SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
18th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – August 5, 2018
This Sunday’s Theme: Remembering Past Blessings Gives Us Faith for the Future.
Reading 1 and the Gospel focus upon God the Father as the One who provides us with the “food” we need for our spiritual and physical life. But like pagans, we live with empty minds and are so taken up with filling our stomachs and the needs of this life that we fail to grasp the real meaning of His gifts or the incomparable worth of the Bread of Life who is Jesus Himself. Receiving these gifts, we become a new creation, with a fresh, spiritual way of thinking as shown in Reading 2. (CatholicCulture.org)
Reading 1 – Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15 The Lord feeds the Israelites with manna.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 78:3–4, 23–25, 54 A song of praise to God for His Bread from Heaven.
Reading 2 – Ephesians 4:17, 20–24 Christians become a new creation in Christ.
Gospel – John 6:24–35 Jesus teaches the crowds that He is the “bread of life.”
Reading 1 Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15 (Manna from Heaven)
Context – The Book of Exodus (the word “exodus” means “departure”) bears witness to God’s actions (about 1350-1200 BC) to deliver a people from bondage and to bind them to Himself in covenant. The Book of Exodus is a continuation of the story of Genesis. The fact that it takes its name from the Israelites’ going out of Egypt shows the importance of this episode in the life of Israel. At the center of all this stood Moses who was called by God to be the agent in delivering Israel from slavery, to be the interpreter of God’s redemptive work, and to be the mediator of the covenant. This book tells of the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, the birth and education of Moses and his flight into the land of Midian, his encounter with God on Mount Sinai (Horeb) (the burning bush), Moses’ return to Egypt and pleadings with Pharaoh, the plagues of Egypt, the institution of the Passover, the passing through the Red Sea, the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, the golden calf, and the 40 years of wandering in the desert.
Today’s Reading – After the Passover and escape through the Red Sea into the desert, the whole Israelite community did not at first have sufficient food resources and they grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying that they were better off in Egypt than they are now, starving in the desert; that at least in Egypt they had something to eat. Their grumbling shows their lack of faith in God and remembrance of His past miracles (Pentecost and parting of the Red Sea) to provide for them. What’s really sad is not their clamoring for food, which is understandable, but their preference for their former life of oppression in Egypt. Their complaint is a slap in the face of the God who just liberated them. But despite their lack of faith in God and their desire for their old way of life, God comes to their rescue and gives them lots of bread. The people are only to gather enough food for each day so that they will learn to trust in the God who gives us “this day our Daily Bread.” God also provided quail (meat) for their evening meal. All of this is intended to show the people God’s care for them. The reading ends with a reminder that the blessings of bread and meat are from heaven as is the source of all of our blessings.
The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots[i] and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow My instructions or not[ii].
“I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”
In the evening quail came up and covered the camp. In the morning a dew lay all about the camp, and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground. On seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, “What is this?”[iii] for they did not know what it was. But Moses told them, “This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. God tested His people (i.e. made them hungry) and they responded by not asking Him for sustenance, but instead complained and desired to be in their previous situation in life (i.e. in cruel captivity but with lots of food). Their grumbling shows their lack of faith in God and remembrance of His past miracles (Pentecost and parting of the Red Sea) to provide for them. The only correct response to God’s test was for the people to ask Him for help and trust that He would deliver. God loved them too much to grant their wish to them “for the good ole days” but instead gave them the sustenance that He knew was best for them.
Lesson – When you are getting weary waiting for God to act and wondering if He still cares, remember the following: Memories of God’s activity in the past enables us to embrace the future. Let God do God’s work without trying to figure it out. (Fr. James Martin SJ). “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all Your works and consider what Your hands have done.” (Ps 143:5)
Responsorial Psalm. Psalm 78:3–4, 23–25, 54 (Heavenly Bread)
Today’s Psalm – This Psalm sings of God’s greatness in providing food from heaven for His pilgrim[iv] people.
R. – The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
What we have heard and know, and what our fathers have declared to us, We will declare to the generation to come the glorious deeds of the LORD and His strength and the wonders that He wrought.
R. – The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
He commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven; He rained manna upon them for food and gave them heavenly bread.
R. – The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Man ate the bread of angels (manna), food He sent them in abundance. And He brought them to His holy land (the Promised Land), to the mountains His right hand had won.
R. – The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. This Psalm’s purpose was to teach the young Jews about the past wonderous blessings from the Lord and that therefore they can trust in Him for blessings in the future if they obey His Word. This would enable them to avoid the mistakes of their ancestors who were stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful to Yahweh. Parents then and today, need to communicate God’s truth down through the generations.
Reading 2 Ephesians 4:17, 20–24 (A New Self)
Context – Ephesians sets before us a vision of Christ reigning in Heaven next to the Father and renewing the earth through His Church. It shows God’s saving work through Jesus. The Church is nothing less than God’s new creation in Christ.
Today’s Reading – In the ritual of baptism, those adults to be baptized put aside their old clothes, symbolizing their decision to put behind them their old sinful way of life. After they come forth from the waters of baptism, they clothe themselves with a new white garment symbolizing their decision to put on Christ and His values as their new way of life. It seems Paul is using this baptismal ritual to exhort his readers to put aside the way of sin and darkness and to put on the new life of Christ. The pre-baptismal way of living is futile. The postbaptismal way leads to life and truth. As a small aside: notice that this reading is one sentence.
