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Friday, 31 July 2015

Homily/Reflection: Eighteenth (18th) Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B (August 01 2015)

Homily/Reflection: Eighteenth (18th) Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B (August 01 2015)
Theme: “I am the Bread of Life”.

Recently, I attended a function organized by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in which so many invited less privileged people were fed and empowered. My experience at the event brought to light the extent of poverty, hunger and disease that have enveloped the masses. When it was time to feed them, none of them wanted to be starved and so they were scrambling for food. Most of them hadn’t eaten for days and some even had no hope of the next meal, but they were thankful they had something for that day. But the funny part of the story was that the next day, a greater number of them stormed the scene of the event presuming there would be another feast for them only to be disappointed with the empty spaces. 

This incident is similar to what happened to the crowd in the gospel reading (John 6:24-35). Jesus miraculously fed five thousand men and the following day, a great crowd came looking for him and wanted him to repeat the miracle of the multiplication of loaves. Jesus did not however perform the miracle again because they were looking for him only for physical food, instead, he wanted to let them know about a ‘spiritual food’ that endures forever. He told them not to work for food that will not last but for one that will endure forever.  By this, Jesus was not discouraging working for material food but was emphasizing the great need for spiritual food which will strengthen us for 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.

It is interesting to note that Jesus actually wanted to teach his followers about the bread of heaven but he first needed to attract them which ordinary bread. Similarly, 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 them as 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. 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.

Responding to the people, Jesus said “I am the bread of life”. 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 mere bread, but was referring to himself as the food that gives life, as the source of life. 

In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus gives himself completely to us as the bread of life, to nourish our souls. When we abstain from receiving the Holy Eucharist, we are not just being indifferent to God but also malnourishing ourselves. As food is important to the body, so is the Holy Eucharist important to the soul and we cannot afford to abstain from it. Through the Holy Eucharist, God gives us the grace to give up our old way of life as St. Paul advises us in the second reading (Eph. 4:17. 20–24.  Therefore, beloved friends, as we approach the altar to get nourished with the bread of life, may God through the Holy Eucharist we receive grant us the grace never to ignore our spiritual needs in the search for our materials needs. God loves you.

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