18th. Sunday, Year B
(Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15; Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; Gospel of St. John 6:24-35)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, a common difficulty for modern-day Catholics in the West seems to be not that those still practicing as Catholics do not believe in Jesus so much as the fact that they cannot see themselves as being in need of Him:
God is good, we think we are sincere enough in our practice, but somehow, we cannot drum up much enthusiasm for our religious faith: Jesus in heaven now, the heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit with the Church and in us now, we believe they are Persons, but They are not real to us, They are more like notions we accept. We do indeed want to love God and Jesus, and we would say we trust the Holy Spirit ever at work in us and for us, but, though we most certainly do not approve of many modern atheistic and hedonistic developments in the world, nevertheless, the world is still more or less OK for us, were it not for the fact that, in this world and as it impacts on us, we are not able to see ourselves, somehow feel ourselves, in any real need of God, not even of Jesus, the closest of all Three to us…..
Of course, as we draw closer to death, or perhaps become more aware of its possibility or proximity, we modern-day Catholics don’t want to approach it as the end of everything. No, I personally want death to be the climax of my life, the moment I have lived for, the moment of meeting Christ, God, somehow Face to face, showing me His infinite mercy and love … the moment when, with all my sins forgiven and forgotten, whatever good I may have done, whatever right aims or purposes I may have pursued, are consolidated and crowned, the moment when all my love and longing for God is fulfilled for all eternity.
However, such thoughts of death are not normal everyday thoughts for busy and too-often-and-too-much pre-occupied members of Mother Church and of modern society with all its demands and requirements. Such parishioners, such people, do not feel themselves, experience themselves, as being in-need-of Jesus; and that does disturb them, at least in the depths of their personal, Catholic subjectivity, because they know that ‘things’ are only done in the world by people wanting something, whatever it be, money, friendship, love, fame or just popularity; and they also know – as Catholics -- that without Jesus they are and can do nothing worth-while.
What can such Catholics do to realize (as Blessed J.H. Newman meant it) their need?
In today’s Gospel there were some Jews experiencing a somewhat similar ‘need’, suffering from a somewhat similar uncertainty, conscious unknowing.
What can we do to accomplish the works of God?
To them we are told that Jesus answered, saying:
This is the work of God, that you believe in the One He has sent.
They wanted concrete works they could do, and having done them feel themselves as belonging to God. Jesus offered them, FAITH:
Believe in the One He has sent.
Then they asked a sign of Jesus, bread like Moses of old. Jesus had far greater bread to offer them, of course, but they wanted bread they could gather knowing it was a sign they could count, measure, and assess:
Sir, give us this bread always.
Jesus again offered them, FAITH:
Whoever COMES TO ME – the bread of life – will never hunger, and whoever BELIEVES IN ME will never thirst.
Dear People of God wanting to become more aware of your need for Jesus, do not be alarmed at your feeling of, should we say, emptiness with regard to the reality of your faith. For the fact is that God, the Holy Spirit, is actually making you aware of the supreme disease afflicting Mother Church and all Christian people … the disease of merely nominal faith, a faith ignored when temptation or need comes along, a disease afflicting many, even the highest, of the ‘clergy’ and also far too many of our laity who, in the course of their ever-so-busy days, think little – if at all -- of God, and yet imagine their ‘littleness’ allows them to assume and accept all sorts of excuses for their failure to assert, make use of, their faith.
Yes, those of you who are somewhat troubled by the fact that you do not have any felt need for God and Jesus are already under the influence of God and Jesus’ most Holy Spirit, Who wants to make you aware of, but not, as I said earlier, alarmed by such awareness because He wants to help you do something about it.
Look again at Jesus in today’s Gospel reading responding to the Jews questioning Him, assertively however, not humbly:
I am the bread of life;
but then He goes on to talk, not about collecting or eating such bread, but:
Whoever comes to ME, whoever believes in ME,
Because, as He had said earlier to them,
The true bread My Father gives you is that which comes down from heaven and gives (His) life to (for) the world.
Dear People of God, the Holy Eucharist is Mother Church’s most sublime treasure, but it is a gate that we must enter, through which we must go, to meet with, open our hearts and minds to, the Person of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour Who constantly intercedes on our behalf before His Father in heaven.
Then, after that meeting, heart-revelation, and subsequent trust, follow the advice of that great disciple of Jesus who spoke to us in our second reading today:
Put away the old self (and its constant worries) and be renewed in the spirit of your minds (trust), and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and truth.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts and be thankful. And whatever you do in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:15-17)
For God is the One who, for His good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world. (Philippians 2:13–15)