Sunday, 2 August 2009

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Shaftesbury

Ex 16:2-15; Jn 6:24-35
In our Gospel today Jesus refers to hunger, refers to our being hungry for the Bread of Life that is Himself. The hunger he is speaking of in a SPIRITUAL hunger. And its importnat to note that it is easy for us to think that we’re not really hungry in our own spirit, just no doubt as there were many people like the Pharisees in Jesus's own time who thought they didn't need this Bread of Life, thought that they were not hungry in their soul, that they were just fine. But, even if we don’t realise that we are hungry, that our soul is ‘skinny’ and unhealthy, Jesus us tells us that our souls ARE hungering for this Bread of Life.

Being hungry in our soul is not something that is necessarily self-evident. If we compare the body to the soul: When we need to feed the body, REALLY needs to feed the body, this is something that is pretty self-evident just by looking at the state of the body: we look overly thin, pale, pasty. But when we need to feed the soul how can we tell what the state of the soul is? Well, there ARE indicators of the state of our own soul, and our need for Jesus, and the way that our soul is better than being with Jesus: so I want to refer to 3 factors that we need to recall.

First, most drastically, there is the fact of sin. In as much as sin is in us then we are in dire need for being fed by Jesus –even though this means we need to get to confession and be forgiven so that we are fit for receive Jesus as the food of our souls.

Second, more subtly, there is the question of EVERLASTING life. Jesus says, "Do not work the food that CANNOT last, but work the food that endures to eternal life". Now, while the existence of a life after death may not be self-evident to those who lack faith, nonetheless, it is self-evident that food for the body does not last for an everlasting life. It is self-evident that the most material food can be is, as Jesus put it "food that cannot last". So, if there is an everlasting life, and there is, then we who recognise this fact need the type of food that only Jesus promises to give, the food that is Himself, as the Eucharist.

And that brings me to the third and last factor, which is not so much a life that is eternal, but a life that is UNSEEN. As we Catholics say in the creed at every Sunday Mass, we believe in the Creator of things "seen and unseen" -we believe that there are things that are unseen even if they are not unknown. “Holiness” is a thing that can be publicly manifest, but it is not something that can be precisely MEASURED. Similarly, the life of grace, the strength that comes from the sacraments, the ability to fight sin and grow in virtue: these are things that relate to our whole life, including our visible life, even are they an effect that cannot be measured.

To come back to the question of us being hungry in our soul even when we do not realise it, to being hungry for the Eucharist.
The vast majority of people recognise that there is more to us than just the body, and there is something that endures beyond death. The issue Jesus raises in these gospel passages, is the FOOD that relates to this life -if there is such a life, and Jesus assures us that there is, then it is only reasonable to acknowledge that this life within us needs feeding.
Jesus is the one who not only tells us that we are hungry, not only tells us that we are ‘skinny’ without Him, but also tells us how we can be fed, namely, by Him, in the Eucharist.

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