HOMILY FOR THE 18TH and 19TH SUNDAY’S IN ORDINARY TIME
There are those who insist that we should never question our beliefs no matter what. The theory goes that when one becomes part of a movement, whether it is political, philosophical, social or theological, it becomes one’s duty to persevere, protect and defend the ideals that one was taught from the beginning. Pick any topic and you will find those who take an orthodox approach to the practice of their belief, either pro or con. Any deviation from this reality and one would be labeled a heretic. What was taught from the beginning of one’s education is all that they need to know.
The beliefs that they have held for so long get challenged whenever someone else questions them. When they are challenged, the person would be testy, even angry that their beliefs are questioned. They may even claim that the tenets of their beliefs are considered “non-negotiables” in order for them to be considered the “perfect disciple” and they will do whatever it will take to attain this level. Their beliefs become more important than any truths that they are shown.
When those internal beliefs are turned outward, they are used in finding someone in which they can give their support. They want someone who will support their views no matter what. To them, it is not so much that they believe it; they just want them to support it. What happens, then, when the person who they think will be the one who will champion their beliefs tells you that they are not what they thought they were? When those living in the time of the Gospels were looking for their next great leader, they thought they had found them in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He appeared to have all the qualities that they were looking for. He was from the House of David, the great King of Israel. He came from Nazareth, where scriptures said the Messiah would come. He spoke with an authority that they had not heard from the Chief Priests and Scribes. For many of them, the fact that he would stand up to the “powers that be” -either in the Temple or in the Praetorium-was just the person that they wanted. He was an outsider; someone who was not corrupted by the system.
He was perfect: Or, at least the best for their needs at the time. So they began to follow him, listen to his speeches and observed his actions, particularly his healing the sick. His manner evoked images of David. He spoke of being the Good Shepherd, gathering the lost flocks back into the fold. Like David, Jesus was blessed by God to bring Israel to glory. So it seemed the perfect time for the crowds who were fed in the field with just five loaves of bread and two fish to anoint him their king just before the Feast of Passover.
So it must have been odd for them to discover that Jesus, along with his apostles, had left the area, got in a boat, and travelled across the sea to Capernaum. He was to be their leader, and now he was not there. When they did find him on the other side, they were hungry for more of what they were given. But Jesus was ready to give them something more: more lasting, more satisfying, more enriching than anything that they had ever imagined. Jesus was giving himself. “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
The crowds could not understand this. How could he say that he came down from heaven? Many knew him personally; saw him grow up. They knew his parents. He wasn’t from Heaven, he was from Nazareth. But Jesus was adamant. The food the crowd was looking for was no more satisfying than what their ancestors ate in the desert. He was giving them more. It was up to them to believe that he was who he said he was. They first saw him as a shepherd bringing the sheep to the pasture. They saw him as a leader, one who would feed them just by his say so. They wanted him to be King, someone to inspire them to act upon their most vicious and basest natures all in the name of restoring Israel to its former glory. But what Jesus gave them was not for the glory of Man, but for the glory of God.
To recognize Jesus as the Bread of Life is to see a world that is beyond all human constraints. No human philosophy or edict can take the place of the guidelines set forth by God. Yet we always seem to try. Our own orthodox beliefs and views of the world tend to serve our own purposes. We become more important than God and His Creation. When there is a conflict, we will push aside the boundaries of others because they are in the way of our own. We become the most important thing in our lives while everyone and everything is for our own use. The world-God’s creation-is now subservient to us. To prove our importance, we will go so far as to quote certain phrases from Scripture or other important documents to prove we are right they are wrong. Yet when the time comes when those same words are spoken back to us-but not by Man, but by God-can we say that we will see the error of our ways?
Can we see that the Word of God is for wisdom and not for war? Do we notice that our churches are hospitals for wounded souls rather than training grounds for Christian soldiers? And do we see the simple elements of flour, water and fermented grapes that become the Body and Blood of Christ as nourishment and medicine for our journey of faith rather than a treat given to us for good behavior? When we hear Jesus tell the crowds that he is the “Bread of Life, the living bread come down from Heaven,” do we think that he is all God and all Man, or do we just see a great ancient prophet or philosopher?
Yet despite all of our apprehensiveness and biases and prejudices, it is for these reasons that we must see Jesus as not only the Living Water he gave the Samaritan woman at the well, more than the Good Shepherd that brings his flock together and protects it from harm, but to see him as the “Bread of Life come down from Heaven.” Only then can we look past our problems and see the solutions that God has given us. All we have to do is to look past our nose, take off the blinders, and view the world as God created, not how Man has altered it.
If one needs a current example of this, we only have to look at Pope Francis’ updating of the Catechism stating that the death penalty is incompatible with the Gospel. While other Popes have written about it, it still took a formal proclamation such as this to get the point across. Similarly, Jesus had let those around him in one way or another know who he was, but it took this moment on the seashore and his pronouncement to the crowd to finally get the point across.
The Bread of Life not only satisfies our bodies but enriches our souls. For this bread to be true nourishment, our body, soul, heart and mind must be open in receiving Him. Once we can do that, then we can do more than just be a follower of Jesus, an itinerant preacher. By our acceptance in declaring Jesus as the Bread of Life, the bread come down from Heaven, we can honestly and sincerely proclaim ourselves to be a Disciple of Christ.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK