YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” (John 6:35)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus advises his disciples to look beyond what nourishes for only a time to what lasts forever. “Do not work for food that perishes,” Jesus advises his disciples, “but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27) When that furrow of the brow signaling incomprehension comes over them, Jesus continues, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
While our faith teaches that the finest fare heaven can offer is set before us on the Table of the Lord, the celebration of the Eucharist can sometimes seem as lackluster as the leftover casserole that appeared on last night’s supper table, fare only just tolerable at its first serving. We may find ourselves slogging to the table— both the Lord’s and the family’s—with little expectation and little of ourselves to offer. Yet, at both tables, it’s a two-way dynamic: We are fed and we feed. That is, we receive and we give of ourselves to those gathered with us. Indeed, the Eucharist we Catholics celebrate is marked by ritual words and actions. While there is variation in the hymns, scripture readings and homily, still there is a sameness in which many take comfort while others merely endure. How often I’ve hear the complaint, “I don’t get anything out of going to Mass.” And I think to myself and sometimes even respond, “Well, what did you bring to Mass? Did you bring your yearning heart to be fed? Did you bring your unique gifts to be shared? Do you place both your emptiness and your fullness upon the Lord’s table in offering?”
For a while now there’s been gentle repartee with a member of our Holy Cross community who asks me each Saturday prior to the vigil liturgy, “Are we going to get another ‘going home’ homily today?” And more often than not I have to respond in the affirmative. He’s made me aware of the fact that most of my homilies speak of this earthly life as a journey homeward, an often pleasant trip, for sure, but not an end in itself. We Christians are on the way toward something more, something better, something eternal. I know, too, that my ministry of many years as a hospital chaplain accompanying people on the last mile of the earthly journey has provided me many “going home” stories which I frequently share at homily time. And then there are those small aches and pains that remind me daily that I, too, am on the road. Indeed, home is lots closer than it used to be.
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” (John 6:35) And so we come to the Lord’s Table to receive him as food and drink unto eternity. But even as we reverently approach the altar, we know to keep our peripheral vision sharp, for Jesus, our daily bread, is a master of disguise. How often he provides for us in ways ever mysterious! How often he nourishes us through people and experiences! How often he feeds us with what has little resemblance to bread and wine! In truth, more often than not, the Bread of Life can seem as ordinary as that leftover casserole.