Saturday, October 17, 2009

18Th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This homily is the first part of a two part homily I preached this summer. The second part follows.

Do you remember last’s week’s gospel reading? What was it about? (I bet you did not expect a pop quiz at church today!) It was….The miracle of the multiplication of the bread, which happens to be the first few lines of the 6 chapter in the Gospel according to John.
Now Father might have mentioned this last week but starting last Sunday and for a period of 5 Sundays the Gospel reading will be snippets from this chapter, so you can bet that if the Church spends 5 weeks in just one chapter of scripture it must be a pretty important one right? It is so important that although broken in 5 parts all these readings must be taken as one long story that I hope you will take time to read during the week.
So, today what I’m going to do is to take a look at this reading line by line, to get us ready for what lies ahead in the next few weeks. To borrow from our Protestant brothers and sisters, if you want, pick up the missal and follow with me go ahead. The reading goes:
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?”
Now, since we are following the story started last week, taken by itself this passage does not make any sense, why are they asking Jesus the time when he got there? Here is what we missed (Which by the way is the only part of this chapter we will not read in the 5 week period I mentioned), after the multiplication of the bread, Jesus went by himself to pray and the disciples took the only available boat to the other side of the lake. The next morning the people that had been fed by the miraculous bread, took on boats toward the other side of the lake looking for the apostles. When they arrived to the other shore they were astonished, because Jesus was there… they have seen only the apostles leave. How did Jesus make it to the other side? They did not know that during the night the apostles had seen Jesus walking over the waters. This is why they ask him “when did you get here”. So, Jesus answers them:
“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.”
It is clear that Jesus can read what is in their hearts. He knows they do not care about his miracles; the only reason why they went to the trouble of crossing the lake was because they wanted more food! Which is understandable because at the times of Jesus food was not easy to find. And here Jesus gives them the first lesson of the day: he tells them “do not trouble yourself searching for normal food” Seek spiritual food instead, my words, the signs and wanders I do… these things are good for your soul…these will sustain you for all eternity. This is food that only the one sent by God the Father can provide.
So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Hearing Jesus talk about this food which “will endure for all eternity” they figure there must be something they will have to do to get it, because in their minds the only way to earn God’s favor was by performing some kind of act like a temple’s sacrifice. So Jesus knowing this gives them the second lesson of the day: He answers:
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
The only thing you have to do is very simple: Believe in what I say. That is it! Just listen to my words and follow them. But what happened next? Listen to what they say:
“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.”
They do not believe him! Jesus is telling them how to get this food and they go back to wanting him to proof who he is by… Feeding them again! The only thing in their minds was the free meal!
Now you might be thinking … boy, these people were really dense... But if you think about it... we all at one time or another have treated God in the same way. How many times have we tried to make deals with God? ” Lord, I will believe your words… but only on my own terms”. Now, what comes next, is Jesus third lesson of the day. He says:
“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.”
Which if you think about it, is another way of saying “Stop thinking with your stomach and start thinking with your head!” The bread of life which comes from heaven and gives eternal life is given to you for free by God the Father. No deals, no temple sacrifices, the only thing you have to do believe what I’m going to say to you! After this they finally realize what Jesus is saying and they ask:
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
To which Jesus gives the last and most important lesson of the day:
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Imagine the surprise of the people listening to Jesus when he uttered these words. For us Catholics to hear Jesus call himself the bread of life is second nature, but to them, for these people that were expecting perhaps some kind of special bread, to hear Jesus call himself The Bread of Life must have been very confusing! I’m sure many of then though “he could not possibly be talking about heating his flesh and drinking his blood”. But we all know what he meant. He IS the bread of life that comes down from heaven and gives eternal life to the world! And the only thing we have to do is believe in his words! And up to this date we express this belief by eating His real flesh and drinking his real blood in the Eucharist at every mass in every Catholic Church in the world.
Now, If you keep reading on, you will see what happens when Jesus becomes more adamant about the necessity of for eating his flesh and drinking his blood, but for that you will have to come to mass for next 3 week. 