FR. BEN’S HOMILY FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
THEME: GIVE US THAT BREAD ALWAYS!
BY: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
HOMILY: *Ex 16:2-15, Eph 4:17-24, Jn 6:24-35.
The desperate search for Jesus in today’s gospel from Galilee to Capernaum is emblematic of modern day search of Christians for miracles and breakthroughs. It is not wrong for believers to search for God’s intervention in their day to day life’s challenges but the problem comes from the emphasis and priorities. Why is it that the teeming number of Christians in this Country and all over the world does not translate into praxis in the area of morality? Why do we seem to have more Christians and less spirituality/ holiness of life?
Christ pinpoints the crux of the matter in today’s gospel : ‘You are not looking for me because you have seen the signs ( ie because you have faith) but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat…Work for that food that endures to eternal life’, Jn 6 : 26.
B. MODERN DAY REALISM
In the wilderness of hunger and hardship like the type we have in Nigeria today, the people of God must complain like the Israelites did in today’s 1st reading because people must be human. According to Monica Hellwig, ‘To be human is to be hungry’. And the secret of the success of Pentecostalism lies in this fundamental realism – this pragmatic approach to Christianity pushing its attention towards the solution to people’s problems.
But an important question should be : ‘What are people hungry for?’ Are they hungry only for their physical needs? What are in their hierachy of needs? For psychologists like Abraham Maslow, man’s hierarchy of needs stems from; 1. Physiological/ Biological, 2. Safety, 3. Social (love & belongingness), 4. Self esteem and 5. Self actualization. People hunger for food, for sex, for shelter, for wealth, for education, for faith, for hope… According to Enneagram psychologists; ‘1’s hunger for perfection, ‘2’s hunger for love, ‘3’s hunger for success & achievements, ‘4’s hunger for nature’s beauty, ‘5’s hunger for knowledge, ‘6’s hunger for law & obedience, ‘7’s hunger for fun, ‘8’s hunger for power while ‘9’s hunger for peace.
So the movement of the crowd that day from Galilee (crossing the sea of Tiberias) to Capernaum was such a desperate search for Jesus. But when Jesus saw their efforts, he told them the blatant truth: YOU ARE NOT LOOKING FOR ME BECAUSE YOU HAVE FAITH BUT BECAUSE OF THE BREAD YOU WANT. (I just imagine Jesus saying the same to so many Christians of today). WORK FOR THE BREAD THAT GOD WANTS TO GIVE YOU – THE BREAD OF LIFE. It was a stinker! They said: ‘Give us that bread always’. But how sincere was that prayer? When they quoted the scripture : ‘Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert…He gave them bread from heaven to eat’, how sincere was that quotation? Quoting scriptures from a material perspective has become the bane of modern day Christianity.
*I just woke up this morning watching a sensational watsap video of a masquerade preaching in a park with megaphone. The big question is : WHAT DOES HE WANT TO ACHIEVE?
C. TRADITIONAL SPIRITUALITY
When Jesus affirms that he is THE BREAD OF LIFE he simply means that to have him is to have everything we need for life. The bible says: ‘In him we live, move & have our being’, Act 17:28. St Augustine says: ‘You have made us for yourselves O Lord and our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee’. This is why the highest focus of Catholic spirituality is the Eucharistic life/ Communion with Jesus. As bread nourishes human strength, so does Jesus nourish us spiritually. As bread replaces our lost tissues, so Jesus gives some ‘replacement therapy’ to believers through the sacrament of reconciliation, 2 Cor 5:18. He is the restorer of our ancient ruins, Is 58 :11-12. Please I request that you read that passage and see the following Divine promises; illumination, protection, provision, healing, prosperity & restoration . As bread perpetuates life, so does Jesus give us immortality through a sound devotion to the Eucharist.
*STORY: A drunkard had a family; wife & kids who suffered excessively because of his drinking habits. He used to spend all his money on his drinks & cigarettes. He went for a retreat & was touched by the message & finally gave his life to Christ. His former drinking companions mocked him for believing in Jesus & ridiculed Jesus’ changing of water into wine. Then the ex-drunkard replied: ‘I have not seen Jesus change water into wine at Cana. But I have seen him change beer & kai kai (dry gin) in my life into bread & clothing for my wife & children’.
The major problem I see in modern-day Christianity is materialism. Our testimonies are turning more into material testimonies than testimonies of conversion and salvation. They are no longer life- changing testimonies but mere testimonies of miracles & financial breakthroughs. Today’s 2nd reading from Ephesians 4:17-24 insists that ‘you must give up your old way of life corrupted by illusory desires & your mind must be renewed by the spiritual desires’.
* Story : Graham Stains was a believer who was brutally burnt to death, together with his 2 sons by some Hindu fanatics. His believing wife was not devastated by this tragedy but sang this popular hymn: ‘Because he lives I can face tomorrow; because he lives all fear is gone; because I know he holds my future. My life is worth a living just because he lives’.
Jesus is the BREAD OF LIFE. In the wilderness of hunger, misfortunes & hardships, we must avoid complaints & negative confessions like the Israelites did in today’s 1st reading, Ex 16:2-15. We must beware of preferring the meats & cucumbers & of Egypt to the manna & quails in the desert.
Happy Sunday dear friends!