18th Sunday in the Ordinary Time – Bread of life
Thanks be to God! Last night I was fortunate to eat a delicious dinner. After the dinner, I was completely satisfied and full. But this morning when I got up, I had a problem! I was hungry again. Jesus said “do not work for food that will satisfy your physical hunger, but for the food that will satisfy your spiritual hunger and bring eternal life. Hungering and thrusting for Jesus, the life giving bread, this morning let’s celebrate this Eucharist and be nourished by the Lord.
Back in 2009 I was taking a break from my ministry and I was going through my chemo treatment for Multiple Myeloma. My treatment was in little rock. I had an apartment in Little Rock and staying there for 7 months. In between the treatment, I would get a small break and I come back to OLPH in Germantown. One day, I was still dealing with nausea, diarrhea and mouth sore and I was lying on the bed with fatigue. I heard this door bell ringing constantly and no one was answering. I got up and came down to check. I was in my jammies and had no hair and very skinny. When I answered the door, I saw this man standing there. How can I help you? I asked him. He said, could I talk to a priest? He did not recognize me as a priest. I explained to him my situation and I said I have few minutes.
He started telling me his story. When he was 10 years old, one day he saw his mother crying because they didn’t have anything to eat. He made a promise to his mother that he is going to make some money. The only way to do it was getting educated. He started studying well; masters in engineering, then a PHD and then a MBA. Then he jumped into the world, worked his way up and became a manager in a big company. Later he was the manager of a company and running his own business. Now, plenty of money, influence etc. in that life style, he lost his way and ended up getting married five times! Now his fifth wife is dying of pancreatic cancer- the mother of his children. ‘I was hungry for money, sex, fame, popularity, security etc. None of them satisfied me’. I was hungry again. He asked me ‘What is the meaning of this life? Where can I find it’? we prayed together. Pulling out my own rosary and prayer book, I gave it to him. We met several times again and I helped him to find his way around by the help of the Holy Spirit and since then, he never left the church. Today, he is a daily communicant; and a happy man.
Spiritually speaking, there are three kinds of people: Saint Paul speaks about it today!
- Natural man: The natural man is a man who lives according to nature. He is governed by his intellect and by his natural affections. The natural man has never experienced the rebirth – he is unconverted. The natural man is asleep to spiritual things. He cannot understand spiritual things, and spiritual things are foolishness unto him because he cannot process them in a rational manner.
- Carnal Man: the carnal man is “the immature Christian, the one who lives on a childhood level because he will not feed on the Word of God and grow.” The word ‘carnal’ means – ‘fleshly.’ When applied to a Christian, it means someone, who although they are born-again, they are still allowing their flesh to control much of the way they live and think.
- Spiritual Man: The spiritual man is implied to have the mind of Christ; many strong “spiritual” Christians display their spiritual walk with the Lord in their workplace — whether it be as a worker, a manager, or a company president. In their work, in their life, we can see the Spirit of God shining through. This is a “spiritual” Christian.
One of the devastating problems of the world today is hunger. We are living in a hungry world! Two kinds of hunger, Physical and spiritual! Millions will go to bed tonight physically hungry. Billions will go to bed tonight, spiritually hungry. It doesn’t have to be like that.
Last Sunday we read about Jesus feeding the crowd to satisfy their physical hunger. That was an immediate and practical solution to a problem, but within a few hours the people were hungry again. They are hungry again and, in the hope of receiving another meal from Jesus. Some of you have been to the soup kitchen feeding the poor. The same people come all the time. One meal doesn’t satisfy them. They are hungry again.
Jesus is a miracle worker! How many times did he multiply food and gave to the hungry? Just two times! The Feeding of the 5,000 which is also known as the “miracle of the five loaves and two fish which we see in all the gospels and then the feeding of the four thousand which we see in Mathew and Mark! It is known as” miracle of the seven loaves and fishes“! Now tell me, if you are a miracle worker and have compassion for people just as Jesus had how often you would do it? If it is me, I would do it every day! Then, why in the world Jesus didn’t do it? If Jesus had done that, then he would simply have been fixing the problem temporarily. And people would have been hungry again. So what did Jesus do? He became the life giving bread. He said “I am the bread of life’ and promises that ‘he who comes to me will never be hungry and he who believes in me will never thirsty’. Jesus is the solution to all our hunger and God the father gave His only Son Jesus who has the power and capacity to satisfy our innate craving and hunger. Jesus was born in “Bethlehem” that means “House of bread” and it is no surprise that today, he identifies himself as the bread of life.
How hungry is your soul for God? The psalmist says “my soul thirsts for the Lord”. As Christians, whenever we are wearied in our faith-journey, let us go to Christ not just to replenish our worn-out bodies but also to replenish our worn-out spirits. The responsorial psalm today says “He gave them bread from heaven” and this is what we need the most, food for our souls. The Holy Eucharist among other things is a food given for the life of the soul. I have seen People going to 30 days of fasting and praying. Today’s gospel teaches us that must work, not for food that will satisfy our physical hunger, but for the food that will satisfy our spiritual hunger and bring eternal life.
Seven years ago, a young man made an international headline because of his surprising move to give up his very promising career and entered the seminary to become a Catholic priest. Chase Hilgenbrinck, a very promising soccer-player who made it to the Major League Soccer in 2008 (the New England Revolution), after playing as a professional player in Chile, cut short his celebrity-status and joined the Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in northern Maryland. His decision caught many by surprise.
What is the one thing motivated or influenced this young man to give up the promise of fame, popularity, security, money and the opportunity attract followers? But when I look with the eyes of faith and I realize that there’s so much more to life than the game. Chase realized that there is more to life than the game as he looks at it through the eyes of faith. Interestingly, Jesus in our gospel today would have said the same to the crowd who followed him on the other side of the lake. He would want them to realize that there is more to life than eating bread or satisfying one’s hunger for food. He would want them to see and understand that following him means more than just expecting ‘bread’ (i.e. food, security, or personal satisfaction) from him.
Last year a miraculous event happened in a small village parish in the state of Kerala in India. During the Mass when the priest said the words ‘This is my Body…’ and raised the sacred host people saw the face of Jesus in the host. And it was there for real afterwards also. People thronged to see the miraculous host with the face of Jesus on it. For a few days there was a flow of people to see that and later the host was taken to the Bishop’s house.
The challenge for us today is to recognize that the false god of materialism, which promises satisfaction but leaves us ever more hungry, has seduced our society. We hear the spiritual truth of the word of God but we understand it in terms of satisfying our selfish desire for wealth and power. The cure is to follow the example of Jesus and flee the worldly allure and promises of materialism. Then can we pray with St Augustine: “O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in You.”