18 Sunday of the Year B
Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle B, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
To prepare a people to be his chosen, God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, crossing the Red Sea and the desert to the Promised Land. God let them undergo trials and suffer from shortage of food and drink in order to test them and purify them.
The Book of Exodus today tells us the people blamed Moses and Aaron for having brought them into the desert to make them starve. The reason they complained because they had forgotten God’s love and his providence. God’s love and power set them free from the Egyptian slavery.
Anyway, when God heard their cry, he told Moses: I will rain down manna for them to eat. They have to gather their portion, enough for each day. I want to test them so that I can see if they will obey my commandments (Ex 16:4). However, when God rained down manna from heaven each day, the people complained again that they had to go and collect manna each day, and every day they had to eat the same bread, and the bread had no taste.
The Gospel today also tells us the people went to look for Jesus in hope that they would receive something to eat, because on the previous day they were fed with the barley loaves multiplied. On this occasion, Jesus taught them a lesson: Amen I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life (Jn 6:26-27).
When Jesus told them, what God the Father wanted is that they would believe in Him whom he had sent. However, the crowd still wanted to see a sign from him so that they would believe in him. They looked around for Jesus in order to be fed physically that they could not believe he would have power to work miracles.
Through baptism, we are incorporated into God’s family, that is, the Church. However, it is not so, that we stop looking for God any longer. We still have to look for God, for what belongs to God’s kingdom, for what is just and right, for what is true, beautiful, and good in thoughts, words and deeds, and for what belongs to the spiritual and supernatural levels.
We need to look for those footprints of God in the universe and in the wonder of his creation. We need to listen to God’s voice, through those voices of righteous conscience. We need to look for what can bring total happiness in mind, body and soul, as well as lasting happiness in this life and the life to come.
Looking for God is a life-long process. Each day, we need to look for God in hope that we may know him better. That is to know more about scripture, to know more about Jesus’ teaching, to know his will, to know God’s way, to understand his providence for our personal lives, so that we may thank him and praise him, or at least to accept, if not yet to praise and thank him. Each day we need to discover God’s presence so that we may live in closer relationship with God. In order to be able to look for God, we need to feel hungry spiritually.
In order to be able to feel hungry spiritually, we need to get rid of obstacles from our lives. We need to get rid of those obstacles so that our soul may have room for spiritual food. If our soul is full of obstacles, then it is full already. Therefore, we cannot feel hungry spiritually. Obstacles we are talking about here are sins and the roots of sins.
In order to be able to feel hungry spiritually, we need to get rid of our old self and sinful way of life in order to put on the new man with new way of life in God’s grace. So today each one of us needs to ask him or her what we are hungry for? Are we hungry for worldly things, vanity, fame, or are we hungry for God and his way of justice, holiness and peace?
A prayer asking for the grace to know how to look for spiritual food:
Oh almighty and powerful God!
You provide food and drink for the human kind.
Remove obstacles from our souls
so that we may feel the need for you.
Teach us to look for lasting food
and satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong