Sunday, July 26, 2009

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 2, 2009

Lectionary #113

Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15
Ephesians 4: 17, 20-24
John 6: 24-35

Since 9/11, there has been a debate in this country on how much freedom we are willing to give up for security. In Russia, people seem willing to give up many newly gained freedoms to a central authority, so that they will feel secure in their country. As long as the Chinese government provided jobs, the people see no need for individual liberties. In Exodus, God has just delivered the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians, and is leading them to freedom. The path is taking them through the desert, and soon they are grumbling against Moses. Even though they had witnessed the power of God, when He freed them from slavery; even though He is making them His Chosen People, they are already longing for the supposed security of Egyptian slavery. They were willing to give up their newly won freedom for full stomachs.

God hears their complaints, provides for their needs, not just birds for meat, but he gives them a special food. God gives them bread from heaven.

Now in John’s Gospel, we see the people whom Jesus has just fed, begin searching for him. They had witnessed a miracle; they believe that Jesus is “the Prophet.” They want to make him King, have him use his power to free them from the Romans. Jesus berates them, telling them that they are missing the point of the miracle of the loaves. He has come not to provide for the physical security of Israel, he has come for a higher purpose. And he is calling on the people to join him in that work, which will provide gifts that will never perish, that will truly sustain them, no matter what troubles, what crises life may throw their way, the Father will provide the food that will sustain them and strengthen them. And that food is “the bread of life,” Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is “the true bread from heaven.” The Son of God comes to us in the simple form of bread and wine, transformed into his Body and Blood. He comes to feed us, to renew the life within us, to satisfy our need to experience God’s love, to satisfy our need for hope, to satisfy our thirst for justice and peace. So let us receive him, open ourselves to him, and be transformed by him.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time - July 26, 2009

Lectionary #110

2 Kings 4: 42-44
Ephesians 4: 1-6
John 6: 1-15

Bread is a staple of life. No matter what type of grain is used, many societies in the world depend on bread to live. The lack of bread has lead to revolutions and the overthrow of governments.

Bread is important in the Scriptures. In Genesis, Mielchizedek, the King-Priest of Salem, brought bread and wine to Abraham, to celebrate his victory against the four Kings. In Exodus, God instructs Moses to tell the people of Israel to prepare and eat only unleavened bread on the night of Passover, the bread of haste. And later in Exodus, in the great desert, God feeds His people with manna, “bread from heaven.”

In the first reading, the people are suffering from famine; Elisha comes in possession of twenty barley loaves, to feed one hundred people. Elisha, trusting in the Lord’s word, has the food distributed and it satisfies everyone. The Lord cares for His people.

In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus performing an even greater miracle, with just five barley loaves and a couple of fish, he is able to feed five thousand people. The people are awed by what they have witnessed; they believe that the Messiah is among them; they want to make Jesus king and have him use his power to drive the occupying Romans out. The people do not understand that this miracle is not meant to reestablish a political kingdom. It was to show them that God still cares for His people.

God still cares for us, His people. In a harsh world, we are hungry for healing, hungry for hope, hungry for peace, hungry for love. The Father feeds us with the Bread of Life, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Through the Eucharist, we are refreshed, through the Eucharist, we are strengthened for the Gospel journey, through the Eucharist, we become one with the God who loves us.

Monday, July 13, 2009

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time - July 19, 2009

Lectionary #107

Jeremiah 23: 1-6
Ephesians 2: 13-18
Mark 6: 30-34

Oh, with today’s reading from the prophet Jeremiah, anyone with a grudge against America’s bishops could have a field day. Especially when one considers how some of them failed to act during the clergy abuse scandal, one could really write a ripping homily.

However, Jeremiah was not speaking about the religious leaders of Israel, but rather its political leaders, the kings that came after David and Solomon. Jeremiah is railing against their failure to remain faithful to the Covenant God made with his people. These kings trusted in their own political machinations, rather than in trusting God’s power. The result being that these kings have leaded the people to disaster. The Davidic kingdom was split in two; and the two kingdoms would eventually be destroyed and the people of Israel scattered.

Jeremiah, after his condemnation of Israel’s past leaders, proclaims that God will send a new shepherd, a true descendant of David. He will gather the scattered people, and will restore the nation to justice, peace and security.

Christians believe that this new shepherd is Jesus Christ, but He is coming not to restore the political nation of Israel, but to reconcile all people with God, to create a new nation of believers. He begins by teaching the people, guiding them with His words, showing them the way back to the Father. Then, like a good shepherd, Jesus gives up His life for His sheep, that through His death and resurrection, all people are united into one flock, one body, the Body of Christ.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time - July 12, 2009

(Lectionary #104)

Amos 7: 12-15
Ephesians 1: 3-14
Mark 6: 7-13

We see in today’s readings, two examples of the Lord calling ordinary people to mission. In the Old Testament reading, we see the prophet Amos, telling off the priest of the northern kingdom of Israel. Amaziah is assuming that Amos is one of those “professional” prophets, who prophesy for pay. These prophets were probably trained on how to make prophesies more favorable to their clients. Amos declared that he was no professional, but a simple farmhand, a shepherd. A most common man, yet he was called by God to go out and proclaim His word; to go and confront a king and call him to account for his actions. He had no training, but the Lord gave him the words he was to speak.

God always seems to call the most ordinary of people, to do the most extraordinary actions. We see this in the gospel passage from Mark, which details the commissioning of the Twelve Apostles. Here we see Jesus calling the Twelve and sending them out to proclaim the Good News, to drive out demons, and heal the sick. Again these followers of Jesus were just ordinary people, fishermen, a tax collector, and other common men. Yet, because of God’s grace, God’s power, they were able to work wonders.

Many of us today, may assume that because Jesus commissioned the Twelve that the work of proclaiming the Gospel to the world is to be left to the bishops, the clergy and the religious; and we lay folk are off the hook. But we would be wrong. By virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation, all of us, ordained or lay, have been called by the Lord to make the Good News known to the world. We ordinary folk, by our words, but especially by the example of our lives, are to make known to everyone the healing love of God, to call everyone to change their lives and believe the Good News.