Sunday, August 2, 2015

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Bread of Life

Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
John 6:24-35

In today’s Gospel of John, the people of God are requesting a sign that Jesus is ALL he says he is. They want proof.
Don’t we all at times want proof of God’s existence in our lives?
In today’s first reading from Exodus, the people of God want a sign, too.
They’re grumbling in the desert, thinking, “Hey, we were much more comfortable in captivity in Egypt.”
Then a miracle happens and they have their fill of manna from heaven.
In last week’s Gospel of John, we got the most wondrous sign of all that Christ is what he says he is when he took a boy’s five barley loaves and two fishes and fed a multitude of people.  
It was a miracle sign that Jesus is consubstantial with the Father. And He was offering more than mere material food, but spiritual food that lasts forever as he reminds followers this week.  
That word “consubstantial” caused quite a stir in 2011 when the New Roman Missal was introduced, but the meaning of this big word from the Nicene Creed is quite accurate.
Consubstantial simply means: “of the same substance or essence.”
             Jesus is trying to get THIS into the heads of the people He encounters today.
They want material proof THAT he’s the Son of living God.  More miracles.  
He’s trying to tell them that everything he is and everything he is doing is a reflection of the one who sent him.
            This is called the “Bread of Life Discourse” and is found only in John’s Gospel.
            Wait, aren’t we in the Year of Mark with our Gospel readings? 
We are. But the Church wants us to take a break from Mark and reflect on Jesus as the Bread of Life from John’s Gospel for the next few weeks.  Remember, when the Church gets serious, it breaks out the Gospel of John.
One of the keys to understanding this weekend’s readings is this passage from John’s Gospel spoken by the people of God: 
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
In other words, “What shall we do? What are the works that God wants us to do?” 
Before we can answer this question we have to first learn to avoid the things that disconnect us from God?  To do this, we must deepen our relationship with the Lord in prayer.
This is what each of us must ask God in our prayers daily.  What is it that You, Lord, want me to do?  And what do You want me to change about myself?
“Faith is entering into a relationship with God. Faith is becoming aware of the gift of our existence as a gift from God; nothing we've ever earned. God has loved us into being and sustains us in being, and we need to recognize that, and then to develop a relationship with this living God.”
For our parish mission team, we are doing the will of God for the next 10-days as we leave for Guatemala tonight.
If you want to keep track of our journey, I encourage you to find ICOLPH on Facebook and “LIKE” it. This way you can see pictures and watch videos from our parish mission trip to Guatemala.
There, we will use the 15-thousand dollars raised in the parish to do the will of the Father.
We will build relationships between our parish community and our sisters and brothers in Christ in a Mayan Catholic parish community in one of the poorest areas of the world.
We will build stoves in homes so families can cook their meals without poisoning their families with harmful smoke. We’ll build houses to help those without homes have a home of their own. We’ll build classrooms for the parish school.  We will build new roofs on houses that leak when it rains.
By giving up our attachments to the material things that disconnect us from God and plugging directly into the Kingdom, God will draw us all closer to Him.
            It all starts when we eat this Bread of Life, and become filled with ALL we need to do the will of God.  This helps us to turn away from things that separate us from Him.
Paul reminds the baptized in Christ what we must do in today’s reading from Ephesians:
“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."

Paul is urging us to undergo a revolution within ourselves by putting on this new self. These are strong words.  In many ways, he’s calling for “something that would almost turn us inside-out, upside-down, just change everything in our lives, a revolution, so that we really live in God and renew ourselves from inside, according to God's ways.”
This is my hope and my prayer for our parish mission team.
In the Gospel, Jesus is telling us clearly how to do this:  by partaking in the Bread of Life that comes in the Eucharist, and in the Word of God we share at Mass every week.
This spiritual nourishment is designed to turn us from old sinful ways and renew us in the joy and hope of Christ. This Bread of Life sustains us and helps us to better hear the voice of God whispering in our prayer life, guiding us as we do the will of the Father.
            For each of us, we hear different things. But we are all called to action.
Some feel called to give of their time, talent and treasure to our St. Vincent de Paul food banks. Some feel called to work to ensure our parish commits itself to our Catholic Social Teaching through events like Operation Stocking Stuffer every Christmas benefiting our homeless sisters and brothers and the Days of Caring in partnership with Catholic Community Services. Some feel called to help individuals they meet on the streets to find housing or food or health care or a sympathetic ear to listen. Some feel called to bring communion to those in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes or prisons. These are all corporal works of Mercy.  This is what Pope Francis is calling us all to do as we enter the upcoming Year of Mercy.
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            There is no one right way to do the will of God. Only that we  deepen our relationship with Christ, hear God’s call and then respond.
            And Jesus is reminding us today that the source of this Bread of Life is found in the Word and Eucharist.
            I’d like to share a final thought for reflection from popular Catholic writer Henri Nouwen.  It’s entitled Becoming the Living Christ:

“Whenever we come together around the table, take bread, bless it, break it, and give it to one another saying: "The Body of Christ," we know that Jesus is among us. He is among us NOT as a vague memory of a person who lived long ago but as a real, life-giving presence that transforms us. By eating the Body of Christ, we become the living Christ and we are enabled to discover our own chosenness and blessedness, acknowledge our brokenness, and trust that all we live we live for others. Thus WE, like Jesus himself, become food for the world.”

So, what is God calling you to do to be food for the world?
            Spend some time in prayer figuring it out.  Hear what God is calling you to do in for own life to improve your relationship Him and focus your life on the needs of others.
Then, put God’s call into action.  And just do it.