18th Ordinary – August 2nd 2009 – The Only Food that Matters!
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Bottom Line: To understand the significance of Jesus’ self-revelation, we need to look at the context. Jesus is speaking to his Jewish brothers and sisters. Jesus is a son of Israel; he was born into the chosen race, the Jewish people. His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was a faithful Jewish woman. When the Jewish people heard the word “bread,” they immediately thought of the manna, the miraculous bread God gave them during the forty years in the desert. So they said to Jesus, “our ancestors ate manna in the desert.” But then Jesus tells us – I am the bread of life!
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong – 18th Ordinary – Year B – (2009)
(St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church – Grovetown, GA)
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
The Only Food that Matters!
We continue today with our five week study of the sixth chapter of John. It began last week with the multiplication of loaves and fish with all its Eucharistic implications. Today’s Gospel takes place the next day as the people came looking for Jesus. Jesus and his disciples were on the other side of the lake. The disciples crossed over by themselves, but Jesus met up with them walking on the water. That’s why the Gospel for this Sunday begins with the crowds saying, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus responds that they are only looking for him because they ate loaves and fish yesterday and want more today. They were not concerned with the sign that He performed. They were just concerned with free food.
That reminds me of the man I met, he told me that he goes to St. Teresa of Avila but he doesn’t go to Mass. I said to myself, “Well, this is going to be good.” So I asked, “What do you mean that you go to St. Teresa but don’t go to Mass.” He said, “Well, I don’t go to Church. But I go to the picnic every year.”
What makes a person a member of a parish? Deeper than this, what makes a person a Christian? What makes a person a Catholic? Does baptism do it? Perhaps theologically, but if the person does not reaffirm his or her faith with his or her life, then baptism is an act lost in the forgotten past, theologically something that took place, but a life that no longer exists due to the person’s refusal to live this life.
Does filling out paperwork make a person a member of a parish? We and every parish certainly have plenty of people who register into the parish, people who fill out paperwork to get their children in religious education, or Catholic school, or to have a child baptized. Sadly many of these people have no intention on coming to Church in any sort of a regular basis.
So, then does attendance in Church do it? No, there are plenty of people who wish they could come to Church but who can’t due to sickness or age or both. The fragments left over that I spoke about last week refers to the preservation for the Eucharist so we can bring the Eucharistic meal to those unable to attend. Although not in Church, these people are certainly active members of the parish. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are some people who attend Church but who do not live a Christian life outside of the building. We are all sinners, no doubt, but most of us want to be better, want to fight sin. But those few who are mean, cruel, who cheat others continually and who firmly intend to keep living this way, are they Christians simply because they attend Mass? What makes a person in reality, not in name, a Christian, a Catholic, an active member of a parish?
The answer is simple: Jesus Christ. Everything that matters is about Jesus. All else is bogus. Can I say that? Oh well, I just did! Those who seek Jesus and who worship Him in their daily lives as well as with the community of believers are members of the parish, members of the Church. They, we, are Christians.
What is the food that we need? The food is Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is the sacramental expression of this food. The Eucharist is our union with the Lord loving us to death on the cross. But the Eucharist is the most significant of the many ways that we receive and eat the Bread of Life.
That is where Jesus makes a very popular statement of the 21st century – the “I am” statement. It initiates his great self-revelation. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” He not only multiplies bread. He is bread.
That is the reason why Jesus fled when they wanted to make him king. It wasn’t some kind of false humility. The fact is that Jesus is greater than any king. A king, a political leader, can give people bread – and that is a good thing. A political leader can create a system where people are motivated to produce bread – and that is a better thing. But Jesus offers something much, much greater. Jesus is bread. As he says, “Whoever comes to me will never hunger.”
To understand the significance of Jesus’ self-revelation, we need to look at the context. Jesus is speaking to his Jewish brothers and sisters. Jesus is a son of Israel; he was born into the chosen race, the Jewish people. His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was a faithful Jewish woman. When the Jewish people heard the word “bread,” they immediately thought of the manna, the miraculous bread God gave them during the forty years in the desert. So they said to Jesus, “our ancestors ate manna in the desert.” But then Jesus tells us – I am the bread of life! That is enough for this week! Next week we will continue this Eucharistic theme!
I began this homily by asking, “What makes a person a member of a parish, a member of the Church, a Catholic?” The question was phrased incorrectly. It is not the what, it is the Who that unites a person to God’s intimate love. Jesus Christ, the One who gives life by dying, has set us on fire with the Love of God and filled us with the only food we will ever need, Himself.
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong