YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
THEME: Do you seek the bread given by the Father, or do you seek the Father who gives you bread?
BY: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
HOMILY: Exodus 16:2-4. 12-15
Ephesians 4:17. 20-24
Last week in the Gospel, we saw how Christ was able to feed the hungry with physical bread in the miracle of the loaves and fish. The crowd had been so amazed that they had all been fed, and even though Jesus tried to escape them, they followed Jesus. They now saw in Jesus a miracle worker and they would like more of such miracle. But when Jesus tried to make them understand what the miracle represented, they were embarrassed because, what the miracle represented was for them a very outrageous and crazy idea.
Beloved in Christ, every good thing we receive from God and every miracle God works for us are not ends in themselves but means to the greatest end. But what do we find? We find that many of us Christians who just want to settle for what God gives us and not seek and uphold what those goods stand for and where they lead us. Jesus’ mission was not to establish an earthly dynasty, if it were; he would have accepted the free offer of becoming King when the opportunity presented itself. But his mission is to prepare all and gather them into the heavenly kingdom. We all as Christians are part of this mission.
I feel it should be easier for us to believe in God and deepen our relationship with him today than those who were listening to Christ in the passage of today. Why? Because we know how Jesus eventually became the bread of life at the last supper and gave his body and shed his blood for us on the cross. But for the Jews listening to Jesus they never knew how it was all going to happen. They did not understand how Jesus was going to give his body as Bread. So what Jesus was saying to them at the moment was for them crazy and insulting. Yet many of us find it still hard to cultivate a loving relationship with God through Jesus our Lord.
If we are having it difficult deepening our relationship with Jesus, it is because there is this part of us that is craving for fleshpot- earthly, material things like the Israelites in the wilderness. This part longs for the passing pleasure of the fleshpots in Egypt like the Israelites in the first reading, even though we know that the price of that pleasure is the life of slavery. It is this part of us that sees the Life that God calls us to as too challenging, too rigorous, too difficult. It is this part of us that goes to Mass on Sunday morning, but then thinks it is perfectly fine to get drunk on Friday evening all in the name of TGIF! (Thank God it’s Friday), or goes to work without our garment of Christian morality on Monday, putting on the shameful attires of corruption, deceit, greed and lust or actively support political or social stances that are contrary to our faith on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday. It is that part of us that is hungry, yes, but which does not want to be fed with the Bread of Life, but with the bread of worldly pleasure.
The Bread of Life, on the other hand, comes with a commitment to a new life. When we receive Communion, we become like little tabernacles of the Holy Spirit, carrying with us wherever we go, the presence of the Spirit of God in us. And so when we receive that Bread of Life, we are bound by the presence within us to live that Divine Life in a way that gives evidence to the world that this Divine life is there. St. Paul talks about this in the second reading today: “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.” This renewal of the self is not an option. It is not just a Sunday thing. It is not just a sometimes affair. When we receive the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, we are bound to Christ whom we receive and we must live the life of Christ daily, everywhere and everytime.
Jesus says that they had followed him only because he took care of their physical needs, they hunger not for the reasons that they should have followed him. What about ourselves? Why do we follow Jesus? Why are you at mass today? Why do you attend all the vigils? Why do you pray all the novenas? If we are willing to follow Jesus, but only on our own terms, then we would not be different from the careless crowd. Many of us would turn away from him if we feel he has let us down. Turning away from Christ and craving for material consolation is not the response that draws grace into our lives. We must seek our Lord for himself, and not for what we can get from him.
Do we seek the bread given by the Father, or the Father himself who gives us bread?
On a spiritual level, it is not the nice feeling or even the consolation that we might feel during prayer that we seek. St Ignatius said: “seek not the consolation of God, but seek the God of consolation.”
My dear friends the bread from heaven for us is the Eucharist, and the proper way to receive its blessing is to open up to God’s love, given to us in Jesus. Unlike those who abandoned Jesus when no more bread was forthcoming, we must persevere as his faithful followers. Jesus is more concerned with our spiritual lives, and he is feeding our spiritual lives with food that will last forever. He says to us as he said to his followers today, that we need to work for that kind of bread that will last forever, and the work that we have to do is to believe.
Like the Israelites in the first reading of today, we too are on a journey here on earth. So Jesus is telling us that to have the right kind of strength for the journey, we need the right kind of food, and Jesus is this food. ‘I am the bread of life’. That is why Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist and speaks to us through his word, so that we have all the nourishment that we need for the journey. So we must stay focussed. One of the masterpieces of fiction was the satire Don Quixote by the Spanish writer Cervantes. It tells how the absurdly chivalrous hero set out to perform deeds of heroism to win the admiration of all the Spanish ladies. Quixote was so open to adventure that he decided to go wherever his horse Rosinante would lead him. But the horse, once given free rein, naturally returned to the place it knew best, its own stable. We too if we give our hunger free rein, we might find ourselves going the same old way, doing the same thing, returning to the same haunts again and again, drifting aimlessly, or lured on by the novelty of sensationalism, or even get carried away by the latest fashions in religion and morality.
St Paul declares that aimless living will lead us exactly nowhere. “I urge you in the name of the Lord,” he says, “not to go on living the aimless kind of life that pagans live.” Our life must have focus and this focus is eternal life and Jesus is the one who could help us attain our eternal destiny.
Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya