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Pastor's Letter 20210801 - 01 August 2021 Christ, our Viaticum--Food for the Journey


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August 1st, 2021

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Message from Father Michael

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"I Am the Bread of Life"

Today’s Theme: 

“Christ, our Viaticum—

Food for the Journey”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

The grumbling of Israel against Moses and against Yahweh is a consistent motif throughout the narratives of the wilderness tradition.  In today’s First Reading, the complaint at the basis of the incident is a concern for food (Exodus 16:2-15.)  We read that Israel’s God provided not only “bread” (manna,) but meat as well (quail.)  Trusting in God to provide what they needed was a hard lesson for the wandering people.  But we are given to understand that their faith was rewarded.

Becoming Christian involved a departure, once and forever, from those values and attitudes called “pagan.”  Our Second Reading, Paul shows a pattern of renunciation and renewal, of divestiture and investiture, and reflects not only baptismal theology but the Baptismal Liturgy as well (Ephesians 4:17-24.)  Upon emerging from the baptismal waters, catechumens would be clothed in white garments, signs of purity that the person had achieved in Baptism, as well as the victory of Christ over evil in which they had begun to share.

Dialogues and discourses comprise a large bulk of the material we find in the Gospel.  In John, the evangelist has succeeded in communicating the truth of Jesus’ teaching while elucidating the meaning of that teaching for the benefit of the Church that had survived the risen Lord.  Today’s reading is part of the lengthy “bread of life discourse,” which clarified the sign of the loaves and fishes; and it drew out its messianic, and Eucharistic, significance (John 6:24-35.) 

Jesus offered His followers non-perishable food—“that remains unto life eternal” and of real heavenly bread.  Whereas, the manna of Exodus melted in the heat of the day, the food of the Son of Man and the bread the Father gives never ceases to fill us.  Jesus challenged those who pursued Him to raise their attention from their stomachs to their hearts.  He would have them spiritually hungry, and thereby, open to the truth of His teaching.  The “work” He would have us do is to have faith in the one sent by God—Jesus, Himself.

Our Many Hungers

Human beings are not nourished in the same way as cattle are fattened in the feed lots.  We are creatures with a hundred hungers—and not simply for physical food.  Not all of our hungers should be satisfied.  Some of them are appetites that could destroy us if we fed them.  (The more some of those hungers are fed, the more demanding they become.  We should be aware of those appetites that live within us.)

But let us consider those hungers that are common to all of us:

• We hunger for a feeling of importance.  No one wants to be a “nobody,”—we all want to matter, if only to one person….

• We hunger for acceptance.  If we are not accepted, it becomes impossible for us to fully realize our full potential.

• We hunger for relationships.  Without them we are the mercy of cold winds of anguish and loneliness.  We are like a lone tree on a hilltop.

• We hunger for motivation.  Without it we are like a sailboat without the wind.

• We hunger for faith—for a set of positive beliefs to guide us. Otherwise we are like a ship without chart or compass or port of destination. 

• We hunger for hope.  To give up hope is like going on a spiritual hunger strike—full of despair and desolation.

• We hunger for love.  If this is fully satisfied than most of our other hungers would disappear.

However, there is another hunger, a deeper one, that underlies all our other hungers, including that of love.  It is the hunger for eternal life—the hunger to know our purpose for living; why we were created; and where we are going…. 

To experience this hunger is not a misfortune, but a blessing.  It saves us from stagnation and keeps the stream of our lives moving forward “towards the eternal.”

The Price of Freedom

It is said that every human being longs to be truly “free.”  When we think of freedom in this way, we contrast it with living under tyranny, bondage, slavery.  None of us has ever felt the sting of the taskmaster’s whip, as the ancient Egyptians were wont to impose on the Hebrews, but we can think of ways we are shackled in our modern life, nonetheless. 

Consider that those having to daily plod through a seemingly monotonous job for meager wages, experience a kind of bondage, which doesn’t afford them personal aspirations. Or, living in congested, substandard housing in a major city, perhaps lacking opportunity for any meaningful work, could seem like a prison to someone who is caught up in such circumstances.  Being incumbered by insurmountable debt is another way modern people feel captured. 

Each of these circumstances, and many more like them, are the result of unfortunate choices made by people, through the years.   Some are handed down, like a legacy, to future generations, and having no successful examples to follow in their lives, they perpetuate their sad states of affairs.  We can cite examples of ways such people deal with these problems: illicit drugs, gangs, thievery, etc.

Freedom presents its own challenges.  It means taking responsibility for one’s life.  This is no easy thing for those who have become accustomed to others making their decisions for them.  Freedom calls for self-discipline.  It’s easier to be disciplined by others than to discipline oneself.  It’s said that it’s easier to turn a man into a slave than a slave into a man….

We can feel sympathy for people caught up in lives of despair and purposelessness.  We heard of the Israelites plight in our Exodus story, even to the extent they lamented leaving the bondage of the Egyptians!  They could not have foreseen that their dream of freedom, once realized, would entail new challenges and fresh perils.  Still, their attitude is sad.  To think they were ready to give up freedom for a belly-full of food—no matter the personal cost.

This has great relevance for us.  We are the new People of God, journeying in faith towards our own promised land of eternal life. By our Baptism we have been called out of slavery to sin; slavery to material comforts and securities; and so forth.  We are led, not by Moses, but by Jesus.  We have to live by faith and not by sight!

Along the way we are bound to face our own “desert” of trial and difficulty.  At times we may feel that God has abandoned us.  And so we hunger for the “fleshpots” of our modern world.  We are tempted to fall back into the slavery of sin rather than live in the freedom of the children of God.

But just as God sustained the Israelites in the desert, so He sustains us through faith in Jesus, and the special bread that Jesus gave us—the Holy Eucharist.  It is not we who keep the faith; it is the faith that keeps us.  No matter how difficult life seems to be, for those who trust in God, and live one day at a time, the “manna” falls every day!

 

To listen to this week's Meditation Music, click here:

Just a Closer Walk with Thee.docx

May God Richly Bless You!

“Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life.  Night and day, He is there.

If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration.”

~~ Mother Teresa~~

 

 

Edited by Father Michael
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