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Saturday, 4 August 2012

Homily/Reflection: Eighteenth (18th) Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B (August 05 2012)

Theme: “I am the Bread of Life”.
One of the greatest problems ravaging the world today is hunger and this hunger could be physical or spiritual. Hunger is physical when we lack adequate food and drinks to replenish our bodies. It is spiritual when we lack things like freedom, truth, love, compassion, etc. Among these two types of hunger, people are only interested in satisfying the physical and neglecting the spiritual. Yet there is still so much physical hunger in the world today that millions of people are dying of malnutrition and many more go to bed without food. They flock to any person or place that could satisfy their physical hunger at that moment. Imagine for instance, the level of physical hunger among victims of a natural disaster and how they rush to any source of food. 

This was exactly the way the people looked for and rushed to Jesus in the gospel reading (John 6:24-35). They were physically hungry and needed to be fed. They were sure Jesus could feed them because he just feed five thousand men the previous day and they wanted him to repeat that miracle. Jesus did not however perform the miracle again because they were looking for him only for physical food, instead he decided to let them know about the food that endures forever. He told them not to work for food that will not last (earthly food) but for one that will endure to eternal life (heavenly food). Jesus was not discouraging working for material food but was emphasizing the great need for spiritual food which will power our faith-journey. Earthly food nourishes the body but heavenly food nourishes the soul and of course, we have learnt from our catechism to take more care of our souls.

Beloved friends, in our faith encounter with God, sometimes, God attracts us with perishable goods and other earthly benefits and blessings. His intention is not just to give us material satisfaction but to use it as a means of drawing us closer to himself where we will also derive spiritual satisfaction. As material beings, we are more interested in material things and these are the things that could easily catch our fancy. Most of us are spiritually hungry, we lack the spiritual strength to move on with our faith-journey but instead of looking for spiritual food that endures, we only look for earthly food. We are hungry and thirsty for the Word of God which is life but we avoid every avenue of being fed with it.

Unfortunately, we observe today that most people who are blessed with material possession tend to abandon God afterwards. They count themselves fortunate and satisfied and this reduces their need for God. Can we despite our material blessings be humble enough to look for God for spiritual blessings? We must look for him to get the spiritual food we need. This type is not bought in the market but derived from Christ. This food satisfies our spiritual needs. Have you ever prayed for the grace to live a holy life, for grace to die a happy death, or for grace to increase your faith in God? We only pray for our physical needs and never for our spiritual needs and that was the mistake of the people who met Jesus demanding only for physical food and neglecting their spiritual needs.

Jesus in responding to the people said “I am the bread of life”. The use of the words “I Am” points out to the divinity of Christ, his participation in the Godship as revealed to Moses. We can obviously remember that Jesus was born in “Bethlehem” which is a name that means “House of bread” and it is no surprise that today, he identifies himself as the bread of life.  To understand the concept of bread of life, it is worthwhile to note the significance of bread in the Jewish culture. Bread was the principal food of the Jews. That was why in the first reading (Exodus 16:2-4.12-15) as the Israelites journeyed, they became hungry and God promised to give them bread from heaven (manna). By describing himself as the bread of life, Jesus did not just mean the bread we know, but was referring to himself as the food that gives life. In actual fact, in Jesus we have all we need both temporal and spiritual and this food is ever sufficient.

Beloved friend, how hungry is your soul for God? The psalmist says “my soul thirsts for the Lord”. As Christians, whenever we are wearied in our faith-journey, let us go to Christ not just to replenish our worn-out bodies but also to replenish our worn-out spirits. The responsorial psalm today says “He gave them bread from heaven” and this is what we need most, food for our souls. The Holy Eucharist among other things is a food given for the life of the soul.

These spiritual foods which also include the grace of God will enable us do what St. Paul advices us in the second reading (Eph. 4:17. 20–24) to give up our old way of life and be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that we can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth. To do this, we need faith, to be faithful we need to hear the Word of God and to do what this Word says, we need grace. Without God’s grace we cannot do this and we cannot get this grace without going to Jesus for that. Therefore as we approach the Holy Eucharist (the bread of life) today, may we ask God for the grace to be more interested in our spiritual needs than in our physical needs. God loves you.

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