NOTE: I will retire as abbot on December 12, 2018. I have been writing these homilies since the First Sunday of Advent in 1997. I will no longer write these homilies. My last homily will be published for the Solemnity of Christ in the King, November 25, 2018. Another brother will begin to write the weekly homily for the upcoming Sunday liturgy. So the homilies will continue, but with another author. Abbot Philip
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B – 2018
FIRST READING Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not. “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the Lord, am your God.” In the evening quail came up and covered the camp. In the morning a dew lay all about the camp, and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground. On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?” for they did not know what it was. But Moses told them, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”
SECOND READING Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
Brothers and sisters: I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; that is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.
GOSPEL John 6:24-35
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
The readings today reflect what we often feel: “Prove to us that you are God! Do something to show your presence in a way that convinces us. Don’t hide yourself from us.”
The first reading is from the Book of Exodus and reflects the grumbling against Moses and Aaron, which is a way of grumbling against God. There is never anything that satisfies the people completely, neither the people in the Old Testament nor the people of our own time. It is always the same arguments: “We are in a bad situation and you, O God, do nothing! Is there really a God at all? Probably not. Most likely it is just people wanting to believe in crazy things that deceived us into believing that there is a God. We are better off with the goods of this world, rather than wanting something that isn’t even for sure.”
In this reading from the Book of Exodus, the people demand something and God actually gives them something. But later on they grumble against what God has given them, because it is not what they want. We are like that, also. We have so much but we want more. We have one thing, but we want another. We have things that others want, and others want the things that we have. Can we be content with what we have and still look for God?
The second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians. We can pay attention to this small phrase from today’s reading: “You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self.” Deceitful desires! That is what the first reading was talking about. Always we have desires. But not always do we look at our desires to see if they will lead us to God. Instead, we want our desires honored, whether they are good or deceitful. They are “our desires.” Our desires should be honored. We are being told, however, that we must look to Jesus Christ and we need to try to live as He did: sacrificing Himself for the good of others, and not seeking His own desires. Jesus seeks the will of the Father. In striving to do the will of the Father, revealed to us in Holy Scriptures, we learn to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others.
The Gospel today is from the Gospel of Saint John. People are looking for Jesus. People want to follow Jesus. What they really want is no so much what Jesus is saying, but what Jesus can give them in this life. Jesus reminds them that although He can give them bread in this life, what they really should want is life eternal. The account ends here today but we know that eventually the people reject Jesus because they want miracles and food and power in this life—not the hard work of fulfilling the word of God, seeking the will of God and sacrificing themselves for the good of others.
What do I want? What do we want? Are we willing to be formed by Jesus and by His understanding of the Holy Scriptures? Are we willing to lay down our lives for God and for neighbor?
Your brother in the Lord,