YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
TOPIC: JESUS IS THE BREAD OF LIFE
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Jn 6:24-35
Message # 307:“The Hour of a New Agony”
1.The Marian Message
a. This message of the Blessed Mother was during Holy Thursday, the Feast of the Institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of the Priesthood. The Eucharist accomplishes three things: 1) it makes Jesus truly present in our midst; 2) it renews his Sacrifice on the cross, and; 3) it gives us Jesus himself in Holy Communion (letter b).
b. The Sacrament of the Priesthood is always together with the Sacrament of the Eucharist. When Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me”, it was a command to his apostles and their successors to perpetuate his Sacrifice through the exercise of the priestly ministry (letter c).
c. The Blessed Mother recalled with sadness the events that transpired during that Holy Thursday. After the Last Supper where the Sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted, Jesus was abandoned by his apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, betrayed by Judas and denied by Peter (letter f).
d. During these times, the Blessed Mother noted, there are many priests “who flee from and abandon Jesus and the Church, seduced by the easy attractions of the world in which they live.” Many are like Judas who betrayed Jesus. And many still are like Peter, who deny Jesus “out of cowardice and fear” (letter g).
e. It is precisely because of these betrayal and abandonment that the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, “is living through the hour of a new painful agony” (letter i). She urges us to be like the Apostle John who must remain faithful to Jesus at all times, and keeping watch “in prayer and in trust during the painful hours of this new Holy Thursday” (letter j).
2. The Sunday Gospel
a. After the spectacular miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus engages in personal dialogue with the people who continued to follow him. He noticed their keen interest in him and even noticed their desire to make him king. Jesus knew their thoughts and motivations: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (v. 26) So he advised them: “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (v. 27). It was a challenge for them to go beyond the material and the physical. While they were just interested in the bread that filled their bellies, Jesus was slowly making them realize that there is a kind of bread that can satisfy the hunger of their souls, and will give them eternal life: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (v. 35). Many people are like the Jews in the Gospel. They have shortsighted eyes of the spirit. They only see, or better still, they would like only to see, the material and the physical, the here and now. Anything beyond that is not anymore of interest to them.
b. “I am the bread of life.” Here Jesus is not talking about the physical bread that the people ate during the multiplication of the loaves. He is talking about himself. This is just like his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. He was offering her “water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14). The living water is not any physical water, but Jesus himself. Therefore, Jesus offers himself as the food and drink for our spiritual nourishment so that wewill not hunger and thirst anymore.It is an invitation to faith in Jesus: “Whoever comes to me will never hunger. Whoever believes in me will never thirst.” A person who has everything in this world, but without faith in Jesus, continues to be “hungry” and “thirsty” for more of this world’s goods. There is no end to his hunger and thirst; there is no contentment, and there is no happiness in life. On the other hand, a person may be lacking in material things, but if he has faith in Jesus, he has peace and happiness in life, for he has Jesus who is the food and water for eternal life. Such is the experience of all the saints. Just as physical bread, like the manna in the desert, sustains our physical life, so also Jesus, “the bread of life”, sustains us unto eternal life. It is Jesus alone who can truly satisfy us, and we will never thirst and hunger anymore. He is everything in our life.(Note: The whole chapter 6 of the Gospel of St. John is solely on the Bread of Life Discourse. But Jesus proceeds step by step. The Gospel this Sunday is not yet talking about the sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus is still inviting the people to have faith in him. It is only afterwards that he talks about the Eucharist.)
c. “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” To this question, Jesus said: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” While what the world offers have to be worked for, such as one has to work for money and for food, what Jesus offers, on the other hand, are totally free, out of the infinite generosity of God. Nobody can work for faith. Faith is a totally free gift of God offered to us through Jesus. It is gratuitous. Nobody deserves to receive this gift, but God gives it to us despite our unworthiness. Unfortunately, many people still choose to reject this gift. Instead, they are working hard for the ephemeral things of this world which leave them wanting for more. (Mas gusto pa nilang magpakahirap para sa mga bagay ng mundo na lumilipas din lang naman at di nakapagbibigay ng lubos na kaligayahan; samantalang kanilang tinatanggihan ang biyaya ng pananampalatayang bigay ng Diyos na kusang iniaalok sa atin nang walang anumang kabayaran at kahirap-hirap.) What is needed only is to ask: “Lord, give us this bread always.” Let us not only ask for the physical bread, for after eating it we will again be hungry, and in the end we will die. Rather let us ask for Jesus, “the bread of life.” He will give us eternal life and happiness. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given you besides.”
