Sunday, August 5, 2012
HOMILY FOR THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, August 5, 2012:
John was a good and holy man, and when he passed away, the Lord Himself greeted him at the pearly gates of heaven. “Are you hungry, John?” the Lord asked. “I could eat," said John. The Lord opened a can of tuna, and they shared it. While eating, John looked down into Hell and noticed the inhabitants devouring enormous steaks, lobsters, pastries and fine wine. The next day, the Lord again asked John if he was hungry, and John again said yes. Once again, a can of tuna was opened and shared, while down below John noticed a feast of caviar, champagne, lamb, truffles, brandy and chocolates. The next day, mealtime arrived and another can of tuna was opened. Meekly, John said, "Lord, I am very happy to be in heaven as a reward for the good life I lived. But, this is heaven, and all I get to eat is tuna. But in the Other Place, they eat like Kings. I just don't understand." "Well, to be honest, John," the Lord said, "for just the two of us, it really doesn’t pay to hire a cook."
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.” We find ourselves today in the midst of a four-week cycle in our readings that invite us to reflect upon the incredible gift of the Eucharist. Last week we saw the multiplication of loaves and fishes; next week Jesus tells us that He is “the bread of life;” and the week after that He will remind us that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood “has eternal life.” While these weeks focus naturally on the material of the Eucharist – this bread from Heaven, this manna in the desert, this flesh and blood – today reminds us that there is more to eating than food. There is also a simple question: what do we hunger for?
Jesus offers us this most incredible food ever – a food that feeds not merely the body for a moment, but the soul for eternity; but he wants to know if this is what we want to eat. There are so many competing hungers in our world – things like wealth, power, material goods, or popularity; and of course other hungers like love, truth, and everlasting life? In our Gospel passage, Jesus addressed this issue with those who sought him after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves that we heard about last week. Were they simply hungry for things which satisfy the body or for that which satisfies the heart and soul? Jesus echoes the question posed by the prophet Isaiah: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
We are reminded that there are two kinds of hunger – physical and spiritual – and that only God can satisfy the spiritual hunger in our heart and soul – the hunger for truth, for holiness, for completeness, for wholeness, for happiness, and for love.
He wants us to be hungry for this new type of living. We are called to be hungry for life of love and service, and the forgiveness of others that corresponds to God's mercy and kindness; a life of holiness and purity which corresponds to God's holiness; and a life of submission and trust which gives witness to the wisdom of God. In other words, we are called as St. Augustine said to “become what we receive.” This is the heart of the Eucharist; that we do not merely consume it, but become it; we become Christ; we become what we receive.
It all comes down to that fundamental question – what are we hungry for? Are we hungry to be fed on the bread that the world offers? It is a false bread, that will only feed for a moment but leaves us ultimately hungry and incomplete. Or do we hunger for the bread that comes down from heaven? Do we thirst for the words of everlasting life?
The crowd we see in today’s Gospel seem to want to fill the wrong hunger. They clamor for Jesus not because they want holiness and eternal life; they just want more bread. They want to make him a mere king who fills the stomach with bread. But Jesus chastises them for missing the opportunity before them: “You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” Because of this, Jesus hid away from them. He did not want to be identified primarily with feeding stomachs. He wanted to be seen as One who has come to nourish the human spirit with the food that satisfies every hunger of the human heart, the food that does not perish but that gives life eternally.
The Lord wants to know, what do we hunger for? Do we hunger for Him and Him alone? He is ready to feed us once again today and everyday. Are we hungry for what only Jesus can give?
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
May the Lord give you peace.