18th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
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‘I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst’.
The central idea that links the first reading and the Gospel is the food that God provides for his people.
In the past, God gave his people Israel simple food in the desert, manna, a food that could give strength to a perishable body. Now God feeds his people with the Bread of Life, with his Word, Jesus of Nazareth.
The second reading shows what kind of transformation this Bread of Life can work. Those who assimilate it will become new people.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15.
The God of Exodus was an active God. He made sure his people escaped from Egyptian bondage by inflicting 10 plagues on the Egyptians. He made his chosen people into a strong nation by testing them. The first test was about water; the people complained about the bitterness of the water of Marah. God heard their cry and enabled Moses to sweeten the water. The second test concerned food; they missed the food they had enjoyed in Egypt. Again God heard them and gave them the manna from heaven. The exodus from Egypt wasn’t easy for anybody, not for the people who found the hardships of nomadic desert life more than they bargained for. Moses and Aaron were constantly being called upon to take care of the people’s needs. Given the ongoing complaints of the people and their lack of understanding about what was going on, one might imagine the exodus experience wasn’t easy for God either.
The Old Testament reading for this Sunday is from the beginning of the Israelites’ desert experience. They had escaped from Egypt and slavery only a month before. Already they had grumbled against Moses because he had not provided good water for them to drink. God then gave them the water they needed. Now, as our reading begins, they are grumbling again that they have not enough to eat, claiming that they were better off in Egypt, blaming Moses and Aaron.
Six weeks of hardships of the wilderness begin to affect the dispositions of the Israelites. They continue to complain, their eyes still firmly on the lavishness and splendour that existed in the courts of Egypt, which they no doubt envied. The attitude of the Israelites illustrates the foolishness and ingratitude of their complaints as a typically human reaction towards a caring God. A God, who was and is still intent on rescuing his people from the bondage of all types of slavery.
God, reassure Moses: “I will provide bread and meat for the people, as much as they can eat. Once more I will show them that I am their Lord and God. The gift of manna, which is a help to his people, is also a test and a stimulus to grow in faith. The people of Israel cannot gather food for the following day; they must be satisfied with their ‘daily bread’; they must show that they trust the provident love of God.
In retrospect we can understand that the Lord wanted to make his people understand that humans cannot just live on bread, the fruit of the earth and their work, but need the ‘subsistence’ that come from the ‘Word’ of God. God then fulfils his promise. Flights of quail covered the camp in the evening, providing them with meat. In the morning the Israelites found the flake of a kind of bread on the ground, which they called manna.
We feel all kinds of hunger in our lives: hunger for bread, yes, but also ‘hunger for freedom, love, peace, brotherliness, respect, esteem, happiness and the truth’. Are we convinced that such hunger can only be satisfied by “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3)? Do we really believe that by accepting the invitation of Christ to share our goods, we can witness the miracle of food being provided for all the poor who are hungry? Or do we trust more in our financial plans that spring from our selfishness? God does give us what we need, but not necessarily what we think we need. God’s gifts are often far different from and far better that what any of us would have dared to ask for.
Psalm 78:3-4, 23-25, 54.
The Psalm celebrates the part played by God in the history of his people. In the Psalm, God recounts the story of the exodus, the conquest and the occupation of the Promised Land and how God had taken special care of them all that time. He had never allowed their stubbornness and disobedience to cancel out his own fidelity. The manna, the bread from heaven, the food of angels, was one example of his loving mercy.
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24.
We continue the reading of the second part of the letter to the Ephesians, and today Paul gives us some practical advice. Christians can be tempted to go back to the old pagan ways that they have given up at baptism. They should never forget that they are now new creatures.
To reinforce his exhortation, Paul uses the image of the ‘old man and the new’. It is a very effective comparison: the ‘old man’ represents the life of sin, the avidity and miseries of one who is seduced by his deceitful passions. The ‘new man’ is the new creature who was born from the water of baptism and is completely transformed in his moral behaviour.
Aren’t Christians tempted at times, to be both “the old man and the new?” But no one who has accepted to live according to Christ can strike a compromise with the vices of the pagans. To be a ‘new man’ means a new way of life characterized by the truth, goodness and holiness of Christ.
When Jesus fed the large number of people in the desert, they could not help thinking of another great man in their history, Moses, who through the blessings of God provided food for his people too. When the Israelites were starving in the desert, Moses gave them manna, a gift from God.
After giving the people bread for the body, Jesus now offers them his ‘teaching as the bread of wisdom’ to sustain their faith. They were coming to him for free bread but he had much more to give them…the kind of food the Son of Man is offering. Bread for the body was a sign pointing to his second gift, bread for the mind, heart and soul. Jesus assures them that they are looking for the wrong kind of bread, the kind that does not last. So they ask for the bread that lasts, and Jesus offers himself. He asks them to believe in him as being sent by the Father. “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst”.
The crowds refused to believe that Jesus was the one sent unless they saw a sign. Jewish tradition expected a prophet sent by God to give proof of his calling. This is a double affront, as Jesus had just given the multitude miraculous bread, and also because the people attribute to Moses what came from God. The way they now speak shows that they do not fully understand what has happened and Jesus has to correct them on two important points: First of all, it was not Moses who gave them the manna. It was God. Through Moses, God showed his concern for his people. Secondly, what God does not finish, it continues in the present. God is concerned with the hunger of people now. God’s act of giving continues at this very moment as we share this Gospel.
Jesus’ words echo what the Old Testament says about hungering for the gift of wisdom (Sirah 24:21). In this context the ‘bread of life’ is to be identified with the teachings of Jesus as the source and sustenance of faith. The promise that Jesus held out to the Galileans is one that is held out to us today. It is a promise fulfilled in the Eucharist that we now celebrate. If there is one thing that we share as a community of God, it is the same hunger. We hunger for a love that does not disappoint; we hunger for the word that does not fade away; we hunger for bread that does not fail to satisfy our hearts and souls.
In the celebration of the Eucharist, the love of a tender God is offered to us in ‘word’ and in ‘sacrament’. We continue to return to God’s house, our Church, because we are hungry for God, because the food that physically satisfies us is not enough for us. In coming here we are declaring that we cannot fall back on our own resources: we need Jesus, the ‘Bread of Life’, to sustain us.
Thomas Aquinas suggests that one can come to faith through reason, but faith is not a ‘reasonable’ thing. Faith is often described as a leap, a crossing through air, a movement over a gap that separates the worldly concerns from the eternal. For the crowds to accept Jesus as the ‘bread from heaven’, they would have to lay down their expectations of who he is and what bread is. They would have to be willing to cross over into faith, and leave those material values behind.
Staying hungry for Jesus’ bread means we do indeed long for the food that endures to eternal life. That is what Jesus asks of us.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … The exodus from Egypt wasn’t easy for anybody, not for the people who found the hardships of nomadic desert life more than they bargained for. Do we also sometimes grumble and complain when we need to endure hardships for the betterment of our lives from the many opportunities that God gives us? There is some truth in the expression, “No Pain – No Gain”.
Mon. … The gift of manna, which is a help to his people, is also a test, a stimulus to grow in faith. The people of Israel cannot gather food for the following day; they must be satisfied with their ‘daily bread’; they must show that they trust the provident love of God. How strong is our faith and trust in God that he will provide for us and continue to do so?
Tues. … Paul reminds us of the miracle of ‘transformation’ from the ‘old to the new’, born from the water of baptism. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to renew us, by accepting God’s will, his truth and his love into our hearts.
Wed. … Do we really believe that by accepting the invitation of Christ to share our goods, we can witness the miracle of food being provided for all the poor who are hungry? When we accept the invitation of Christ to share our goods by giving with humble and joyful hearts, we can start to witness the coming of an ever-increasing miracle of food being provided for the poor, needy and the hungry. When we add to this our desire to do God’s will, our faith in God’s love, we become part of this miracle of charity.
Thurs. … We are tempted at times, to be both the ‘old person’ and the ‘new’. When we truly accept Christ into our lives and become people of the ‘Way’, we cannot allow compromise to our new-found commitment in Christ by falling prey to old and new vices.
Frid. … The promise that Jesus held out to the Galileans is the same that is held out to us today. It is the promise of the ‘New Covenant’ fulfilled in the Eucharist that we are invited to celebrate each and every day.
Sat. … As a community of God, we all share the same hunger. We hunger for a Love that does not disappoint; we hunger for the Truth that will guide us; we hunger for the Word that does not fade away; we hunger for the ‘Bread of Life’ that does not fail to satisfy and we hunger to be with our Creator when we are called from this world. Jesus will sustain us in all those needs in more ways that we could ever imagine or hope for. For Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we thank You for never failing to fulfil Your promises to Your people. We pray that You enable us to plan our lives accordingly so that we may be graced and blessed to celebrate the receiving of the ‘Bread of Life’ more regularly. Jesus said: ‘I am the Bread of Life. He or she who comes to me will never be hungry; he or she who believes in me will never thirst.’ Lord, may we never be hungry and may we never thirst. We wish to be Yours forever.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.