HOMILY ON THE 18TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR II
Beloved friends may I welcome you to the eighteenth Sunday of the year (B). Last Sunday we read how Elisha and Jesus fed one hundred and five thousand people respectively with few loaves of bread. Today’s gospel is a continuation of last Sunday’s gospel reading. After the feeding of the five thousand people by Jesus, the people wanted Him to become their king but He declined, knowing that such was neither part of His mission on earth, His reason for coming into the world nor the will of His Father. He had always told them that although He is a king, is kingship was not of this world. When they were about to force it on Him, He dismissed the disciple and slipped away from the crowd and went to the lowly place to commune with His Father in prayer. Later in the night Jesus walked on the water to join His disciples on the boat and the boat landed on the shore at Capernaum. It was at Capernaum that the people found Him again. That is where today’s gospel begins.
When they had found Him they asked, “Master, when did you get to this place?” Jesus was surprised at them for their inability to understand that the reason why He satiated their material hunger was to make them hunger and yearn for spiritual food which was Himself. So He said to them, “I tell you solemnly, you are not looking for me because you have seen signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.” He continued, “Do not work for the food that will not last but work for the food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food that the Son of Man is offering you…” Far from encouraging indolence, Jesus was telling them that as they strive for material food which is of less importance, they should as well strive with greater eagerness, energy and determination, for spiritual food which only Himself could give. Still not understanding Jesus, they went ahead to ask for a sign, making allusion to the first reading Ex.16. But Jesus made them to understand that the manner their ancestors ate in the desert was only prefiguring Himself who is the true bread from heaven. Hence, He said “I tell you most solemnly, it was not Moses that gave you the bread from heaven, it was my Father in heaven who gave you the true bread from heaven.
Like the Jews of old, we often allow physical hunger to overshadow our spiritual yearn or hunger. We yearn, hunger and strive passionately for physical bread that we fail to recognize Christ, who is not only the giver of the bread of life but who, Himself is the spiritual and true bread of life. We yearn for physical healing and wellbeing so earnestly that we have little or no regard for the Lord of life who is our spiritual healer. We often fail to realize how rotten we are spiritually and how direly we needed Jesus our spiritual healer, and how earnestly we should hunger, desire or cling to Him for divine healing, all because our minds are beclouded by our physical ailments or illness. One important lesson we should learn from today’s readings especially the first and gospel readings is that when we pay too much attention to material things, we might stifle or strangle our spiritual desire or yearning. When this happens, we find ourselves living in flesh and unconverted and thereby endangering the spiritual aspect of our lives.
Jesus uses every opportunity available to Him to preach the gospel. He often recline to the Father who sent Him before taking any decision notwithstanding that He is the second person of the Blessed Trinity. Hence, we see Him today at Capernaum where He went to pray. In our days, seeking or consulting with God through prayer, by ministers of the word (men of God) is gradually becoming a cliché or old fashioned. To act correctly without major mistake or falling into culpable errors, we need to consult constantly with the one that send us and to find out whether we are still on the right track. Prayer as exemplified by Christ, is necessary for every Christian and more for every minister who wants to succeed in his/her ministry.
Jesus tends to be to the souls of those who receive Him what material bread is to their flesh hence He calls Himself the bread of life, so that as material bread nourishes our material body, He, our spiritual food, nourishes our spiritual being – our souls. The penny catechism say that we should take special care of our souls because Christ said “what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his soul.” (Mk.8:36). Today, materialism has taken a greater part of our Christian lives. Our media both printed, electronics and even our social networks are replete with crimes and other fraudulent activities found among Christians and even pastors who should be the custodians of morality and selflessness, just to acquire material wealth and become famous in the society. A lot of devilish activities take place in different churches, more among the prosperity gospel preacher, things which, St. Paul would warn that it should not be mentioned among Christians. All these happen either because we do not belong to the fold or because we fail to consult the Master to know how He wanted the work done. A Christian who refuses to pray and pray constantly will always a prey to all forms of temptation.
A call to participate in the divine banquet which Christ makes of us today is an unmerited privilege that we should not toy with or give any excuse. Mortal men are called to the divine table to share in the bread of the angels. All that is required of us wash our hands clean before participating in such so high a table. If we are aware of such rare privilege we will not afford to give any excuse whatever. We need strength to contend and wrestle with those powerful forces of darkness, our ego, our worldliness etc. this strength can only be found in the bread of life which the Lord is offering us today. If we have eaten and remain the same or even worse, it is because we are ill disposed while eating, just as Judas was when He received the Lord and as the scripture observes that as soon as Judas receive, the evil spirit invaded him. St. Thomas Aquinas said that what the righteous persons receives is the is the same Christ that sinners receives but while the just receives life, and justification, sinners receive death and eternal condemnation. What it means is that before receiving, we should examine our consciences and consequently visit the sacrament of reconciliation when need be. Worthy and constant reception of the Holy Eucharist will transform us into alter Christus – another Christ, imitating, with relative ease, His virtues such as His profound humility, His constant prayer, His heroic sacrifices and mortification etc.