18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

Reading 1:  Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15

This is a story of a people in relationship with their God.  It is a story of sin and grace, bondage and deliverance.  The exodus-event, then and now, was the axis upon which Israel’s history spun, just as the cross is the axis upon which Christianity revolves.  While there is no certain date for the book, most scholars place it around 13 BC.  (Word & Worship, Birmingham, 593)

Manna was a sweet substance excreted from insects that lived in the Sinai desert.  It is left on the leaves of the tamarisk shrub during May and June.  It cools overnight, drops to the earth and becomes firm.  If left on the ground, it would soon melt again; but if it is gathered in the early morning, it provides a tasty, nourishing feast.  It is still eaten today.  The word ‘manna’ may be from the Aramaic man hu, or what is this?.  Quail are migratory birds that often fall from exhaustion over the desert.  Both are regarded as gifts from God.  (594)  What do you see as the gifts from God in your life?  At a time when the Israelites may have been the least-deserving of help, God showers them with nourishment.

Reading 2:  Ephesians 4:17, 20-24

This reading is all about choice.  How do we become the people that God calls us to be?  How do we say no to doing wrong and yes to doing right?  Sometimes our bad habits are just that…habits.  Sometimes it is easier to keep doing what might be wrong for us because it is what we have always done.  But it is futile.

Through Christ, there is hope!  We can shed our old ways and be renewed!  Like the white cloth in Baptism, we can “wear” a new life.  We can choose to be new, but only through Jesus.  How might this apply beyond ourselves, like the state of the economy, the environment, problems in the church…a lot is broken in this world…if God doesn’t fix them, who will  (a loaded question)?

Gospel:  John 6:24-35

We are forever wanting.  As Ronald Rolheiser put in his book, The Holy Longing, “…there is within us a fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace.  This desire lies at the center of our lives, in the marrow of our bones, and in the deep recesses of the soul, “(p.3).  But he ends his book, “Thus, given that we live under a smiling, relaxed, all-forgiving, and all-powerful God, we too should relax and smile, at least once in a while, because, irrespective of anything that has ever happened or will ever happen, in the end, ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and every manner of being shall be well, “(p. 241).  We will never go hungry or thirst if we do the work of God, which is to believe in Him.

What memories do you have of bread?  How does God feed you with the living bread?

Jesus specifies only one work of God, faith in the person of his Son.  Faith is not a human accomplishment but is affected by God himself.  (Footprints on the Mountain, Faley, 517).  What do you think of that?

The people are confused.  They had just witnessed the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, then Jesus left.  They didn’t know how he got there, but he avoids this question.  It is more important why THEY are there!  They are looking for more miracles from him, like Moses.  Jesus explains to them that Moses didn’t perform the miracle of the manna, God did.  And now God has sent them bread in the form of Jesus.  Are they ready to hear this news?

“For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”  In the ancient world, where the skills of reading and writing were not generally diffused, the seal served as a signature.  The seal was usually made of semiprecious stone.  It was regarded as something to be kept on the person at all times.   (Dictionary of the Bible, McKenzie, 782)  Jesus was chosen, permanently sealed with God’s mark.  It isn’t just what Jesus taught that we believe in…it is Jesus himself.

In the Hebrew mind-set, faith is an act of heart and soul – not necessarily the intellect.  To our modern culture, faith often refers to matters of the mind – belief in certain dogmas, or belief in one who possesses authority (i.e. doctor, clergy, etc.).  In Middle Eastern thought faith has more to do with loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. (Word & Worship, Birmingham, 597).  Can you think of times when you made decisions with your head vs. your heart?

One response

  1. Wow, lots to ponder!!!!! I love that manna is still be eaten – who knew? And that seal? that faith on our hearts and souls? I know that when my mind is work work working, I’m not getting where I need to get. It’s the letting go, releasing of ego and going toward what I intuit is God’s will that I’m more in touch with that seal. Thanks for the reminder.

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