Brothers and sisters: I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles[v] do, in the futility of their minds[vi]; that is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of Him and were taught in Him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires[vii], and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self[viii], created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. Catechism 1473 – The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. They should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the “old self” and to put on the “new self.”
Gospel John 6:24–35 (Christ, True Bread from Heaven)
Context – John’s Gospel was written around 90 AD. His Gospel has an evangelistic purpose – preaching about Christ for conversion to Him. John explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. He is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of this Fourth Gospel.
Today’s Reading – This scene in today’s Gospel follows immediately after the multiplication of the loaves (last Sunday’s Gospel). Jesus had withdrawn to a quiet place with His disciples because the people wanted to make Him king. But the crowd went after Him. Jesus tells them that they are following Him because He filled their bellies with perishable food. He then tells them to seek after food that “endures for eternal life”, a reference to the Eucharist.
When the crowd asks: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus tells them that they must believe in Him. Then the people ask Jesus for a sign which shows how slow they are to believe because they had just witnessed Jesus heal the sick and feed thousands with a few loaves.
Then the crowds refer back to the manna which Moses gave their ancestors, Jesus says that it was not Moses who gave the bread, but Jesus’ Father. Then Jesus says that He is Bread from Heaven. John wants his contemporaries to see Jesus as heavenly food that feeds their deepest spiritual needs.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum[ix] looking for Jesus. And when they found Him across the sea they said to Him, “Rabbi[x], when did You get here?” Jesus answered them and said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you[xi], you are looking for Me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life[xii], which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” So they said to Him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one He sent.”[xiii] So they said to him, “What sign can You do, that we may see and believe in You? What can You do?[xiv] Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the Bread from heaven; my Father gives you the True Bread from heaven.[xv] For the Bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
So they said to Him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of life; whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.”[xvi]
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.
Catechism – see Pause at Reading 2, above.
[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
the fleshpots of Egypt = They refer to the many seasoned and delicious foods that the Israelis ate while in captivity in Egypt.
[ii] Test them to see if they will follow God’s instructions.” = God is testing their faith by providing only a portion of manna that is sufficient for one day’s sustenance.
[iii] “What is it?” = This is the literal translation for “manna”, which means “the Bread which the Lord has given”. Today we Christians know this Bread as Jesus – “the Bread of Life”.
[iv] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“pilgrim” = A pilgrim is a traveler (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journey (often on foot) to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system. In the spiritual literature, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.
[v] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“Gentiles” = Sometimes, the word “Gentiles” in the Pauline letters refers to people who practiced pagan religious faith, as distinct from Jews and Jewish-Christians.
[vi] “futility of mind” = “This occurs when someone has a mind but does not use it for contemplation, instead surrendering it to captivity under Satan.” (Origin)
[vii] “deceitful desires” = An umbrella term for all that works contrary to the broad and deep Gospel way of life.
[viii] “put away the old self” and “put on the new self.” = These words belong to an old adult baptismal liturgy. The candidate removed his old clothes, went into the baptismal water, then put on new white clothing upon emerging; outward signs of an inner change: He had put aside his former life, washed away his sin, and put on Christ, beginning a new manner of life. A “new self” is the life lived by the Christian disciple who embraces the Gospel and who sets out to live that Gospel message faithfully and thoughtfully.
[ix] Gospel Footnotes:
Capernaum = Capernaum is a city on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, twenty miles north of Nazareth. Jesus began His public ministry there by teaching in the synagogue.
[x] “Rabbi” = The use of this address to Jesus is significant because, even though they don’t know precisely who He is, or what His mission is, they do recognize Him as a religious leader.
[xi] “Amen, I say to you” = Jesus’ use of ‘Amen’ to introduce and endorse His own words is without analogy in the whole of Jewish literature and in the NT. ‘Amen’ denotes that His words are reliable and true because He is totally committed to do and speak the will of God. As such, the Amen-formulation is not only a highly significant characteristic of Jesus’ speech, but a Christological affirmation: Jesus is the true witness of God.”
[xii] “food that endures for eternal life” = Material food keeps us alive in this world, spiritual food sustains and develops supernatural life which will last forever. This spiritual food, only God can give us. Through God’s infinite love we are given, in the Blessed Eucharist, Jesus Himself as nourishment for our souls.
[xiii] “What can we do to accomplish the works of God? … Believe in the One He sent.” = Their task is to believe in Jesus, and be in obedience to what He says, in faith (i.e. not just because of the miracles He does but also because of Who sent Him). He who comes from God speaks the words of God.
[xiv] “What can You do?” = Here we go again, Reading 1 showed that the people had short memory of past miracle blessings and had no trust in future blessings. In this Gospel reading, the people’s enthusiasm over the previous miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes is already beginning to wane. They are questioning rather than trusting future blessings.
[xv] “Moses gave …My Father gives” = Note the transition from past tense to present tense “Moses gave – my Father gives”.
[xvi] “I am the Bread of life; whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.” = Here Jesus equates coming to Him to mean believing in Him. It is through faith that we approach our Lord. Jesus also uses the analogy of food and drink to show that He is the one who really meets all of our aspirations and meets all of our needs.