed his car each day with dozens of homemade sandwiches and traveled to the inner city to distribute them to homeless and otherwise needy people. Eventually, those who benefited from his generosity became familiar with the Samaritan’s customary route and began to congregate on certain corners at a specific time each day to wait for their daily gift of food. Today’s Gospel describes such a scene where people who had been sumptuously fed on the previous day by Jesus came searching for him for another free meal.
3) This week nobody died: The story is told of two old friends who bumped into one another on the street one day. One of them looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?” The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me $40,000.” “That’s a lot of money.” “But, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew, died, and left me $85,000 free and clear.” “Sounds like you’ve been blessed….” “You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week my great aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million.” Now he was really confused. “Then, why do you look so glum?” “This week … nothing!” Gratitude is something that you only feel when a gift is truly appreciated. Today’s Gospel describes Jesus correcting the wrong attitude of his listeners who had gathered around him with wrong motive of getting another free lunch.
4) Cat to kill mice: Once there was a young Hindu hermit who lived as an ascetic in a forest. He owned nothing except a pair of loincloths. One morning, to his great disappointment, he found that mice had destroyed one of the loincloths. He brought a cat to kill the mice and then a cow to give milk to the cat. Later, as the cows multiplied, he hired a girl from the nearby village to look after the cows and to sell the extra milk in the village. Finally, his ever-growing material needs prompted him to end his religious life, marry the girl and settle down as a farmer in the village. This little story illustrates how easily the never-ceasing hunger for material things can take over our spiritual life. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises to satisfy our spiritual hunger by offering His Body as our food.
5) “I always sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ when I’m happy.” In one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books there is a story told by a doctor. It is about a five-year-old girl named Mary who had suffered a stroke that left half of her body paralyzed. Even more tragically, she had been hospitalized for treatment of a brain tumor, and had recently lost her father and mother. She was being examined in an MRI machine. The imaging sequence at that time required the patient to remain perfectly still for about five minutes–a demanding task for a five-year-old. About two minutes into the first sequence, the doctor and the technician noticed on the video monitor that Mary’s mouth was moving. They even heard a muted voice over the intercom. They halted the exam and gently reminded Mary not to talk. She smiled and promised not to talk. They repeated the sequence with the same result. Her lips were still moving. The technologist, a bit gruffly, said, “Mary, you were talking again, and that causes blurry pictures.” Mary’s smile remained as she replied, “I wasn’t talking. I was singing. You said no talking.” “What were you singing?” someone asked. “Jesus Loves Me,” came the barely audible reply. “I always sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ when I’m happy.” Everyone in the room was speechless. “Happy? How could this little girl be happy?” The technologist and the doctor had to leave the room to regain their composure as tears began to fall. [James C Brown, MD: E-zine: Chicken Soup for the Soul http://www.soupserver.com/.] Mary was happy because she knew Jesus loved her. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus promised to remain with us through the Heavenly Bread of the Holy Eucharist to demonstrate his love for us.
6) “… that God was alive and that His light would shine again in my life:” Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch woman who spent months in prison and in the Ravensbruck concentration camp for hiding Jews during the Second World War, had that kind of Faith. Those awful days in prison were a strain on her Faith. Once she was in solitary confinement. She prayed, “God, how much longer do I have to take this? If You’re alive, if You really care, will You please show me a sign that You are alive and that You hear my prayers?” That night Corrie lay down on her cot feeling totally abandoned and alone. She fell asleep crying and wondering why God wouldn’t answer her prayers. The next morning when Corrie woke up a beam of light was shining down through a crack in the ceiling on a few blades of green grass. A miracle in the middle of that concrete cell! “I knew without any doubt,” Corrie told us, “that God was alive and that His light would shine again in my life in a beautiful and wonderful way, even though the possibility seemed impossible.” That morning Corrie’s faith in God and her commitment to allow Him to control her life were renewed. Friends, that is Faith. Life is a marathon. Faith has to do with both having a great race and an even greater finish. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges his listeners to have such a trusting faith in his promise of Heavenly Bread on earth. [Robert A. Schuller, Getting Through the Going Through Stage, (New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986).]
7) Jesus in tortilla: Many years ago, a Mrs. Maria Rubio of Lake Arthur, New Mexico, was rolling out tortillas for lunch when she saw something that took her breath away. Looking back at her from a flat tortilla was the face of Jesus! The skillet had burned a perfect representation of a slender, bearded face onto the surface of the bread. Now I am not certain how Mrs. Rubio knew that this was Jesus, but she convinced a reluctant priest to bless the piece of bread, then she built a shrine around it. Mrs. Rubio quit her job so she could devote all her time to tending the tortilla shrine. Friends, neighbors, even strangers stopped by to look at it, or to pray in front of it. Mrs. Rubio, who also prays nightly in front of the tortilla, has said, “I do not know why this has happened to me, but God has come into my life through this tortilla.” [Bob Greene, American Beat (New York: Atheneum, 1983), pp. 34-36.] In today’s Gospel, Jesus gave us the assurance that he would give us himself as the Heavenly Bread, our spiritual food.
8) Idolizing without trusting: Actor Tony Randall, famous for his role as Felix in The Odd Couple, once had an experience that surely was the inspiration for a current credit card commercial. Randall was in a jewelry store in New York City. The store’s owner recognized him and became very excited. He declared that Randall was his all-time favorite actor. What a treat it would be for his wife, the man said, if she could talk to the Tony Randall. Randall graciously agreed. So, the man called his wife, and Randall had a short, pleasant conversation with her as she gushed on and on about how wonderful he was. Finally, Randall came to the point of his visit to the jewelry store. There was a gold necklace in the window that had caught his eye. He’d like to buy it. Would the store accept a personal check? The store owner hesitated, then asked, “Do you have any identification?” Recognition only goes so far. The store owner was ready to idolize Tony Randall; he wasn’t ready to trust him. You see where this is leading, don’t you? Is it possible for people to come in this House today and worship Jesus–but still not trust him with their lives?
9) Hunger in the world: According to statistics from Oxfam, 2,500 people will die of hunger during the typical one-hour Church worship service. Two-thirds of them will be children. A third of the children in the world are very underweight for their age. About one-fifth of the people in the world are so malnourished that they cannot engage in productive activity. The problem is not a lack of food. Enough food is produced to provide an adequate diet for everyone. A part of the problem is a matter of distribution. The food is not equally available to those who are hungry. A part of the problem also is a lack of will and a sense of priority to feed the hungry. In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches us about spiritual hunger and our need for him, as Heavenly Food, to satisfy our spiritual hunger for God.
10) Food Pyramids. New standards for diet were proposed recently. A new food pyramid was developed as a guide for healthy eating. It includes a base of bread, cereals, rice and pasta. The next level up the pyramid is vegetables and fruit. A still smaller next level is milk, yogurt, cheese, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and nuts. The smallest group at the top is fats, oils and sweets. We can propose a food pyramid for those who want a healthy spiritual life. You may want to develop your own, but it might include a base of feeding on the word of God by study and meditation on the Scriptures. Upon that base one is nourished by Christian fellowship. It should include servings of regular worship. To that a daily use of prayer and devotions could be added. On top of those elements should be time for Christian service to meet the needs of others.
11) “That’s Joe Lewis, the World Heavyweight Champion!” There is a story about a rather arrogant young ruffian who frequented a certain bar. One night a black man stopped in to use the telephone. The young man noticing him began to flip off smart comments at the black man. The comments got sharper and sharper. Since the black man paid no mind, the young man then began to get physically abusive. The black man simply smiled and walked out. As the young man walked back to the bar in a very cocky fashion the bartender asked him if he had recognized the black man. The young man said: “No! Why?” “Well I just thought you might have. That’s Joe Lewis, the World Heavyweight Champion!” I don’t know whether the young man fainted or not. But don’t we judge too much by externals, like those Jews listening to Jesus did as described in today’s Gospel?
12) Scrooge and St. Thomas Becket seeking bread of everlasting life: Scrooge learned this lesson in the nick of time. We all remember Ebenezer Scrooge, the famous protagonist of Charles Dickens’s masterpiece, A Christmas Carol. Scrooge had a very clear goal in life: making money. And as the richest man in the city, he achieved his goal. He made a very good living, but he had a miserable life. The human heart is made for greater things than wealth, prosperity, and pleasure. It is made to love God and love one’s neighbor, and that’s where true, everlasting happiness comes from. As soon as Scrooge started to put his wealth at the service of Christian love, he remembered how to smile. Scrooge is a fictional character, but the history of the Church boasts of a few saints who truly made that same discovery. St. Thomas Becket is one of them. He lived in England in the 1200s. He was best-friends with King Henry II; they both were selfish, self-indulgent, and power-hungry. They drank together, debauched together, and plotted together. Then King Henry got the idea of appointing Becket to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry thought that having his best friend occupy the highest Church position in the land would give him a chance to control the Church and squeeze money out of it. But when Thomas Becket was ordained, God’s grace touched his heart, and he began to see the folly of living just for earthly goals. He sold his considerable property and gave the money to the poor, stopped his loose living, and dedicated himself to serving Christ and the Church with all his energy and talent. The King wasn’t pleased and ended up having his former best friend murdered during Mass in the Cathedral. Becket traded in temporary earthly glory for a martyr’s eternal crown – and you can rest assured that he has no regrets. (E- Priest).
