ILLUSTRATIONSCOMMENTARY

18th Sunday of Year B

The Golden Cavern | The Chronicles of Narnia | The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

MISGUIDED SUBSTITUTES FOR LIFE

There’s a story found in C. S. Lewis’ Series, Chronicles of Narnia. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fifth volume of that series, Lucy, Edmund, their cousin Eustace, and some of the colorful creatures of Narnia, come upon a crystal-clear pool of water with what appears to be a golden statue of a man at the bottom. Only, they discover that it is a magical pool that turns everything into gold that touches the water. It appears that the statue at the bottom of the pool is a man who either didn’t know about the pool’s magic powers, or he was so consumed with accumulating gold that he ignored its dangers. Even though the characters of the story are awed at the magic of the pool, they recognize that such a place is far more dangerous than it is beneficial, and so they swear themselves to secrecy and wipe their memories clean of that place.

You see, when you waste your energies seeking to fulfill the hunger for things that perish, what you’ll find all too often is that you’ll still be dissatisfied, and your dissatisfaction will usually put you deeper into the hole you’re digging for yourself. In our consumer-driven world, in which many people literally work themselves to death accumulating a never-fully-satisfying abundance of things, Jesus’ words challenge our society’s misguided substitutes for “life.” (Steve Wilkins Are You Hungry?).

ALL ABOUT FOOD, EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY

IN THE KITCHEN WITH MATT (8:54) – The Best Worst Food Jokes Ever | 30 Funny Bad Jokes About Food (Kid Friendly)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about food. The two biggest sellers in any bookstore, according to Andy Rooney, are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food, and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it!

Orson Wells once said, “My doctor has advised me to give up those intimate little dinners for four — unless, of course, there are three other people eating with me.”

Champion archer Rick McKinney confesses that he regularly eats chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. He refers to “the basic four food groups” as a Big Mac, fries, a shake and a lemon tart.

A California scientist has computed that the average human being eats 16 times his or her own weight in an average year, while a horse eats only eight times its weight. This all seems to prove that if you want to lose weight, you should eat like a horse. (Sunshine Magazine).

That’s a subject most of us know too much about. A recent survey found that 41% of men and 55% of women consider themselves overweight. In one way or another, many of us are obsessed with earthly food. Think what a difference it would make in our lives if we were equally obsessed with Heavenly Food, the Food that Christ gives us!

PUT ON THE NEW MAN

St. Francis – Brother Sun, Sister Moon – The Conversion Scene

Francis of Assisi was the son of a prosperous cloth merchant. As a young man he had money to spare and was a great partygoer. Then God started working on him. Bit by bit, Francis became more prayerful, more interested in the needy. Then Christ spoke to him from a crucifix that hung in the little church of San Damiano. “Rebuild my Church,” said the Lord. In his joy Francis, taking the command literally, ran back home, grabbed many bolts of goods as he could carry from his father’s shop, sold them, and took the money as a gift to the priest of the half-ruined San Damiano Church. The priest was leery about accepting the money – as well he might be – so Francis impulsively tossed the purse out of the window.

Francis’ father, Pietro Bernardone, had been away during this escapade of misguided charity. When he returned and heard of it, he was furious. He couldn’t understand his son’s goings-on of late, and he was out the money value of the goods Francis had sold. Therefore, he beat up Francis and locked him in the cellar. Francis’ mother eventually let him out, but when Papa Pietro got back from another business trip, he had the city authorities call Francis on the carpet. Francis answered he was now a servant of God alone and no longer subject to the city fathers. So Pietro, still embarrassed and thirsting for revenge, hauled him before the Bishop of Assisi and publicly charged him with robbery. The bishop advised Francis to pick up the purse where he had thrown it and return it to his parent. Francis told the bishop that he would gladly give back not only the money but all else he had received from his father. So then and there he doffed his clothes and put them in Pietro’s hands. “From now on,” he said, I will say “Our Father who art in heaven, and not Father Pietro Bernardone.”

Thereafter, the little saint-to-be wore only the coarse tunic the Bishop had used to cover him after Francis had given all his own clothes back to the father from whom he had received them. This coarse tunic was the evidence and symbol of Francis’ commitment to absolute poverty. Thus, he fulfilled the words of St. Paul addressed to us all: “Put on that new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth.” (Ephesians 4:24. Today’s second reading.) -Father Robert F. McNamara.

LED BY THE HORSE

One of the truly great masterpieces of fiction was the satirical story of Don Quixote, by the Spanish writer Cervantes. In it we read how the absurdly chivalrous hero, followed by his squire Sancho Panza, set out to find adventure, to perform deeds of bravery and win the admiration of all. He had such an open mind on his quest that he decided to go wherever his horse Rosinante would lead him. But the horse, having found itself given free rein, naturally returned to the place it knew best, its own stable.

Too often perhaps we humans find ourselves going the same way, doing the same thing, returning to the same sinful habits again and again, sometimes also drifting aimlessly, sometimes lured on by the novelty of sensationalism, sometimes a prey to the enticements of others, or carried away by the latest fashion in religion. St. Paul, in today’s second reading, advises the Ephesians to satisfy their spiritual hunger by turning away from their former evil ways and leading lives of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness.

(John Walsh, in A Time to Speak; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

BUILDING A CATHEDRAL FOR GOD

Three laborers were dragging massive stones. The first was asked by a reporter what he was doing. The reply was terse, “I’m dragging a big stone, and it’s breaking my back.” He put the same query to the second fellow. His reply was, “I’m helping to build a wall, and I need your help right now.” The journalist politely declined. He moved on to ask the third man. He replied with a smile: “Sir, I’m building a cathedral for God.”

As Catholics, we have to examine our attitude to work. Are we working for the food which lasts and which gives eternal life as today’s Gospel suggests? Or are we part of the problem? Are we giving a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay? (Fr. James Gilhooley).

LIFE MESSAGE FROM FR. TONY

Multiply good works like the loaves and fishes

Pope Francis July 26, 2015

“Jesus satisfies not only material hunger, but the most profound of hungers, the hunger for meaning in life, the hunger for God. In the face of suffering, loneliness, poverty and difficulties of so many people, what can we do? Complaining, does not solve anything, but we can offer what little we have. We certainly have a few hours of time, some talent, some expertise. … Who among us, does not have his or her “five loaves and two fish”? If we are willing to put them in the hands of the Lord, we will bring a little more love into the world, a bit more love, peace, justice, and joy. God is able to multiply our small gestures of solidarity and make us partakers of his gift.”

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

IDOLIZING WITHOUT TRUSTING

Tony Randall on Carson 9/17/1974

Actor Tony Randall, famous for his role as Felix in The Odd Couple, once had an experience that surely was the inspiration for a current credit card commercial. Randall was in a jewelry store in New York City. The store’s owner recognized him and became very excited. He declared that Randall was his all-time favorite actor. What a treat it would be for his wife, the man said, if she could talk to the Tony Randall. Randall graciously agreed. So, the man called his wife, and Randall had a short, pleasant conversation with her as she gushed on and on about how wonderful he was. Finally, Randall came to the point of his visit to the jewelry store. There was a gold necklace in the window that had caught his eye. He’d like to buy it. Would the store accept a personal check? The store owner hesitated, then asked, “Do you have any identification?”

Recognition only goes so far. The store owner was ready to idolize Tony Randall; he wasn’t ready to trust him. You see where this is leading, don’t you? Is it possible for people to come in this House today and worship Jesus–but still not trust him with their lives?

JESUS IN TORTILLA

Many years ago, a Mrs. Maria Rubio of Lake Arthur, New Mexico, was rolling out tortillas for lunch when she saw something that took her breath away. Looking back at her from a flat tortilla was the face of Jesus! The skillet had burned a perfect representation of a slender, bearded face onto the surface of the bread. Now I am not certain how Mrs. Rubio knew that this was Jesus, but she convinced a reluctant priest to bless the piece of bread, then she built a shrine around it. Mrs. Rubio quit her job so she could devote all her time to tending the tortilla shrine. Friends, neighbors, even strangers stopped by to look at it, or to pray in front of it. Mrs. Rubio, who also prays nightly in front of the tortilla, has said, “I do not know why this has happened to me, but God has come into my life through this tortilla.” [Bob Greene, American Beat (New York: Atheneum, 1983), pp. 34-36.]

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gave us the assurance that He would give us Himself as the Heavenly Bread, our spiritual food.

MOST AMERICANS EAT WELL

McDonald’s, Burger King, Burger Chef, Arby’s, Subway, Pizza Hut: Most Americans eat well. To have three square meals a day is not uncommon. Indeed, many eat five or six times a day, if coffee breaks, evening snacks and other times of eating are counted, in addition to breakfast, lunch, and supper. Drive through a town of any consequence and count the number of fast-food places and restaurants that are found. At some corners of major roads or along a block or two of a busy thoroughfare you may find five to ten feeding establishments. It is not uncommon to find in close proximity McDonald’s, Burger King, Burger Chef, Arby’s, Subway, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Dairy Queen, Long John Silver’s, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell as well as lesser-known or local look-a-like fast food establishments. Go into a major supermarket and count the variety of products that are similar. The only discernible difference often is in the trade name. Whole aisles will be filled with a vast array of cereals. Another aisle will be filled with competing brands of soft drinks: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Royal Crown, 7 Up, and lesser known or store brands.

Try to find in the same area a religious bookstore. Compare the size of the religious book and supply store with the supermarket. It does not appear that people are as eager to be fed spiritually as they are to be fed physically! In John 6, Jesus takes the preoccupation of the crowds with food and drink as an occasion to move from physical eating and drinking to the more important needs of the spirit. Nourishment is needed for spiritual life and growth.

LIFE MESSAGE FROM FR. TONY

We need spiritual nourishment from the word of God and from the Holy Eucharist

In the Holy Mass, the Church offers us two types of bread: a) the Bread of Life, contained in God’s Word and b) the Bread of Life, contained in the Holy Eucharist.  Unfortunately, many of us come to Mass every week only to present on the altar our earthly needs without accepting spiritual nourishment by properly receiving both God’s Word and the Holy Eucharist.  Let us nourish our souls with this Heavenly manna and carry Jesus to our homes and workplaces, radiating Jesus’ love, mercy and compassion all around us. It is perhaps the plainness and ordinariness of the consecrated Bread and Wine and their easy availability in our Churches that can sometimes prevent some of us from appreciating the great gift of God in the Holy Eucharist.  But we should not take “for granted” the Divine generosity with which God provides these Gifts, both readily and gratuitously, by simply sharing in the Bread of Life “automatically,” without showing due preparation, attention, and proper respect.  Let us remember that the Eucharist we celebrate and receive this day IS Jesus, the Bread of Life come down from Heaven. Let us ask our Lord, “Sir, give us this Bread always,” and hear from Jesus the assurance, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold the One Who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.”  

Receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, gives us 1) courage to carry out God’s work in the world, 2), help to live the life God wants for us, 3), inspiration to know the will of God in our lives, 4), a deeper understanding of the holy mystery of Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, 5), encouragement to love others and to strengthen the Faith community, 6), grace to overcome temptation and avoid sin, and 7), Joy and Peace of heart, in knowing that Christ lives in us and will bring us to God’s Heavenly Kingdom.  Hence, we must receive the Holy Eucharist with our whole minds and hearts.  Let us never forget that the “Bread of Life” IS the risen Jesus Christ Himself, not merely human bread.  When we pray, “give us this day our daily bread,” let us remember that the Holy Eucharist is not simply a “snack,” such as we might eat at a party or at lunch.   It is Food for our souls giving us a share in God’s Own Life.

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

View More Homily Starter Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

18th Sunday of Year B

Jesus provides a meal for 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fishes. Matthew 14:13-21

More Videos

THE HOLY EUCHARIST IS OUR HEAVENLY BREAD

Today’s readings challenge us to trust in the providence of a loving and caring God and to hunger and thirst for the Bread of eternal life – the Holy Eucharist.  As human beings, we hunger for many things besides food and material possessions.  We hunger to be recognized and honored, to love and be loved, to be listened to and to be appreciated, to help, to console, to encourage people, and to receive gratitude.  But only God can satisfy our various forms of spiritual hunger.  St. Augustine said: “O God, You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” (Confessions, I, 1.).

The first reading shows us how God satisfied the hunger of His chosen people in the desert by giving them manna and quail.  The restrictions imposed by God for collecting the manna remind us to trust that God will always provide for our needs.  Sometimes we have to be stripped of our usual sources of support in order to be reminded that our ultimate sustenance comes only from God, and then to acknowledge humbly our total dependence on God.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 78) refers to manna as “Heavenly bread” and the “bread of angels” which God provided for Israel and provides for us today.

In the second reading, St. Paul advises the Ephesians to satisfy their spiritual hunger by turning away from their former evil ways and leading lives of love, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.  Paul reminds us that our acceptance of Jesus as the Real Source of our Life and of nourishment for our souls effects a total transformation in us.  Having been fed on the Bread from Heaven, we receive the power we need that we may put aside our old selves, steeped in ignorance and self-interest, and put on a new self, created in Christ’s Image.  Having been nourished by the word of God, we need to bear witness to Christ by living lives renewed by the Holy Spirit.

