Life is fascinating and Faith is a lifelong mystery.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
During this second week of a five week pause from the Gospel according to Mark we read from a series of passages from the Bread of Life discourse from John.Holding the delicate balance between our responsibility to care for others (and ourselves) and our humble acknowledgement of our dependence on God is an ever present challenge.To admit dependence on anyone, even God, is particularly difficult for those of us who have the strength and ability to be self-sufficient, bringing about the risk to forget that our ultimate sustenance comes from God.Prior to this week’s passage in John’s Gospel are two miracle stories:the multiplication of bread and fish, which we read last week and Jesus’ walking on water.They are preludes to the teachings about our fundamental beliefs about Jesus, the Eucharist and eternal life.
The First Reading this week, from the Book of Exodus, which is the second of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible – Old Testament – called Torah (meaning instruction or learning in Hebrew) or Pentateuch (penta = five in Greek).Exodus tells the story of the Israelites in Egypt, their departure (thus exodus), their journey to Sinai, the covenant with the Lord at the holy mountain and the building of a tent as place for the Ark of the Covenant.This week’s section recounts a fascinating event about ‘bread from heaven’.After being freed by God from the Egyptian captivity, the Israelites complain that they have no food.For those of us curious about the mechanics of certain miracles, trying to peek behind the scene, I found some interesting biological hypothesis about this manna (which in Hebrew means “what is it?”).It probably was not bread at all, nor did it come down from somewhere, but rather may have come off something.Most probably it was a substance secreted by the tamarisk tree that hardened as the morning dew evaporated and then deteriorated during the heat of the day.Yet the importance does not lie in figuring out how it came about, but its meaning.It came from God and it was only enough for the day reminding us to trust that God will always provide what we need.In this week’s Gospel passage, Jesus clarifies to us (and
to his disciples at the time) that it was not Moses that provided the bread, but rather Jesus’ Father giving it.
The Gospel story is about the crowds searching (“… themselves got into boats and came …. looking) for Jesus” and basically posing three questions: 1) when did you get there?, 2 )what can we do to accomplish the works of God?, 3) what sign can you do, that we may believe in you?Jesus answers like a good teacher directing the crowds to new insights: 1) the Son of Man, sent by the Father, will provide imperishable food, 2) nothing needs to be done, except to believe that the food comes through God’s initiative, in order to receive it, 3) Jesus is the new Moses, through whom the Father provides the true bread of heaven.
In the Second Reading, Paul insists that acceptance of Jesus as the real source of live and the very nourishment of our spirits effects a total transformation in us.Having been fed with the bread of heaven we are mysteriously transformed, renewing the spirits of our minds.
All three readings remind us that those sustained by God have not earned such a blessing through their own merit.On the contrary, like the Israelites got manna, the ‘bread from heaven’ even after they murmured against God, so we are promised by Jesus the true bread of eternal life.We can see that God’s generosity is not dependant on our virtue, rather it comes from God’s goodness.
We have been blessed with the gift of faith. We feel remiss of not having shared it more broadly with family and friends. Now that the children are out of the house and residing across 9 timezone hours, this becomes a way of continuing what we started when they were little and living with us... and we can share it more broadly with friends and extended family: Our reflections and thoughts about our Judeo-Christian-Catholic tradition following the themes of the liturgical calendar.