d. It is truly amazing how people can be so blinded when it comes to the things of the Kingdom. The people were looking but they could not see. They were looking for Jesus because they needed something from him. They were interested in him only in their time of needs and difficulties. They failed to see Jesus as the compassionate God who is always with his people at every moment of their lives.The people were looking for a sign from Jesus: “What sign can you do, that we may see andbelieve in you?” What they failed to see was that Jesus himself is already the sign. He is the sacrament of the Father: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” He is the Word of Godpresent in our midst. Faith is our spiritual sight. So long as our faith is weak, we will never see the abiding presence of God in our midst. We will only see the physical and the temporal, that is, the passing realities, and therefore, the non-essential things in life. We cannot see the eternal and lasting, and therefore, essential realities in life. This is the case with the rich young man (Mt 19:16-22). He went away sad, which means he cannot find happiness and eternal life, because he could not let go of his many possessions. He failed to see that the heavenly riches are infinitely more valuable than his worldly riches.
3. Points for Reflection
a. Materialism is the most potent weapon of the devil. He has lured many souls to hell by usingmoney and material wealth. It is so attractive and powerful that even bishops and priests are not immune to it. When money enters the door of our soul, Christian principles are thrown out of the window. That is why Jesus warned us: “You cannot serve both God and money.”
b. Faith in Jesus gives us eternal life, for he is “the bread of life.” We should be alarmed at the number of Catholics abandoning their Christian faith. This has already been predicted by the Blessed Mother: massive apostasy. Losing faith in Jesus is tantamount to losing salvation. Jesus said: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” That is why the Blessed Mother shudders in sorrow for her beloved children who have abandoned their faith and are headed towards eternal damnation. This is already what is meant by sin against the Holy Spirit – total loss of faith or apostasy. It cannot be forgiven, simply because the person does not anymore believe in Jesus and in the sacraments, and that apostate will never ask for forgiveness.
c. When a person begins to become materialistic and always runs after money, these are symptoms of losing faith in Jesus. The devil also uses the Gospel to deceive people. This is where the so-called Prosperity Gospel comes in. A preacher who always talks about material rewards, but does not talk about the cross, humility, and poverty is spreading the Prosperity Gospel (the “siksik, liglig at umaapaw” kind of preaching). Be careful. That preacher is a false prophet. He is not talking about the true Jesus Christ who always has the cross. He is the devil’s instrument in deceiving people and leading them to damnation.
d. The most miserable person in the world is the one who is already rich, but continues to hunger for more. He is like a person who is always chasing his shadow. He does not know when to stop, when to say enough is enough. He becomes the slave of money. And since money and material wealth are ephemeral realities, when these things pass away, or when he himself passes away, he is left with absolutely nothing. He is truly foolish and miserable. We should not envy them. Rather, let us learn to count our blessings, be contented with them, and use them properly and wisely. God provides. That is the way to be truly happy.
4. Closing Song:
QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.
1. Itanong sa sarili at pag-usapan: Ano ang tunay na makapagbibigay ng tunay kaligayahan sa akin?
2. Kung sinasabi natin na si Hesukristo ang siyang pinagmumulan ng tunay na kaligayahan sa ating buhay, bakit madalas napipilitan lang tayo magsimba o kaya mag-attend ng mga gawaing pang-espirituwal, samantalang masigasig lagi tayo kapag salapi o kasayahan sa mundo ang pinag-uusapan? Di kaya binobola lang natin ang Diyos?
3. Paano natin matutulungang muling makabalik sa pananampalatayang Kristiyano ang mga dating Katolikong sumanib na sa mga anti- Kristong relihiyon?