If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

18th Sunday Year B 2021


 18th. Sunday, Year (B)

(Exodus 16:2-4, 11-15; Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; John 6:24-35)




Do not work for food which 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 set His seal.

Here we learn that it is with a view to Jesus, the Son of God made man, that God the Father offers us an eternal destiny and a heavenly home.  His only-begotten Son – knowing and loving His Father -- deigned to become one of us, sinlessly sharing our earthly experience by living humbly among us and, finally, by dying for us on the cruel, cruel, Cross. Therefore, God the Father wills that we – members of the Body of the Risen and glorious Christ -- be offered a share in His Resurrection.

It was ever so; for it was because the Son of Man, Jesus the Messiah, was to be born of the Israelite people -- children of Abraham. Isaac, and Jacob -- that God, long before, decided to lead those Israelites, under the guidance of Moses, out of slavery in Egypt to freedom in their own, God-given, land.

Now, those Israelites chosen to be rescued from slavery in Egypt, did not fully understand what God was offering them.  Their sufferings under the Egyptians had made them long for freedom, and their experience of God through His servant Moses gave them hope that freedom could be theirs.  But they had to learn that true freedom for human beings made in the image and likeness of God could not come cheap: it necessarily involved freedom of both body and soul, freedom from human coercion and freedom from slavery to sin. And so, when the going got hard in the desert, those Israelites began to hanker after the fleeting moments of pleasure that had come their way in bodily slavery; those moments when, for a very short period each day, they had been able to rest from forced labour and allow themselves to sink into the pleasure of eating the measure of Egyptian food rationed them, before falling asleep through exhaustion.  Thinking that their present journey through the desert was costing them more than they had anticipated, they thus began to lose hold of their erstwhile, God-given, desire for freedom, and began to fantasize over those occasional bits of food allowed them in Egypt:  wouldn’t it be wonderful to taste the like again!  Of course, indulged imaginations of that sort shared with relatives and friends in private conversations soon led to public grumbling and ultimately to confrontation with Moses and Aaron, the spokesmen and servants of the God they as yet so little understood:

The Israelites said, “Would that we had died at the LORD’S hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”

The people wanted food, proper food, here and now! Future freedom now seemed of very little importance in comparison.  Above all, freedom from sin ... what did that really mean?   Satisfaction, though short lived, was felt immediately; when would thoughts of human dignity ever bring anything other than thoughts??

The people were, however, being led by their God Who knew their true need and that   their present desire for freedom and food were idle imaginations never going to be given them by the Egyptians: as far as they were concerned, whatever pittance might again become Israel’s lot in Egypt it would involve yet more abject slavery.  As far as God was concerned, on the other hand, though they would have to learn what ‘true freedom’ meant, and what Food would bring them true fulfilment, all that was within their competence, and involved nothing other than their dutiful obedience to His commands now and in the land He would give them as their own.

Nevertheless, for the present they needed further time and experience in order to gradually appreciate the issues involved, and so God, backing up Moses and Aaron, nipped the people’s grumbling in the bud by immediately sending them  a large flock of quail that covered the camp, and then later by depositing on the ground overnight fine flakes of what looked like hoar-frost for them to collect as bread.

We can imagine with what eager abandonment those ex-slaves devoured the cooked quail after weeks of difficult desert travelling:

But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague. (Numbers 11:33)

The Lord God – with Jesus in view -- was preparing them for an eternal and glorious destiny, and they, by wallowing so wholeheartedly in a pottage of quail, were disposing themselves to go back to slavery … following the example of Esau who had despised his birthright for pleasurable food:

Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, and Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way.  Thus, Esau despised his birthright.    (Genesis 25:33-34)

And like Esau, who begged with tears that his birthright might be restored but to no avail, they too were punished severely for choosing to doubt the goodness of their Maker and despise their own dignity:

            The LORD struck the people with a very great plague.