Today’s Gospel passage is taken from the “Bread of Life Discourse” in John’s Gospel. Here, Jesus makes the unique and bold claim: “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.”  Jesus is offering the crowd Bread from Heaven, Bread that nourishes them for eternal life, the Bread available to people who have Faith in Jesus Christ — the presence and indwelling of God in their hearts. When Jesus instructed those who had sought after him for earthly food that they should be fed by the Bread that Jesus would give them, some accepted this teaching.  But others turned away disappointed, because Jesus’ challenge required a commitment that they were unwilling to make.

FIRST READING

First Reading – Exodus 16:2-4,12-15

The passage from Exodus describes how the people complained to Moses of the acute shortage of food in the desert and accused him of leading them from Egypt, where food was plentiful, into the desert, to “die of famine.”  God heard the complaint of His people and lavished on them “food from Heaven” in the form of fleshy quails in the evening and delicious manna in the morning.  The restrictions imposed by God for collecting the manna remind us to trust that God will always provide what we need. Sometimes we have to be stripped of our usual sources of support in order to remember that our ultimate sustenance comes only from God, and to acknowledge humbly our total dependence on God.  The fact that the Israelites were given bread from Heaven, even after their murmuring, reminds us that God’s generosity is not dependent on our virtue, but on His Goodness.  According to Bible scholars, quails and manna are occasional phenomena in the Sinai desert. Arranging for these gifts to arrive at the moment they were needed to meet the people’s need, however, was God’s work alone, His miracle.  The quail may have been migratory birds that often drop down in groups to the Sinai deserts due to exhaustion after their return flight from Europe over the Mediterranean Sea to their autumn habitats.  Manna is the secretion of two species of scale insects on the tamarisk shrub during the months of May and June. But it was God’s doing that the fall of manna occurred daily (except Sabbaths), for the 40 unbroken years of their wandering in the desert.   As the secretions drop from the shrub’s leaves to the ground, they cool in the night air and become firm.  If gathered early before the parching desert sun melts it, the manna provides a tasty, nourishing meal.  Bedouins in the northern Sinai call it mann and still use it as a sweetener.  The fact that the occasional occurrence of the manna and quail can be explained scientifically does not, in any way, lessen their theological importance in demonstrating God’s love for His people; indeed, the Israelites rightly ascribed these nourishing, timely gifts from the desert to the loving providence of their God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises” (CCC #1334).

SECOND READING

Second Reading – Ephesians 4:17, 20-24

In the selections from Ephesians which we have read on these past two Sundays, St. Paul showed us how God effected a new unity of His once separated peoples, the Jews and the Gentiles, by making both Christians.  In today’s second reading, St. Paul encourages the Jewish and Gentile Christians to live out the consequences of their unification, by treating each other like members of one family.  He also demands of the Gentile Christians of Ephesus radical changes from their pre-Christian way of life.  They must a) “put away the old self of their former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires,” b) be renewed in the spirit of their minds,” and c)” put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” They must put away the old pagan life and put on the new Christian life, just as the catechumens divested themselves of their outer garments to go down into the Baptismal waters and, after emerging, were clothed in Baptismal robes.  Here, St. Paul is challenging all baptized believers to personal holiness.

GOSPEL READING

Gospel Reading – John 6:24-35

The Context

Today’s Gospel presents an introduction to Jesus’ famous discourse on the Holy Eucharist in the form of a dialogue between Jesus and the Jews who had gone around the Lake and come to Capernaum searching for himThe people were looking for a repeat performance of their miraculous feeding.  In answer to their question, “Rabbi, when did You get here?” Jesus told them that they were only looking for another free meal and that such meals would not satisfy them, saying, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for Eternal Life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him, the Father, God, has sent His seal.”


Believing is the first condition

Though identifying Himself as “the bread of life” (v. 35), Jesus is not yet speaking about the Sacramental Eucharist in this part of his Eucharistic discourse. Here, the emphasis is placed on the Faith-acceptance of the teaching of Jesus. In other words, Jesus offers us the life-giving words of God about the meaning of our lives. His message only gives life when we accept it and when it leads us from selfishness to selfless and sacrificial service for others. Jesus states that He is the Bread of Life only for the one who “comes” to and “believes” in Him (v. 35). Jesus offered to satisfy the spiritual hunger of the people gathered around on one condition.  They must believe Jesus is the “One,” that is, the Messiah, sent with the message that God is a loving, holy, and forgiving Father, and not a punishing judge.  Belief in Jesus is not simple intellectual assent, but an authentic, total commitment to Him of loyalty and solidarity. There is no reference yet to eating His Body or drinking His Blood, which will come later. Here, we are reminded that only a believing reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus will bring us true life.


Demand for a sign from Heaven

In reply to Jesus’ claim that He is the Messiah sent from Heaven to give eternal life to those who believe in Him, the Jews demand a sign from Heaven.  Moses, they say, gave a Heavenly sign to their ancestors in the manna rained down on them from Heaven.  The Jewish rabbis taught that the Messiah would repeat the miracle of manna and the prophet Jeremiah would reappear and unearth the Ark of the Covenant from its hidden place to show the Jews the original manna kept in the Ark.  Jesus corrects their understanding of Ex 16:15 by stating that it was not Moses but God, Jesus’ Father, Who gave, and continues to give, bread from Heaven. Jesus is apparently speaking to two groups: those who witnessed the miracle of the loaves (last Sunday’s Gospel), and those who have not seen the miracle but have heard about it and want to see a similar sign as proof. Jesus tells the former group that there is something much deeper in this event than “perishable food” being multiplied; the real “food” is Jesus’ own Body, later to be offered on the cross and glorified by Resurrection, and the word of God Jesus proclaims, its power and authority manifested in the miracles of the loaves. Jesus reminds the latter group who seek a sign as the Israelites sought a sign from Moses, that it was not Moses who fed them in the desert, but God working through Moses Who provided food for them there in the form of manna. The same God has given His people New Bread for the New Covenant — the Risen Christ.


The Giver and the Gift

Jesus not only gives the Bread of Life (John 6:11, 27) — Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48).  The Giver and the Gift are One and the same.  As the Bread of Life from Heaven, Jesus claims that only He can satisfy man’s spiritual hunger. While bodily food helps us to stay alive in this world, Spiritual Food sustains and develops our supernatural life which will last forever in Heaven.  Through God’s infinite love we are given, in the Blessed Eucharist, the very Author of the Gifts of Faith and Sanctifying Grace.  Thus, the Eucharist is not a mere “symbol” of Jesus; rather, it is a Sacramental sign of Jesus’ Real Bodily Presence in His glorified, scarred, risen Body.  This Bread of Life — Who is Jesus Himself — gives mankind a new relationship with God, a relationship of trust, obedience and love.


“The Son of Man” and “works of God” and I AM.”

These expressions have been the subject of considerable debate by scholars over the last 30 years. 1) “A son of man,” in its original Semitic (Hebrew or Aramaic form), was simply a human being, generically speaking. 2) However, Jesus’ use of “THE Son of Man” as a title to refer to Himself seems to suggest, either that He Himself is the ‘paradigm’ of what it is to be human, or that the title is perhaps an allusion to the “one like a son of man” who is seen by the Old Testament prophet Daniel (7:13, “one like a human being” in the NRSV translation), mounted on the clouds, and coming with God’s power to judge the earth. The exact meaning that Jesus intends this phrase to carry continues to be argued by scholars. 3) “The works of God:” Although this phrase can be understood in several possible ways, it seems from the context here to mean “the works commanded by God and expected of His people.”


“I AM the Bread of Life”

Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus uses the expression “I AM …” seven times (indicative of completeness), to introduce various key images by which He describes His person and His mission: “I AM … the True Bread … the True Light … the Gate … the Way … the Good Shepherd … the Resurrection and the Life … the True Vine.” However, on an even deeper theological level, the Greek expression egô eimi (“I am”) relates back to the scene (Ex 3:14), when God tells Moses to use this name (a shortened form of the Divine Name YHWH, “I AM Who I AM”) in asking Pharaoh to free the enslaved Israelites. “I AM” is, therefore, an explicitly Divine title, and by using it repeatedly throughout this Gospel, Jesus is making a radical claim to BE the God that the Israelites had known in the time of Moses and the Exodus. . (Dr. Watson Murray).


The source and summit of the Christian Life

The emphasis in this segment of the Bread of Life Discourse is placed on the Faith-acceptance of the teaching of Jesus. In other words, Jesus is nourishment first of all as One who offers us the life-giving words of God about the meaning of our lives. Moreover, this Divine message, if it is to nourish for Eternal Life, must be accepted in a way that leads us from self-centeredness to unselfish love and sacrifice for others. It is for this reason that Jesus states, “I AM the Bread of Life” (Jn 6:35) for the one who “comes” to Him and “believes” in Him. In fact, the Eucharist is not a kind of “static” presence of Christ, but the living and perfect Self-offering of Christ to His Father, carried out by His giving Himself to us and for us. We believe that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian Life“(Lumen Gentium), because it contains the whole spiritual good of the Church; that is, Jesus Christ Who lived, died, and rose again to bring us salvation, strengthens and makes holy our relationship with our fellow-Christians, nourishes us with the transforming power of grace, and prepares us for the future glory of God’s Heavenly Wedding Banquet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *