Sunday Scripture Readings

EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, AUGUST 3 Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15; Psalm 78; Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; John 6:24-35 OUR GOOD NEWS:Jesus explains the mystery that is the Eucharist. In last Sunday’s Gospel reading, we heard how Jesus miraculously fed a vast crowd who eagerly sought Him out. Their question, "When did you come here?," expressed puzzlement and surprise. They couldn’t understand how Jesus crossed the lake, unaware of His walking over stormy waters to join the disciples in their boat. But Jesus remained undeceived by the crowd’s enthusiastic attention, which was selfishly centered on the free food He had provided. Instead of yielding to discouragement, Jesus adapted His teaching to their less-than-ideal attitude, with words full of double meanings characteristic of discourses in John’s Gospel. The people’s preoccupation centered on "perishable food" that maintains physical life one day at a time. Jesus offered a unique opportunity for getting a new "food" which, when eaten, confers transformed fullness of life, a gift whose effects last forever! This is what they — and we — ought to strive after. The gift that God freely confers through Jesus perverse humanity would rather earn through personal effort. The crowd thus raised the question of "works" (plural), inquiring about religious duties whose observance wins divine approval. Jesus countered that God expected only one "work" (singular), thoroughgoing "faith" commitment to his Son. Sinful human nature prefers prideful noninvolvement, willing to do (works) but refusing to believe (trust and confidence in Jesus rather than oneself). "So that we can put faith in you, what sign are you going to perform for us to see?" This time the crowd correctly understood Jesus’ demand for faith commitment but continued in their sinful hardheartedness by insisting on the very proof He had just provided. They refused to acknowledge the multiplied barley loaves as God’s miraculous feeding, like manna provided their ancestors through Moses during their desert sojourn. But fulfillment implies more than repetition. Jesus went on with a profound interpretation of the symbolic feeding. Manna came "from heaven," an earthly food given by God to his hungry people. Not barley loaves but Jesus himself is "real, heavenly bread." Uniquely, this otherworldly sustenance confers eternal (rather than passing) "life" upon the whole "world" (instead of Israelites in the desert).

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