Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 EX 16:2-4, 12-15
Responsorial Psalm PS 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
- (24b) The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Reading 2 EPH 4:17, 20-24
Alleluia MT 4:4B
- Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
Gospel JN 6:24-35
4/5 August 2018 working up an appetite for the Bread of Life
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
A small country parish was having a fund raising breakfast after Sunday morning Mass. The smell of pancakes and fried bacon had permeated the small church and everyone was looking forward to a wonderful meal. After Mass, parishioners crammed into the basement where tables and chairs had been set up for the breakfast. The pastor had everyone sit down and asked the chairperson of the parish council to say grace.
Mrs. Johnson had been on the parish council for as long as anyone could remember. She was a widow but she still lived on the farm where she and her husband raised 10 children. She had been working all morning in the kitchen getting ready for the breakfast and her apron was covered with flour and bacon grease.
Mrs. Johnson’s prayer went something like this:
Dear Lord, you know I don’t like raw flour…and you know I don’t care much for the taste of baking powder. Raw eggs and salt are not very appetizing by themselves but when you mix them all together with some milk and sugar you get pancake batter. With a little patience and good timing, that batter can make enough pancakes to feed this whole parish.
As we give thanks this morning for our many blessings, let us remember that life is made up of many ingredients or experiences. Some of those experiences are like sugar…they taste pretty good by themselves. Some of those experiences are bitter like baking powder, but every ingredient is important because God has a unique recipe for each of our lives. If we trust God to mix in all the right ingredients and rely on Him to work through the tough times, we will end up with heavenly pancakes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I was reminded of Mrs. Johnson’s prayer when I saw the readings for this weekend. The exodus of the Israelites from Egypt was a tremendous physical and spiritual challenge for God’s chosen people. The only way they could survive in the desert was by relying completely on God for their food, water and guidance through Moses. God had a great plan for their future but like many of us would, the Israelites grew impatient waiting for God’s plan to unfold in their lives. They didn’t know God’s recipe and complained when the bitter ingredients were added. Sometimes God responded to their complaints. At other times He offered them the opportunity to change their attitude.
Like all of God’s plans, His plan for Israel’s deliverance was foolproof. In spite of the Israelite’s best attempts to mess things up, God kept patiently mixing the ingredients until they were ready. God is the master baker…He always knows when to flip the pancake. As it turned out, it took 40 years before the Israelites were ready to cross the Jordon River into the Promised Land. When they finally did, everything turned out as God planned.
God is in charge but He loves us enough that He won’t force His plans on us. He gave us free will which means the timing for His plan may be up to us. He can’t finish His perfect plan for our life until we are ready to accept it.
Our Gospel today builds on this idea as we continue our walk through the 6th chapter of John. Last week we heard that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed 5000. Today He takes the conversation to the next level and challenges us to think beyond our physical needs. What kind of Food will satisfy our spiritual needs? Jesus said:
“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you…
When the people asked: "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" Jesus answered: "This is the work of God…that you believe in the One He sent.
There is a lot packed into these passages but today I want to focus on the “work” that Jesus asks each of us to do. When He said “the work of God (is) that you believe in the One He sent”, there is work to be done on both sides.
God’s part of the work is the conversion of our open hearts and the gift of faith. It allows us to “believe in the One He sent” and find salvation through Jesus Christ. The crucial ingredient of course is our open and contrite heart which only we can provide. Our free will leaves the decision up to us. Once our heart is open to God’s role in our life, our part of the work can begin.
Our work includes making choices each day to avoid the temptations of life and to work instead to strengthen our faith. Every day is a new chance to come to Jesus in the Sacraments and believe in His plan of Salvation. Every day is a chance to experience both the sweet and bitter ingredients in life.
To give us strength for our labors, let us spend some time with the Bread of Life in the Eucharist today.