B Cycle – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time 21
A person looking for a meaningful retreat of meditating on the Word of God will find in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel is packed with challenging messages demanding a response from us. Everyone should take the opportunity to slowly read John’s gospel but read this chapter. Before you do read it, invite the Holy Spirit to open your hearts to hear the message God is giving you and how you should respond to that message. Why should we take the time to let those words penetrate our hearts? The answer is simple; the words spoken by Jesus are God’s voice speaking to us and demand a response from our inner most being.
These few verses given to us today from this chapter are revealing much more than the Bread of Life dissertation. Let me begin with Jesus reminding those who question him that day are seeking him not because of who he is but because they were satisfied with just having their hunger for food satisfied. He is telling us we need to go deeper than just being satisfied with whatever we receive by being in his presence. We need to discover and respond to the presence of Christ and that means more than just receiving him in the Eucharist. We need to respond to the question the disciples posed which is what we must do to accomplish the works of God.
We are not just to be partakers of God’s gift of Jesus Christ because we were created to be active participants in building the kingdom of God. The answer of Jesus to the disciple’s question needs to be digested by us and acted upon for he says our first action is to believe. Believe in a way that changes how we live, how we worship, how we speak and how we desire to share the message of what it means to be a Christian.
That kind of belief begins by first acknowledging we must understand why we come to church. We do not come to receive. We come to give thanks to God for the gift of salvation. We must acknowledge and accept the fact we cannot attain holiness through any effort on our part except believing in Jesus. We must embrace the holiness won for us by Jesus Christ by his death and resurrection.
We then must believe in Christ to allow that gift to root out from us all that keeps us from experiencing the transforming power of the Holy Spirt. The Spirit who continually day by day is at work transforming us until we are changed. There is more revelation beyond just acknowledging Jesus in the Eucharist being said to us here.
Go back and reflect on the reading we heard today from Exodus. The people were crying out in their need and God sends them mana from heaven. We have heard this before and we fail to go beyond the image of mana which resembled hoarfrost. This is why we must be allowing the Word of God to open our hearts for if we only hear this passage from Exodus, we quickly form an image, but its meaning cannot penetrate our hearts or help us grow in faith.
Go to mass tomorrow and listen to the first reading from Numbers 11:4b-15 or read those versus yourself tonight. In that passage, God tells the Israelites were told what to do with the mana. They had to grind it, pound it, form it and bake it before they ate it. Now consider how we so casually receive the Eucharist and go on with our lives. It is no wonder 70% of practicing Catholic’s do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We must do more than receive it; we must prepare ourselves before we receive and that means more than just being in a state of grace.
Think about the requirement of being in state of grace as we receive. The Israelites were before they received the mana were grumbling and complaining about God. They wanted to go back to slavery because things were predictable there and their journey up to that point was unpredictable. They were not just hungry, they were thirsty, they fought the battle with Amalekites, and they did not see any end to their journey. Their trust in God was gone and they desired a predictable life compared to following God’s desire to give them the promised land.
Their response is visible in us today. We like predictability, we do not like the challenges of following Jesus when the journey is uncertain. We do not spend time to listen and reflect on the presence of God in the Word or the Eucharist. We do not allow it to work its way into our hearts. We do not pound it into our subconscious or bake it into something that feeds us. We take it for granted and then say it does not satisfy our hunger.
What must we do to accomplish the work of God is really very simple – allow our belief to be a life altering belief? Allow our belief to be the source of our hunger for more revelation of Christ in our lives. Let our belief become the reason we seek the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Allow our belief to humble us as we receive the Eucharist, knowing it is the promise of Christ to be with us always and to show himself to us in the ordinary challenges we see and experienced daily.