18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Psalm 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54 (24b)
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
August 1, 2021
“The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.”
Because they had no food.
Now, we need food to eat. That is the reality of our human bodies. However, in their grumbling they seem to have forgotten what God had just done for them. As He set them free from slavery in Egypt, He had parted the waters of the Red Sea!
Certainly, having parted the Red Sea, God can help them. Yet, they grumble. They think they would have been better off remaining in Egypt where they had food rather than dying of famine in the desert.
God heard their grumbling. He said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from Heaven.” God tells them to “gather their daily portion.” There is no need to worry about food. He will provide that day and every day.
Thus, in the evening God sent them quail to eat. Each morning He sent them “bread from Heaven.” However, it didn’t look like bread. What they saw “were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.”
Seeing it, the Israelites ask, “What is that?”
Moses replies, “This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”
They did not recognize what God gave them. Do we recognize what God offers us? Seeing what God offers us as “bread from Heaven”, are we willing to “put away the old self” and “put on the new self”?
If we accept what God offers us in the “Bread of Heaven” in the Eucharist, we “must no longer live as the Gentiles do” but as God directs. It may not be easy but God will provide our “daily bread.”
Turning to the gospel, the crowd came “looking for Jesus” not because their saw signs (remember last week’s multiplication of the loaves) but because their bellies were filled.
Why do you come here today?
Are you looking for “food that perishes” or for “food that endures for eternal life”?
Don’t get me wrong. God provides us with earthly food. Yet, today in the Eucharist, He offers us so much more. He gave the Israelites manna in the desert. He gives us “true bread from heaven.”
Jesus tells us that “the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Jesus is the Bread that gives us life.
Again, why do you come to church?
On Ash Wednesday, we have people we don’t see other times of the year who come for ashes.
On Palm Sunday, we have people we don’t see other times of the year who come for palms.
We welcome them then but do they realize, do we realize what we are offered every time we come for Mass? It is something far greater than ashes or palms.
It is the Bread of Life.
It is not just bread. It is the Body and Blood of Christ.
Unfortunately, many people do not believe this. They say it remains just bread and wine. We cannot see with human eyes the change that occurs as the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ at the consecration.
How are we to know in human terms that it becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus? Because Jesus said so at the Last Supper! Taking the bread, He said “this is my Body.” Taking the cup, He said, “this is my Blood.”
We cannot proof in human terms that the bread and wine have changed. That’s why it takes faith. Faith means to believe in what cannot be proven. We trust in Jesus’ words.
To believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is not simply an act of the mind/reason. It is an act of love that is our response to the love that Jesus shows us as He gives his life for us.
At the Last Supper, Jesus spoke of his body that will be given up for us, his blood that will be shed for us. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. It was not easy for Jesus to do this. We count on receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist to strengthen us not once or twice but every week, even daily if we can.
Do we appreciate what we are given in the Eucharist?
Think of the three months at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic when there were no public Masses. Did you miss coming to Mass and receiving Communion? Do you have a greater appreciation for it now?
We should not take receiving Communion for granted. There are people who still cannot receive the Eucharist regularly. Some because of their own choice to sin but some because of being homebound. For others, it is because of circumstances in the past that may not even be their fault. We pray that they are able to rectify that so that they can once again receive the Eucharist.
We also pray for those who don’t care to receive the Eucharist because they don’t understand it is Jesus. We pray for them to open themselves to the faith to know it is Jesus.
We pray that we understand what it is we are receiving, that we receive with great reverence.
Believing in the Real Presence, as we approach to receive Holy Communion, we first bow to the presence of Jesus. When the priest says, “The Body of Christ” we say “Amen.” We do not say thank you. We say “Amen.” Of course, we are to be thankful, but we say “Amen” because “amen” means yes, I believe.
Then, with great reverence for the Real Presence of Jesus, we stand still, putting one hand over the other to make a throne to receive Jesus (as St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote in the fourth century).
I emphasis “stand still” because sometimes we get in a hurry and seem to want to keep moving. In reverence, we stop moving, we wait to receive Jesus in our hands. Only after the priest pulls his hand away do we move our hands to take Jesus into our mouths.
Remember, it is Jesus!