People of God, there are many in our society today who imitate those Israelites of old: for example, some prefer to be permanently out of work, living idly, on hand-outs from the state, or from minor criminality; others are content to drink their time and money away, or waste their lives just seeking kicks from alcohol, sex, and drugs abuse.  This state of things is most displeasing to God, because such people and others like them are degrading themselves.  Friends and people around them can see that the pleasures they imagine themselves to be enjoying are affording them no true joy at all, but most assuredly robbing them of any prospects for future happiness or well-being.  And such is their pitiable state that there are some who feel moved to devote themselves to all kinds of social work to help such people in their need and out of their distress.  And such helpers not only see, but they themselves can suffer from, such experiences of worldly distress and the human tragedy of those so-called ‘drop outs’.

You, dear People of God, should therefore be able to imagine something of the compassion of Jesus when He came to rescue the whole of mankind who, despising that likeness to God which was their birthright, had degraded themselves by becoming slaves to the Devil and to sin, and were now incapable of fulfilling their human potential as children of God called to a heavenly destiny and eternal blessedness.  As you heard in the Gospel reading, Jesus said to the Jews, the people closest to God in the world of those days:

Do not work for food which 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 set His seal.

Just as a human being cannot find happiness living like an animal for the satisfactions of food and debauchery, likewise, one called to become a child of God cannot find authentic happiness and fulfilment by pursuing a merely human idea of life: our make-up and our calling demand that the life we live be both human and divine in the likeness of Jesus Who, though God, became one of us, in order that we, though fallen human beings, might, through Him, learn to live a life of righteousness before God and good-will with men in the power of the His gift: the Holy Spirit.

The great modern tragedy is that our Western societies have the power, the technology, and now the most abject will, to offer endless opportunities for people to enjoy the things of this world.  After having imperfectly learned over centuries something of God, and having gradually built up a measure of social coherence by the help of His Spirit among them, many are now despising their heritage of a heavenly calling, as did Esau and Israel of old: the imperfectly appreciated and understood promises and teachings of God seem  old hat in comparison with the new and immediately available pleasures of sinful modern life, with the result that many former Christians now prefer to grab for themselves what seems to be so readily available and at so little apparent cost, rather than to rely on the goodness of One Whom they cannot see, and Who, at the cost of their obedience to Him, seems to offer nothing better than promises of things to come.

However, we must not forget what history has to teach us, for we have heard what happened to Israel in the desert.  The People of Israel in the desert wanted quail; reminiscent of the delights of Egypt, they wanted food for present pleasure whereas God was offering them food for the long journey and hard battle that lay ahead of them, food that would keep them fit for, and see them through, the trials of the desert struggle.

In Jesus’ time the Jews also wanted food for present pleasure and fulfilment:

            You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the     loaves and were filled.

They and their contemporaries wanted what was tangible: a Messiah who would be their miraculous and victorious leader against the Romans and indeed against the nations.   However, what Jesus offered, then as now, was His heavenly teaching and His Eucharistic Flesh and Blood -- prefigured by the desert manna -- as Bread from Heaven and as Food for a long and supremely important journey: the only ‘proper’ Food for those called to follow Him on pilgrimage to His and their heavenly Father’s home:

            I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Saint Paul faithfully echoes the call of Jesus writing to the Ephesians, as you heard in the second reading:

If indeed you have heard Jesus and have been taught by Him, put off your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

And now, dear People of God, each one of us has to make a definitive choice in his or her life; it was indeed ever so, as Moses warned the slaves escaping from Egypt (Deuteronomy 30:19-20):

 I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding His voice, and holding fast to Him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land which the LORD swore He would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Our wondrous blessing is that One greater than Moses speaks to us today, People of God. Let us learn from the Scriptures to hear His message with our ears, understand and love His teaching with our mind and heart thanks to His Spirit of holiness and truth being offered us, and respond to His call by following His teaching handed down to us from His Apostles by Mother Church with sincerity and perseverance of heart.