YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: PUT AWAY YOUR OLD SELF
BY: Fr. Abbot Philip Lawrence
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
The readings today reflect what we often feel: “Prove to us that you are God! Do something to show your presence in a way that convinces us. Don’t hide yourself from us.”
The first reading is from the Book of Exodus and reflects the grumbling against Moses and Aaron, which is a way of grumbling against God. There is never anything that satisfies the people completely, neither the people in the Old Testament nor the people of our own time. It is always the same arguments: “We are in a bad situation and you, O God, do nothing! Is there really a God at all? Probably not. Most likely it is just people wanting to believe in crazy things that deceived us into believing that there is a God. We are better off with the goods of this world, rather than wanting something that isn’t even for sure.”
In this reading from the Book of Exodus, the people demand something and God actually gives them something. But later on they grumble against what God has given them, because it is not what they want. We are like that, also. We have so much but we want more. We have one thing, but we want another. We have things that others want, and others want the things that we have. Can we be content with what we have and still look for God?
The second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians. We can pay attention to this small phrase from today’s reading: “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.” Deceitful desires! That is what the first reading was talking about. Always we have desires. But not always do we look at our desires to see if they will lead us to God. Instead, we want our desires honored, whether they are good or deceitful. They are “our desires.” Our desires should be honored. We are being told, however, that we must look to Jesus Christ and we need to try to live as He did: sacrificing Himself for the good of others, and not seeking His own desires. Jesus seeks the will of the Father. In striving to do the will of the Father, revealed to us in Holy Scriptures, we learn to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others.
The Gospel today is from the Gospel of Saint John. People are looking for Jesus. People want to follow Jesus. What they really want is no so much what Jesus is saying, but what Jesus can give them in this life. Jesus reminds them that although He can give them bread in this life, what they really should want is life eternal. The account ends here today but we know that eventually the people reject Jesus because they want miracles and food and power in this life—not the hard work of fulfilling the word of God, seeking the will of God and sacrificing themselves for the good of others.
What do I want? What do we want? Are we willing to be formed by Jesus and by His understanding of the Holy Scriptures? Are we willing to lay down our lives for God and for neighbor?
Fr. Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico