Homily (2) 18th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Exod 16:2-4, 12-15; Ps 78:3-4, 23-25, 54; Eph 4:17, 20-24; John 6:24-35
Christ– the Bread Life!
The readings of these past Sundays centered on Christ feeding the multitude. Today, in the Book of Exodus, Ephesians and in John 6:24-35, our Lord, who is yesterday, today and forever, is not backing down. He speaks to us again, physically and spiritually, and perhaps in symbols familiar to us. He is the bread of life–the source of new life, the giver of love and everything we need– spiritually and materially: peace, good health, jobs, vocations, clothing, housing, family life, – name them! He is our “Bread winner.” History proves this, as well.
In the first reading, when the Israelites journeyed through the desert and were physically hungry, tired, discouraged, disillusioned, tempted, shaken in faith– they complained against Moses; “would that we had dies at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt….but you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”. This is human. This is who we are– easily shaken in our faith traditions, tired and thirsty on our life journeys, deserted of the teachings of the Church, short memory, fail to see through beyond our narrow eye glasses, and short cuts; prone to complaint, criticize others so easily and speak ills about others, our parents, teachers, and leaders!
But notice who the Lord is–compassionate, resolute in loving us, merciful, works with and through Moses, rises above human thinking. He is divine and spiritual, and deploys us, our superiors, teachers, priests, bishops as his instruments. He responded divinely and heavenly, in the 1st reading. The Lord provides the complaining– Israel with food, manna, love and comfort from heaven, with great spiritual implication– that they may know that he is the Lord!
It is on this spiritual note that Saint Paul addresses the Ephesian Church in the 2nd reading. He invites them to drop their selfish, narrow-minded lives and corrupted way of deceitfulness. Rather, they should put on new selves of generosity, loving of ones’ neighbors, insightful in matters of faith, patience, trusting, selfless, compassionate and believing! To accomplish these could be challenging and long, just as the journey was long for Israel.
A long journey for Israel– but, all these we see, summed up in Christ the New Moses who provides the hungry multitude of today’s Gospel with the “new bread from heaven” that endures for eternal life. Of course,, in symbols, Christ meant those spiritual and moral bread (s) that transcends ordinarily and material bread and fish he had just fed the 5000 with last Sunday. In fact, it is well put in the alleluia verse of today that “man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4b). With God everything is possible. How do we believe in the fact that with God everything is possible?
How many times do we not focus all our attention and emotion on material, fish, bread, money, power, control, and physical success in this life? How many times do we not flock to Christ solely for material loaves like those we hear of in today’s Gospel! Those we regard as our friends, do we truly love them because they are kind, prayerful, spiritual, exemplary in virtues, or do we go to them because of the material gains we tap temporary from them?
The readings of today, in fact, provides us material for onward mediation and reflections on these questions. They suggest that we labor and strife in this life as Christians, we must labor, work hard, study hard with love and patient endurance, trusting in God and in what has been reveal to us through the scriptures, the mouth of the Apostles and the teachings of the Church.
Granted that there are undeniable material hunger here and there, in the world, Christ must not be followed just for the satisfaction of material hunger, but also for the renewed desire to hear, preach, live his word–putting on new spiritual selves, imbibing his values with renewed zeal. This is why Pope Francis continues to emphasize that more be done by global humanity to spread, multiply and share good works, eliminate greediness and corruption in our nation’s public offices! Moreover, Christ, the Bread of Life, can be searched, thirst for, and followed by wealthier nations, friends and individuals who support the poorer ones with love, who replace indifferent attitude towards spiritual and family values– where bread are shared, moral virtues cultivated with faith, hope, love and positive attitudes toward the teachings of Christ, our true and imperishable Bread of Life.