Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 1, 2021
FMC Carswell Women’s Prison
Fort Worth, Texas

Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Psalm 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
John 6:24-35

The Book of Exodus reveals that the Israelite community is angry at Moses for bringing them out of Egypt and into the wilderness. The Israelites are of a mind that they would rather live in comfortable slavery than be free and face the challenges and expectations of freedom as God’s Chosen People. They complain about the lack of food in the wilderness, so God provides them quail and manna. But a steady diet of this only leads to more complaints. They are like so many of us, nothing completely satisfies our hungers, especially when we lack gratitude.

This week’s Gospel is the sequel to the miracle of the loaves and fish that we heard last week. The crowd that was fed return to Jesus’ home looking for Him. When they find Him, He states that that they followed Him not because they saw signs and understood what had happened, but only because they received free food. So, they ask for a sign to believe in Him. The miracle they experienced wasn’t enough; they didn’t think it was a sign from God. God was in heaven and heaven was in the sky, so they wanted a sign from the sky.

Before God made a covenant with Noah, the sky had rained for 40 days. When Moses went up Mt. Sinai, there was thunder and lightning from the sky, and the mountain was covered with smoke. The prophet Elijah had been taken up into the sky by a chariot, but Jesus had done no miracle involving the sky. The people were confused because they thought heaven was in the sky, and frankly we have that same idea. Heaven is not up; it is rather our presence in God’s presence and life, and while that occurs fully after death, it begins in the here and now at the moment of our Baptism. Those who will be baptized today in this chapel will receive the presence of God that will develop in them throughout the rest of their earthly lives until it culminates when Christ comes to bring them home into heaven. Confirmation strengthens us for this journey, and the Eucharist nourishes us with God’s presence.

Jesus spoke of that experience when He called Himself the bread that had come down from heaven. He offers us evidence, not from the sky, but evidence from the Sacred Scripture. The Scripture speaks of our appetite for wisdom and understanding as a hunger and thirst of the spirit, satisfied only when we come to know God with intimacy. Jewish rabbis at the time of Jesus taught that the manna was symbolic of Torah … the Covenant and Word of God that satisfies the hunger of humans for wisdom and knowledge.

When Jesus reveals Himself as the bread from heaven, He is preparing us to understand the mystery of the Eucharist, but He is also referring to the teachings of the Jewish rabbis that prepared for His arrival. Jesus is known through faith as God’s manna … the Word of God made flesh and revealed as the Son most fully through His Death and Resurrection. It is only through Jesus and His unconditional love for us that we can satisfy our deepest hunger and find the fullness of life for which God has created and redeemed us.

%d bloggers like this: