SYNOPSIS: OT XIX [B] (Aug 12) HOMILY ON JOHN 6:41-51 (L-18)
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Introduction: We are living in a world where people of all races and creeds hunger more for spiritual sustenance than for physical food. In response to the spiritual hunger of people in his own day, and to us as well, Jesus proclaims himself to be “the Bread of Life that came down from Heaven.”
Scripture lessons: The first reading describes the physical and spiritual hungers experienced by the prophet Elijah. The Bread of Life Jesus speaks about is prefigured in this reading by the miraculous food with which the angel nourished the Prophet Elijah in the desert while he was fleeing from the soldiers of Queen Jezebel. After being nourished by the Lord, Elijah was strengthened for the long journey of forty days to Mount Horeb where God instructed him to continue his prophetic work. The second reading presents Christ Jesus, the “Bread of Life,” as a “sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians and us that, instead of seeking satisfaction in stale food of anger, slander, bitterness and malice, we are to nourish one another with the spiritual food of compassion, kindness and mutual forgiveness.
Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum on his return there after his miraculous feeding of the five thousand. During the discourse, Jesus reveals himself as the true “Bread of Life that came down from Heaven,” to give life to the world. Jesus proclaims himself as the new and perfect manna, the Incarnate Son of God literally “come down from Heaven.” This means that by the Holy Eucharist, Jesus actually gives us a share of eternal life while we are still on earth. But some of Jesus’ followers would turn away when he explained the source of his mysterious power and his Heavenly origin.
Life messages: 1) Let us accept the challenge to become bread and drink for others: “You are what you eat?” Let us recognize that Jesus whom we consume in the Holy Eucharist is actually God Who assimilates us into His being. Then, from Sunday to Saturday we will grow into Jesus, as Jesus grows in us, our lives will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we will become more like Jesus. Thus, we shall share in the joyous and challenging life of being the Body of Christ for the world – Bread for a hungry world, and Drink for those who thirst for justice, peace, fullness of life, and even eternal life. In other words, the Eucharist challenges us to sacrifice ourselves for others, as Christ has done for all of us.
# 2: Let us appreciate Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist: Since the Holy Eucharist is “the Body and Blood, together with the soul and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ,” the Sacrament a) increases our intimate union with Christ; b) preserves, increases, and renews the Sanctifying Grace we received at Baptism; c) cleanses us of past sin and preserves us from future sins; d) strengthens the theological virtue of Charity in us, thus enabling us to be separated from our disordered attachments and to be rooted in Christ; and e) unites us more deeply with the mystery of the Church.
OT XIX [B] (Aug 12) I Kgs 19:4-8, Eph 4:30–5:2, Jn 6:41-51
Anecdotes: # 1: Insatiable thirst for fountain of youth: Shortly after Columbus discovered America, rumors spread in Spain that the New World contained a fountain of youth. A sixteenth century Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon, first Governor of Puerto Rico, fitted a ship and sailed to America to search for this legendary fountain but never found it. Cocoon is a 1985 American science-fiction fantasy comedy-drama film directed by Ron Howard about a group of elderly people rejuvenated by aliens. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoon_(film). In the movie ‘Cocoon‘ there is a group of senior citizens. These old people experienced a return to their youth when they bathed in a swimming pool used by aliens from another planet. Their exciting experience prompted them to accept an invitation from the aliens to go back with them to their planet. The senior citizens were told that once they reached the alien planet, they would live forever. In today’s Gospel Jesus promises a fountain of youth claiming that those who eat the Bread from Heaven will live forever. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).
# 2: Starving to death in the midst of plenty of food: During the winter of 1610, the population of British immigrants to Jamestown, in the U.S. (the Pilgrims) went from about 500 people to about 60. While disease and American-Indians took some lives, most of the settlers simply starved. There were plentiful supplies of fish, oysters, frogs, fowl, and deer all around them. But these settlers from the city were not accustomed to obtaining food from the land. Hence, they starved! [Cullen, Joseph P. “James’ Towne,” American History Illustrated (October, 1972).] We sometimes act the same way. God comes to us continually in the Person of the Holy Spirit to guide us. As a loving Father, God awaits the opportunity to meet our needs, but we are not accustomed to receiving things from His loving hand. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises to give us spiritual food. It is up to us to receive the Heavenly Bread.
# 3: A Piece of British Admiral Horatio Nelson: At the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the famous British Admiral Horatio Nelson was due to be buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral. His sailors lifted his casket over their shoulders and majestically carried his body into the cathedral. Draping his coffin was a magnificent Union Jack. After the service, the sailors once more carried his body high in the air, this time to the graveside. 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 quarterdeck, they all seized the Union Jack with which the coffin had been covered and viciously tore it to shreds, each taking his souvenir of the illustrious dead. A swath of colored cloth as a memento. It would forever remind them of the admiral they had loved. “I’ve got a piece of him,” one sailor remarked, “and I’ll never forget him.” In like manner you now can have a piece of Christ – living bread – physically, spiritually, personally. Reaching out to receive him in Faith is all that’s required. (Fr. Tony Kayala).
Introduction: We are living in a world where people of all races and creeds hunger more for spiritual sustenance than for physical food. In response to the spiritual hunger of people in his own day, Jesus, in today’s Gospel passage from John 6, proclaims himself to be “the Bread of Life that came down from heaven.” It is through Jesus, the bread of life, that we have access to the Divine life during our earthly pilgrimage to God. The sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, which contains Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist, begins with Jesus’ miraculous feeding of his five thousand hungry listeners in a deserted place to satisfy their bodily hunger. Today’s Gospel offers us part of Jesus’ discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum on his return there after his miraculous feeding of the five thousand. During the discourse, Jesus reveals himself as the true “Bread of Life that came down from Heaven,” to give life to the world. “Manna” was God’s gift rained down “from Heaven” upon the Israelites to prolong their earthly life. Jesus proclaims himself the new and perfect manna, the Incarnate Son of God, literally “come down from Heaven.” This means that the Bread we consume in the Eucharist is more than just a guarantee that one day we’ll have eternal life. It actually gives us a share in that eternal life while we are still on earth. But some of those who had just witnessed Jesus’ ability to supply them with earthly food would turn away when he explained the source of his mysterious power and his Heavenly origin. The first reading describes the physical and spiritual hungers experienced by the prophet Elijah. In this reading, the Bread of Life Jesus speaks about is prefigured by the miraculous food with which the angel nourished the Prophet Elijah in the desert while he was fleeing from the soldiers of Queen Jezebel. After being nourished by the Lord, Elijah was strengthened for the long journey of forty days to Mount Horeb where God had given Moses the Ten Commandments. The refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34), “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” invites us to come to Him in our fears and afflictions and discover how blessed we are when we “take refuge in Him.” The second reading presents Christ Jesus, the “Bread of Life,” as a “sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians that, instead of seeking satisfaction in anger, slander, bitterness and malice, they are to nourish one another with compassion, kindness and mutual forgiveness. It is Faith that strengthens us to live in this way, doing the right thing in our relationships with others, in a world filled with terror and violence and in a Church marked by betrayal and disillusionment.
First reading explained (1 Kings 19:4-8): King Ahab of Israel married a pagan queen, Jezebel, who imported pagan worship into Israel. The prophet Elijah challenged 450 of the pagan god Baal’s prophets, defeated them in a public sacrifice-contest and killed all of them. The furious Queen Jezebel sent soldiers to kill the prophet. Today’s first reading expresses Elijah’s discouragement and frustration as he fled for his life. Collapsed in the only available shade, Elijah fell into a sleep of exhaustion while awaiting release through a speedy death. God heard His prophet’s prayer and sent an angel to feed him and strengthen him in his flight. The miraculous food provided by God sustained him through a 40-day pilgrimage to Horeb (Mount Sinai), where Elijah would be commissioned again as God’s prophet to carry on the struggle and to anoint his successor. Like Elijah, all of us learn to recognize our weakness and frailty, and are able to experience God’s empowering grace which is capable of transforming our powerlessness and discouragement. The lectionary compares God’s strengthening of his prophet by the miraculously-provided food with His strengthening of us in our pilgrimage to Heaven by the Bread from Heaven, namely, the Holy Eucharist.
Second Reading, explained (Ephesians 4:30-5:2): The second reading contains St. Paul’s practical advice for peaceful, communal Christian living among former enemies, namely, the now-converted Jews and the converted Gentiles. Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians that their discipleship must be guided by the virtues of compassion and forgiveness, avoiding “bitterness, fury, shouting and reviling which would grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” That is how they should offer their lives as sacrifices pleasing to God, just as Jesus, “the Bread from Heaven,” offered himself as a “sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” It is Faith that strengthens us to live this way, doing the right thing in our relationships with others, in a world filled with terror and violence and in a Church marked by betrayal and disillusionment. Baptized Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit to embrace, understand and meet the challenges of a committed life. To that end, bitterness, anger, slander and malice need to be uprooted in order to give “root room” for the kindness, compassion and mutual forgiveness that are to characterize believers in Jesus.
Gospel Exegesis: Jesus’ unique claims: Jesus makes a series of unique claims in today’s Gospel passage: 1) “I am the Living Bread that came down from Heaven.” 2)”I am the Bread of Life.” 3) “The Bread that I will give is My Flesh for the life of the world.” 4)“No one can come to me unless the Father Who sent me draw him.” 5)“I will raise him on the last day.” 6) “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God.” In short, Christ Jesus reveals himself as God and as the “Bread of Life from Heaven,” sent by the Father for our salvation.
Jesus’ claims challenged: Jesus’ Jewish listeners could hardly contain themselves when Jesus claimed to be the “Bread of Life” (v. 35) who “came down from Heaven” (v. 38). They thought they knew his father and mother (v. 42), and saw him as just another hometown boy – a carpenter by profession without any formal training in Mosaic Laws and Jewish Scriptures. They could remember when he had moved from Nazareth to Capernaum with a band of unknown disciples, mostly fishermen. Hence, they came to the natural conclusion: “either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse” (C. S. Lewis).
The complaint launched: In today’s portion of the lengthy Bread of Life discourse (49 of Chapter Six’s 71 verses), John re-emphasizes the similarities and contrasts between the old “manna in the wilderness” experience and this new notion of a “Bread of Life” that is directly tied to Jesus. In verse 41, John’s noting of the Jewish identity of the “complaining” crowd recalls for us their own unique history. Those listening to Jesus began to “murmur” against Jesus and his gifts of Heavenly Bread even as the ancient Israelites began to “murmur” or “complain” against Moses — first out of hunger (Exodus 16:2,7,12), then against the monotony of the manna diet (Numbers 11:4-6). [Many scientists think that these “flakes” were formed from honeydew secreted by a certain insect that fed on the sap of tamarisk trees (yum!). In the dry desert air, most of the moisture in the honeydew quickly evaporated, leaving sticky droplets of the stuff on plants and the ground.] Like the Israelites, we, too, complain when God fails to meet our expectations. Since the Exodus, manna has been the symbol of God’s providence and love for the Jewish people.
Jesus’ response: Jesus knew that the Jews were upset about his explanation that the multiplication of bread and fish signified that he himself was the Heavenly Bread that gives eternal Life. Jesus challenged the Jews to take a journey of Faith by seeing him, not as the son of Joseph, but as the one who came down from Heaven. Saying, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me …” Jesus told his listeners, and tells us, that everyone who has become his follower has done so because God the Father has called him or her to Jesus. It is an act of God that has brought us to follow the way of Jesus. Faith is a gift. To follow Jesus is to live by Faith: to believe in and use the means necessary to make those radical changes to one’s lifestyle that being a believer demands. Then Jesus offered the ultimate reassurance to every one of us who believes: “I will raise him up on the last day” (cf. vv.39, 40, 44, 54). This persistent theme serves to remind the reader/listener that only Jesus, the true Bread of Life, can impart the gift of eternal Life to the faithful. Jesus is a source of Life for us, giving himself to us by his own self-sacrificing love. Christ, the Bread of Life, is the love, justice and compassion of God incarnate. As Jesus, the “Bread of life,” has given and still gives “Life” to the world through his selfless compassion for, and humble servanthood to, others, we, too, can give that “Life to the world” when we look beyond our own needs and security to the good of others, giving from our treasure and even from our poverty, nourishing one another in the love, compassion and selflessness of the Gospel Jesus.
Faith in practice: “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” Here Jesus clarifies that listening to God, and learning from God are key factors in our seeking Jesus and in our growing into strong believers and faithful servants of Jesus. The Good News is that God is willing to be present in our midst and to teach us. Jesus supports this point quoting Scripture, “And they shall be taught by God.”
The Holy Eucharist foreshadowed: Jesus’ dialogue with the Jews no longer deals with manna, but with His very Person: the Revealer who brings us God’s salvation. Although John’s Chapter 6 does not name the Holy Eucharist, Jesus’ words remind us of the centrality of the Eucharist as the primary source of our spiritual nourishment. Jesus knows quite well that we need both spiritual and physical food for life’s journey. He offers both to us. Thus, the meal that we share at the Eucharistic table provides the food for this journey (“viaticum”). Furthermore, He tells us that this Bread from Heaven is His Flesh, given for the life of the world. The Jews, as well as Jesus’ disciples, understood that he was speaking literally when he said that His Body was food. This statement appeared to some as outrageous and impossible. Later in the discourse Jesus, will insist that His words must be accepted literally, and that His Father will draw men to accept them. Hence let us accept Jesus as the Heavenly Bread, medicine for the sick soul, nourishment for a wounded spirit, light and strength for a weary mind and the source of new and eternal life.
The Bread from Heaven is also the word of God: In the Bible, bread appears several times as an image of wisdom, or Divine revelation: Isaiah says “You who have no money, come, receive bread and eat” (55:1-3); Proverbs invites everyone, “Come, eat of my bread“(9:1-6), and Sirach says, “Whoever fears the Lord and holds to the law will obtain wisdom… She will feed him with the bread of learning.“(15:1-3). This should make a lot of sense to us, because we read books and watch movies and television to learn about life (hopefully) and to increase our knowledge. In the same way, we need to read, reflect and pray over the Word of God privately so that it can nourish our souls and be our true “soul food”.
Life messages: 1) We need to eat the Living Bread from Heaven and be one with Jesus: Jesus wants us to eat him because he IS Bread. “You are what you eat?” Jesus is Bread and he wants us to eat his Flesh. Thus, we bring him into the core of our being. He is ready to come into our lives, regardless of who we have been, or how unqualified we feel. Let us live the life of Faith … making changes so that He becomes the staple food of our spiritual life, not a side dish. Let us be people who recognize that Jesus, whom we consume, is actually God Who assimilates us into His being. Then, from Sunday to Saturday we will grow into Jesus, as he grows in us, our lives will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we will become more like him. Thus, we shall share in the joyous and challenging life of being the Body of Christ for the world – Bread for a hungry world, and Drink for those who thirst for justice, peace, fullness of life, and even eternal life.
# 2: We need to accept the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist as an inspiring challenge. Based on sound tradition and the centuries-long teaching of the Magisterium, the Roman Catholic Church has consistently held fast to the belief in the Real Presence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the other sacraments as the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all sacraments tend.” In this most blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist “the Body and Blood, together with the soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained” (CCC #1374). The Fathers of the Church explain that, while ordinary food is assimilated into man, the very opposite takes place in Holy Communion. Here man is assimilated into the Bread of Life. Hence, let us learn to receive Jesus, really present in the Eucharist, with due reverence, true repentance, proper preparation and grateful hearts. Let us remember that Holy Communion a) increases our intimate union with Christ; b) preserves, increases, and renews the Sanctifying Grace received at Baptism; c) cleanses us from past sin and preserves us from future sins; d) strengthens the theological virtue of Charity in us, thus enabling us to be separated from our disordered attachments and to be rooted in Christ; and e) unites us more deeply to the mystery of the Church.
3) We need to appreciate God’s love for us expressed in the Holy Eucharist. Pope John Paul II taught: “The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Presence of Christ, who gives himself to us because he loves us. He loves each one of us in a unique and personal way in our practical daily lives: in our families, among our friends, at study and work, in rest and relaxation. He loves us when he fills our days with freshness, and also when, in times of suffering, He allows trials to weigh upon us: even in the most severe trials, He lets us hear his voice. To celebrate the Eucharist, ‘to eat his Flesh and drink his Blood,’ means to accept the wisdom of the Cross and the path of service. It means that we signal our willingness to sacrifice ourselves for others, as Christ has done” Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (Holy Thursday, April 17, 2003).
4) We are participating in Christ in the Eucharistic celebration: The “Sacrifice of the Altar” is our participation in the entirety of Christ – his life, his ministry, his crucifixion and death for our sins, his Resurrection, and his Ascension to Heaven. We unite with him by offering our lives to him so that he ministers to the world through us. We sacrifice our will whenever and wherever it interferes with his, which results in our being raised up to new Life as we follow Christ to Heaven. Every Catholic Mass accomplishes this by providing us with our living Savior’s Body and Blood, crucified and Risen, here and now, in the form of edible food. As Pope St. John Paul II pointed out in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed that the Eucharistic banquet of Mass is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life’.”
Jokes of the week: # 1: Pastor’s bread of life: President Woodrow Wilson’s father was a preacher who eked out a meager living. One day, when he was riding his horse, he stopped to chat with a member of his parish. “That’s a handsome looking animal you have there,” said the latter admiringly. “But why is that your horse is so big and strong and you are so thin?” “Perhaps,” replied Wilson, “it is because I feed the horse and the congregation feeds me.”
#: 2: “I am going to be a preacher:” After his return from church one Sunday a small boy said, “You know what, Mommy? I’m going to be a preacher when I grow up.” “That’s fine,” said his mother, “but what made you decide to be a preacher?” “Well,” said the boy thoughtfully. “Since I have to go to Church every Sunday anyway, I think it would be more fun to stand up and yell than to sit still and listen.”
USEFUL WEBSITES 1) Faith Magazine: http://faithmag.com/faithmag/default.asp 2) The Daily Motivator: http://www.greatday.com/ 3) Vatican on Michael Voris’ views: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTZlHLtkPc8&feature=related
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 70) by Fr. Tony (email@example.com)
18- Additional anecdotes: 1) According to the Assistant Director General of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, about one half billion of the over four billion people who live on earth are at the brink of starvation daily. Some 200 million children become mentally handicapped or blind due to a lack of nutritious food and another 10 million succumb to other hunger related illness. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately one-third of the world’s population is underfed and one-third is hungry. Four million people die each year of starvation and 70% of children under six are undernourished. In an effort to alert the well fed to the needs of their hungry brothers and sisters, many communities have organized consciousness-raising programs. For example, Cornell University sponsored a once-a-week rice lunch which raised ca. $12,000.00 toward the alleviation of famine in Africa. A Canadian church held what was called a “starvation banquet”; those who participated ate one meal a day consisting of a small amount of clear soup and a half slice of bread. The money which would otherwise have been spent for an average day’s meals was given to the city’s food banks for the needy. Several years ago, in the U.S. Senate, a resolution was presented, designating Monday of Thanksgiving Week as “National Day of Fasting.” All Americans were invited to experience hunger willingly and to re-evaluate their own life-styles and eating habits.
While these efforts are admirable, and although the statistics quoted above are staggering, they pertain solely to physical hunger. Equally alarming are the statistics which estimate that approximately three billion members of the human family suffer from chronic spiritual hunger and/or malnutrition. These hunger pangs must also be recognized, as these can be just as lethal as their physical counterparts. In recognition of this fact, the Church puts the gathered assembly in touch each week with the food that will satisfy its hungers. Each week the community is fed with the bread of life, in both word and sacrament; nourished by this essential food, every believer receives the strength needed for continuing to live a committed life. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez).
2) Two Fat Ladies. Clarissa Dickson Wright is a British celebrity chef She and Jennifer Paterson, are best known as the Two Fat Ladies on the British television cooking show of that name which accurately, if irreverently, described them both. They preached the joys of cooking. The show was heavy on humor as well as calories. Avoiding popular low-fat diets, the two fat ladies sought to reclaim traditional home-cooking. They themselves were the best advertisements for their recipes, which usually featured heavy doses of butter and cream. The two fat ladies are part of a growing trend to forget food deprivation and just say yes to bacon. Dieticians now argue that fat-free foods are high in sugar and calories – which explains why people on low-fat or no-fat diets get fat. Gwen Shamblin’s The Weigh Down Diet, which advises using spirituality to avoid overeating, has already sold more than 1.2 million copies to overweight Christians. The bottom line is that people are scrambling like crazy to find the diet that is right for them. But there is another diet not many people talk about, presented in today’s Gospel: the “Bread of Life Diet.” It’s spiritually high-carb, but offers full nutritional value. Jesus says, “I am the Bread of life,” and promises that people on his program “will never hunger or thirst again!” These are extravagant claims, like the kind you might find on soy milk or fat-burners. But Jesus can deliver on what He promises.
3) He died arguing with them that the canisters were empty. John Krakauer wrote a book entitled Into Thin Air, the story of an expedition to Mount Everest during the spring of 1996 which resulted in a great loss of life. One of the most unfortunate stories was about a young man named Andy Harris, who was one of the expedition leaders. He had stayed at the peak past the deadline that the leaders themselves had set, and as he was coming down, he was in dire need of oxygen. He radioed his problem to the base camp telling them what he needed and told them that he had come upon a cache of oxygen canisters left by some of the other climbers, but they were all empty. The problem was they were not empty – they were absolutely full, but because his brain was already so starved for oxygen and he wasn’t thinking clearly, he died arguing with them that the canisters were empty when in reality they were full. The problem was that the lack of what he needed so disoriented his thinking that, even though he was literally surrounded by what he needed, he never took advantage of it. The very life that he needed he held in his hand. He just didn’t take it. What oxygen is to the body the Bread of Life is to the soul. Without that Bread, we will never satisfy our real spiritual hunger; that is why every day we need to feed on the Bread of the word of God.
4) Al and Barbara’s banana-nut bread: During Operation Desert Storm, Al and Barbara Davis, a retired Virginia couple, read that soldiers in the field weren’t getting enough potassium and protein. One problem was that bananas, an excellent source of potassium, spoiled before they could get to the soldiers. So Al and Barbara had an idea: why not make banana-nut bread and send it to the soldiers overseas? Their bread-making operation became a daily task: they made 100 loaves every morning, which they mailed to soldiers in the Middle East. Since 1991 when they first began their bread-baking, Al and Barbara Davis have made and mailed over 35,000 loaves of bread to U.S. troops. I thought of Al and Barbara when I read these words of Jesus. “This is the Bread that came down from Heaven . . .” When planes land in the Middle East carrying Al and Barbara’s banana-nut bread, it must have seemed like manna from Heaven to the soldiers there.
5) Giving up or going on! One day in Port Huron, Michigan a partially deaf boy came home from school with a note from his teacher. He handed it to his mother. She opened it and slowly read it. The note suggested that her son was too dull to learn. He was holding back the whole class. It would be better for everybody if he would be withdrawn from school. When the boy’s mother finished reading the note, she felt awful and challenged. “My son, Tom, is not too dull to learn,” she said to herself. “I’ll teach him myself.” When Tom died decades later on October 18, 1931, the entire nation honored him in a remarkable way. At exactly 9:59 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, every home in the United States turned off its lights for one minute, as a tribute to the man who had invented those lights. Thomas Edison invented not only the electric light but also the movie projector and the record player. When he died, the great inventor who was “too dull to learn” as a boy had over a thousand patents to his credit, thanks to his mother who never gave up. Today’s first reading tells us how God himself fed his disappointed prophet Elijah and encouraged him to keep going for forty days to have an encounter with Him (Fr. Mark Link, in Journey.)
6) “It’s free!” Our daily bread! There was an Italian family that had fallen on hard times when their family business failed, and they lost everything. The neighbors were sympathetic, worked hard at fund-raising and after a certain time managed to get them sufficient money for a trip to America, where the family believed they could make their fortune. The family had never been far from home so they had no idea how to prepare for a long sea voyage by boat from Cobh to New York. They bought bread and cheese, and packed a few boxes with sandwiches. They gathered in a single cabin on the boat with no desire to mix with others in case of finding themselves embarrassed or out of their depth. On the first, second, third, fourth and fifth day they ate sandwiches. From then on the sandwiches began to go bad and began to smell. By now they were all in a bad way. They felt sick, hungry and deeply discouraged. With a day or two left before reaching New York, one little lad begged his dad for a few pennies so he could go on the deck and buy some sweets. The dad gave him a few pennies and off he went. He didn’t return and after an hour the father was forced to go up on deck and search for him. When he came up on the deck he was amazed to find rows and rows of tables surrounded by people eating a beautiful dinner. There in the midst of them was his son, with a plate of turkey, ham, potatoes, and vegetables in front of him, together with a large beaker of Coke. The father came up behind him and whispered, “Why did you do this? You know rightly we cannot afford this.” The young lad’s eyes lit up as he replied, “Dad, we could have had this every day. This is all included with the tickets!” We too often fail to appreciate and enjoy the heavenly food freely given to us by a loving God (Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth!).
7) End-of-the-world anxiety: the majority of us have it. According to a U.S. News & World Report poll, nearly six in 10 Americans believe the world will end or be destroyed, and a third of those think it will happen within a few years or decades. In addition, this same poll found that 44 percent believe the world will face the Apocalypse, with true believers whisked off the planet in the Rapture and brought into Heaven. Almost half, 49 percent, said they believe there will be an Antichrist. Our “Post-Modern Age Culture” is coping with Armageddon. Do Christians buy into the doomsday mentality and its accompanying spirit of apathy and inevitability? We can become so fixated on the Jesus who is to come that we do not see or hear the Jesus who is in the midst on the altar in the consecrated Bread as our Heavenly Bread or Jesus living in the unwanted, marginalized and the poor.
8) “And also with you.” A Bishop was presiding over the liturgy in a large Cathedral. He sensed that the microphone wasn’t working properly, and he was ready to begin the traditional “The Lord be with you,” after which the congregation routinely responded, “And also with you.” He tapped the mike several times, but heard nothing. Then, as he thought he was speaking into a dead mike, he said, “There’s something wrong with this blasted microphone.” And the people responded, “And also with you.” Is there something wrong with us? What’s our excuse for failing to make Christ alive today, in our family, our Church, our community, our country, our world? In the history of the Faith, we have never lacked for excuses.
9) The “Bread from Heaven” vs. the hamburger from Mc Donald’s: In 1968, McDonald’s operated about 1,000 restaurants. Today it has about 23,000 restaurants worldwide and opens roughly 2,000 new ones each year. An estimated one of every eight Americans has worked at McDonald’s. The company annually trains more new workers than the U.S. Army. McDonald’s is the nation’s largest purchaser of beef and potatoes. It is the second-largest purchaser of poultry. A whole new breed of chicken was developed to facilitate the production of McNuggets. The McDonald’s Corp. is the largest owner of retail property in the world. Indeed, the company earns the majority of its profits not from selling food but from collecting rent. McDonald’s spends more money on advertising and marketing, much of it targeted at children, than does any other brand. A survey of American schoolchildren found that 96 percent could identify Ronald McDonald. The only fictional character with a higher degree of recognition was Santa Claus. The impact of McDonald’s on the nation’s culture, economy and diet is hard to overstate. Its corporate symbol – the Golden Arches – is now more widely recognized than the Christian cross. [Eric Schlosser, “Fast-Food Nation: The True Cost of America’s Diet,” Rolling Stone Magazine (USA), Issue 794, September 3rd 1998.]
10) “What is the Weigh-Down Diet?” When people start hearing about the Weigh-Down Diet, they always want to know more details. Every person involved with WD would explain it differently, but the basic premises are the same. 1. God made your body, and your nutritional needs are different from anyone else’s. 2. God made your stomach a certain size, and when it becomes “stretched out” it is no longer a reliable source of how much food is enough. Therefore, one of the first goals of WD is to allow your stomach to return to its God-given shape and size. 3. God gave you hunger and thirst to indicate when your fuel levels are low. You should only eat and drink when your hunger and thirst mechanisms tell you it’s time. 4. When you determine you are truly hungry, eat whatever you desire, but only enough to be politely full. You will cut down the amount of food greatly as your stomach returns to normal size. 5. Learn to determine the difference between stomach hunger and head hunger. We eat for so many reasons other than nutrition. Some eat when tired, bored, nervous, excited, to please others, you name it. All that needs to STOP. 6. Go to the Lord for the strength to follow his way of eating. When you read His Word (BIBLE) and spend time with Him in prayer and fellowship, He will fill your needs and give you the ability to succeed. (http://home.jtan.com)
11) “I won the world championship. So what?” The night after winning the heavyweight boxing title from Jess Willard, the new champion Jack Dempsey woke up in his hotel room. It was two o’ clock in the morning. Suddenly he felt terribly empty inside. He said later, “Success didn’t taste the way I thought it would. I’d won the championship. So what?” That is why Jesus gives us this warning in today’s Gospel: “Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” [Fr. Mark Link, SJ, Illustrated Sunday Homilies.]
12) Landing a man on the moon is impossible: In history we find many famous people who made certain predictions which were proved wrong shortly after that. Lee De Forest, American radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, said about rockets: “To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth – all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.” The New York Times wrote in 1936. “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” Now even the little children know the names of people who break records in space travel. Simon Newcomb remarked, “Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.” The Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk 18 months later. Why did such error happen? Because they were not able to think beyond. We see many examples in the Bible where people commit great mistakes by basing their judgments on human values and external standards. Samson’s strength was under judged by the enemies. Goliath judged David by human standards and failed to see God’s hand in him. The Queen of Sheba did not understand the Divine providence that Solomon enjoyed. In today’s Gospel we meet a group of people who were unable to think beyond. So, they judged things by human values and by external standards. Hence they could not understand how a village carpenter could be “Bread from Heaven” and God’s messenger. (Fr. Bobby Jose).
13) Sitting down with a common aircraft man for tea: T. E. Lawrence was a close personal friend of Thomas Hardy, the poet. When Lawrence was serving as an aircraft man in the Royal Air Force he used to visit Hardy in his uniform. One day his visit coincided with the visit of the Mayoress of Dorchester. She was very annoyed and remarked in French that in all her life she had not had to sit down with a common aircraft man for tea. Everyone was shocked. It was a great insult to Lawrence. But Lawrence replied very politely, in French: “I beg your pardon, Madame, but can I be of any use as an interpreter, since Mrs. Hardy knows no French?” The snobbish woman had made a shattering mistake, as she had judged by externals. Jesus read the thoughts of his listeners who were judging him by human standards, and warned them that nobody could come to him unless sent by the Father. (Fr. Bobby Jose).
14) Marching caterpillars: You may know the famous story of Jean Henri Fabre, the French naturalist, and his processional caterpillars. He encountered some of these interesting creatures one day while walking in the woods. They were marching in a long unbroken line front to back, front to back. What would happen if he made a complete ring with these worms? Would they break their circle or not? So, Fabre captured enough caterpillars to encircle the rim of a flowerpot. He linked them nose to posterior and started them walking in the closed circle. For days they turned like a perpetual merry-go-round. Although food was near at hand and accessible, the caterpillars starved to death on an endless march to nowhere. That seems to be the story of many people today. They are on a march that leads to nowhere. We need to stop for a moment and sit down in the presence of Jesus and receive him as the Bread of our spiritual life in order to give the ultimate aim and direction to our life’s journey.
15) Don’t doubt God’s Word: The night fell heavy in the heights of the mountains and the man could not see anything. All was black — zero visibility, and the moon and the stars were covered by the clouds. As he was climbing only a few feet away from the top of the mountain, he slipped and fell in to the air, falling at great speed. He could only see black spots as he went down, and the terrible sensation of being sucked by gravity. He kept falling and in the moments of great fear all the good and bad episodes of his life came to his mind. He was thinking now about how close death was getting, when all of a sudden, he felt the rope tied to his waist pull him very hard. His body was hanging in the air. Only the rope was holding him and in that moment of stillness he had no other choice but to scream: “Help me God”. All of a sudden a deep voice coming from the sky answered, “What do you want Me to do?” “Save me God”. “Do you really think I can save you?” “Of course, I believe You can.” “Then cut the rope tied to your waist.” There was a moment of silence and the man decided to hold on to the rope with all his strength. The rescue team tells the next day that a climber was found dead and frozen – his body hanging from a rope, his hands holding tight to it, only one foot away from the ground. Lesson from the story: And we? How attached are we to our rope? Will we let go??? Don’t ever doubt the Words of God. We should never say that He has forgotten us or abandoned us. (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
16) “We Sell Bread.” The German theologian Helmut Thielicke told of a hungry man passing a store with a sign in the window, “We Sell Bread.” He entered the store, put some money on the counter, and said, “I would like to buy some bread.” The women behind the counter replied, “We don’t sell bread.” “The sign in the window says that you do,” the hungry man said. The woman explained, “We make signs here like the one in the window that says, ‘We Sell Bread.’” But, as Thielicke concludes, a hungry man can’t eat signs. Life sometimes fools us too. Bread isn’t always found where it seems to be. Today’s Gospel lesson picks up where we left off last week in John 6. Like the crowds looking for something else or that man looking in the wrong store, we often miss the point when God offers us enduring life in Jesus. (Michael J. Heggen in The Bread of Life; quoted by Fr. Kayala).
17) Clothed in Human Flesh: Next to the Bible, my favorite book is Harper Lee’s award-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. I love both the book and the movie. The main character, the one who tells the story, is a little girl named Jean Louise Finch, who goes by the name of Scout. Her father, Atticus Finch, is the town’s lawyer and a man of deep principles and integrity. I always wanted to grow up and be like Atticus Finch. One day, Scout came home from school and told her father about some problems she was having with the teacher and several other students. In an effort to help her get along better with others, Atticus gave her this advice: “First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” That’s exactly what Jesus did. Clothed in human flesh, Jesus felt pain as we feel pain. He suffered as we suffer. He even experienced death. Jesus climbed into our skin and walked around in it. (Billy D. Strayhorn, Beyond Skin Deep).
18) A Reminder of Our True Home: The influence that food can have on us appears in a Chinese story originally told by Linda Fang. She presented this story at the Smithsonian Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., March 19, 1988. At the foot of a great mountain in China lived a father and his three sons. They were a simple and loving family. The father noticed that travelers came from afar eager to climb the dangerous mountain. But not one of them ever returned! The three sons heard stories about the mountain, how it was made all of gold and silver at the top. Despite their father’s warnings, they could not resist venturing up the mountain. Along the way, under a tree, sat a beggar, but the sons did not speak to him or give him anything. They ignored him. One by one, the sons disappeared up the mountain, the first to a house of rich food, the second to a house of fine wine, the third to a house of gambling. Each became a slave to his desire and forgot his home. Meanwhile, their father became heartsick. He missed them terribly. “Danger aside,” he said, “I must find my sons.” Once he scaled the mountain, the father found that indeed the rocks were gold, the streams silver. But he hardly noticed. He only wanted to reach his sons, to help them remember the life of love they once knew. On the way down, having failed to find them, the father noticed the beggar under the tree and asked for his advice. “The mountain will give your sons back,” said the beggar, “only if you bring something from home to cause them to remember the love of their family.” The father raced home, brought back a bowl full of rice, and gave the beggar some as a thank-you for his wisdom. He then found his sons, one at a time, and carefully placed a grain of rice on the tongue of each of them. At that moment, the sons recognized their foolhardiness. Their real life was now apparent to them. They returned home with their father, and as one loving family lived happily ever after. — Today we gather in this Church to receive a reminder of home, a taste of food that will help us remember who we are. I mean the Bread of Life, our Father’s gift to us. This is the food of God’s kingdom and reminds us that this kingdom is our true home. (Charles Hoffacker in Food from Home; quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala). L/18
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 43) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit our 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 Home (L. S. P.), 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604