13) St. Margaret of Scotland Takes Matters into Her Own Hands: we know that the true purpose of this life – to learn to love God and love our neighbors – the mature Christian is actually more energetic than anyone at building up the world around him. One marvelous example of this comes from the life of St. Margaret of Scotland. •She was born around the year 1045 in Hungary, the daughter of the King of England and a niece of St. Stephen, King of Hungary. •Those were difficult years for the English royal family. •England had been invaded by the Danes, which explains why she was born in Hungary – the family had fled there in exile. •After they returned to England, their country was invaded by the Normans, and they had to flee again. •This time a storm at sea wrecked their ship on the coast of Scotland. •The family was saved with the help of Malcolm III, King of Scotland. •Margaret and Malcolm soon fell in love and were married. As soon as Margaret was Queen, she used her authority and privileges not for selfish ends, but for the good of her people. •When she came to the throne, there was no legal system available to the poor, no courts where they could go to settle their disputes or redress their wrongs. •So St. Margaret, desiring to be a worthy Christian Queen, went out herself, and, sitting on the very rock where she had first rested and recovered upon her arrival in Scotland, she let her poor subjects gather round and explain their grievances. •She herself judged and settled the disputes. •Gradually, she convinced the King to appoint official judges and to establish courts throughout Scotland, where the poor and disenfranchised could get equal justice with the rich and powerful. Her desire for food that endures – God’s eternal mercy – didn’t inhibit her from helping gather food that perishes – earthly justice – it actually spurred her on. [This Illustration was adapted from “Catechism Stories” by Rev. F. H. Drinkwater]E- Priest.
14) Led by the Horse: One of the truly great masterpieces of fiction was the satirical story of Don Quixote, by the Spanish writer Cervantes. In it we read how the absurdly chivalrous hero, followed by his squire Sancho Panza, set out to find adventure, to perform deeds of bravery and win the admiration of all. He had such an open mind on his quest that he decided to go wherever his horse Rosinante would lead him. But the horse, having found itself given free rein, naturally returned to the place it knew best, its own stable. Too often perhaps we humans find ourselves going the same way, doing the same thing, returning to the same sinful habits again and again, sometimes also drifting aimlessly, sometimes lured on by the novelty of sensationalism, sometimes a prey to the enticements of others, or carried away by the latest fashion in religion. St. Paul, in today’s second reading, advises the Ephesians to satisfy their spiritual hunger by turning away from their former evil ways and leading lives of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. (John Walsh, in A Time to Speak; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
15) “Sir, I’m building a cathedral for God.” Three laborers were dragging massive stones. The first was asked by a reporter what he was doing. The reply was terse, “I’m dragging a big stone, and it’s breaking my back.” He put the same query to the second fellow. His reply was, “I’m helping to build a wall, and I need your help right now.” The journalist politely declined. He moved on to ask the third man. He replied with a smile: “Sir, I’m building a cathedral for God.” As Catholics, we have to examine our attitude to work. Are we working for the food which lasts and which gives eternal life as today’s Gospel suggests? Or are we part of the problem? Are we giving a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay? (Fr. James Gilhooley).
16) St. Ignatius in search of living bread: St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, asked himself this question as he lay in a convent recuperating from a war injury. Ignatius was a Spanish soldier living a wild and even immoral life. Then his leg had been crushed by a cannon ball. In those day, the 16th century, people would often die from infection after a wound like this, but Ignatius survived. He was bedridden in the convent for months. When he was able to read, he wanted to read the stories of legendary heroes and adventurous knights. He always loved those and used to read them avidly. But the good sisters didn’t have any of those sort of books in the convent. All they had was a life of Christ and the lives of the saints. That is all Ignatius could read. After a while he became enthralled. He wondered if he could ever be a hero in the Church like St. Francis or St. Dominic or any of the saints. But, he writes, he would often go back to thinking about the books of adventure he used to read. He liked thinking about them. For a little while, anyway. But he noticed that even the pleasure he felt when he remembered those books was fleeting. He then thought about how he felt when he reflected on the books the sisters provided. This pleasure was not fleeting. Ignatius eventually used this as the basis of his spiritual exercise on the discernment of spirits. Basically, he was seeking that which could give lasting happiness and found it in Jesus Christ. “The problem with you folks,” Jesus says in the Gospel reading, “is that you are looking for bread that will perish. Instead, I can give you bread that is for all eternity.” (Fr. Joseph Pellegrino).
17) Are You Hungry? There’s a story found in C. S. Lewis’ Series, Chronicles of Narnia. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fifth volume of that series, Lucy, Edmund, their cousin Eustace, and some of the colorful creatures of Narnia, come upon a crystal clear pool of water with what appears to be a golden statue of a man at the bottom. Only, they discover that it is a magical pool that turns everything into gold that touches the water. It appears that the statue at the bottom of the pool is a man who either didn’t know about the pool’s magic powers, or he was so consumed with accumulating gold that he ignored its dangers. Even though the characters of the story are awed at the magic of the pool, they recognize that such a place is far more dangerous than it is beneficial, and so they swear themselves to secrecy and wipe their memories clean of that place. You see, when you waste your energies seeking to fulfill the hunger for things that perish, what you’ll find all too often is that you’ll still be dissatisfied, and your dissatisfaction will usually put you deeper into the hole you’re digging for yourself. In our consumer-driven world, in which many people literally work themselves to death accumulating a never-fully-satisfying abundance of things, Jesus’ words challenge our society’s misguided substitutes for “life.” (Steve Wilkins Are You Hungry?). L/18
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 48) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Click on my website: http://frtonyshomilies.com/for previous Cycle B homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 196 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.
Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence (L. S. P.), 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604