18th sunday in ordinary time
1st August 2021
Year B – Psalter week 2
While the Exodus account of manna in the desert was about God providing his people with physical food to satisfy physical hunger, the account of Jesus’ words in John’s gospel are about satisfying spiritual hunger. The ultimate desire of the human heart is for intimacy with God. St. Augustine said that the human heart is restless until it rests in God. In the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaims that he is the answer to every person’s spiritual desire: ‘I am the bread of life; He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.’
Bread is a symbol for that which is essential for life, and Jesus uses this symbol for himself because only in him can we have any share in the eternal life of the resurrection. As one archbishop and theologian of the 11th Century explained: ‘This bread, being the Son of the living Father, is life by its very nature, and accordingly gives life to all. Just as earthly bread sustains the frail substance of the flesh and prevents it from falling into decay, so Christ quickens the soul through the power of the Spirit, and also preserves even the body for immortality’.
As with the Israelites in the first reading, however, we can only truly learn this reality as we enter into the desert ourselves. Having been physically freed from Egypt, the Israelites had yet to be spiritually freed from its idols. While they had been oppressed in Egypt, they had nevertheless been “able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to [their] hearts content!” With such material abundance, they had lost sight of their dependence upon God. The only option they had in the desert was to trust entirely upon the providence of God. They had to enter more fully into their relationship with Him and to come to know their complete dependence upon him every day. If they had been able to collect barnfuls of manna, they may have, once again, lost sight of who it was that was providing for them. With having to collect manna daily, they were reminded each day of God’s goodness and care for them. It was a time of purification in their relationship with God. There was a beauty and simplicity about their dependence upon God in the desert, one that challenges us in our age of material wealth, where we store up much, and can take much for granted.
People often seek spiritual fulfillment in places other than in Jesus. There has been the more recent growth in New Age spirituality, a broad term that includes many different spiritual beliefs and practices today. This is a more obvious spiritual example. But how many of us seek spiritual fulfilment in places other than Jesus too? Do we seek fulfilment through entertainment such as video games, sports, or watching box sets for example? Maybe we seek it through other avenues such as drinking, gambling, sexual gratification or comfort eating. Or maybe we need our regular fix of retail therapy, be it online or otherwise. If we’re honest, we can probably all identify certain things in our lives where we think that we couldn’t possibly do without. But Jesus’ words challenge any such belief that, when it comes to spiritual fulfilment, we need anything other than him. If we can identify areas of unbelief and weakness, we too can spend some time in the spiritual desert, as it were, fasting from these things, and growing in our lived experience and knowledge of the truth that Jesus proclaims when he says: ‘I am the bread of life; He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.’
 See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 30.
 Theophylact (c. 1050-1109), as quoted in Journey with the Fathers, Commentary on the Sunday Gospels, Year B, Edited by Edith Barnecut, O.S.B., New City Press, 1993, p. 104.
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
I will rain down bread for you from the heavens.
Psalm 77:3-4. 23-25. 54
The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Ephesians 4:17. 20-24
Put on the new self that has been created in God’s way.
He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.
Sunday Message and Look
DOWNLOADS FOR SUNDAYS IN AUGUST
Download this weeks Sunday Message and Look (for our younger parishioners) by clicking on the images, for all the readings for this week, as well as the prayers during mass and the usual weekly thoughts and reflections.
Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.