Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35
NOT SO MUCH ABOUT BREAD AS ABOUT BELIEF
I recently heard the story about a little boy who was preparing with great seriousness to receive his First Communion. The catechesis had been done, the responses practiced, the rehearsals had been held. There was great and holy anticipation. This particular little boy approached the altar, where the priest held the host and offered the Body of Christ. This little boy responded and said: "Shore is!!!" He believed it to be true!
At first glance or upon first hearing, the readings for today might seem to be about bread. Bread is the common element in both Exodus and John, but it serves as the context that leads us to deeper reflection about God, and our belief in God. So, in this summer time in the Western Hemisphere, as our Church is well into Ordinary Time, the in-between time for reflection on the great feasts of Jesus, our Christ, we are challenged as were the ancient Israelites and the community of John's Gospel to reflect on what we believe about God. How have we come to this belief?
We hear the familiar story of the Israelites grumbling about being brought into the desert where they are hungry, even fearful of dying of famine. God promises that they shall "have their fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the Lord, am your God." Then, having been given the manna, Moses tells them: "This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat." The faith evoked is not in the bread, but in the giver of the bread, God!
Psalm 78, verses 3-4 sings the resulting belief and declaration of the manna miracle in the desert: "We will declare to the generations to come the glorious deeds of our God, and the strength and wonders God has wrought." Knowing and believing the goodness of God and declaring it is nourishment of the spirit and longer lasting than the manna.
Paul's letter to the Ephesians continues this theme: "put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth." Our belief, the holiness of truth, is cause for renewal of our very selves. We are created by God, and re-created often in life.
The Gospel of the day from John follows upon the reading from last week about the feeding of the five thousand. The crowds followed Jesus in their hunger; and Jesus reads their hunger as a hunger of their hearts. What is the hunger of our hearts? Jesus' response is soul food: "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." The deepest hungers of our hearts are filled by our belief in the Bread of Life.
May we be attentive to the myriad ways we receive the Bread of Life -- at the Eucharistic Table and in our daily lives. And, when we are mindful of having been fed the Body of Christ, let us reply with that little boy at his First Communion: "Shore is!"
By Sallie Latkovich, C.S.J., Director of Bible Study and Travel, Director of the Summer Institute, and Adjunct Professor
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