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18th

SUNDAY

(B)

“FIRST IMPRESSIONS”

18th SUNDAY (B) August 4, 2024

Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15; Psalm 78;
Ephesians 4: 17, 20-24; John 6: 24-35

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

Last week we began chapter 6 in John’s Gospel. From now until the end of August these Sunday gospel passages will continue to be from that chapter. As we hear the readings each week it will help our understanding if we keep in mind the context and the flow of the story within John 6.

Last week Jesus multiplied the bread and fish for the vast crowd. After he performed the multiplication, Jesus realized that the people wanted to make him king, so he slipped off by himself. The crowd chased after him and, as we hear today, they found him on the other side of the lake, at Capernaum. It is typical in John’s Gospel that after Jesus performs a miracle he enters into a dialogue, either with some Pharisees, or as we see today, with the crowds. This is John’s way to draw out the deeper meaning of the “sign” Jesus has performed and its meaning for the Christian community for whom John was writing his gospel.

We read these dialogues, not just because we are interested in what happened 2000 years ago. We believe the Lord is risen and that he has something to say to us today, just as he did to the crowds. After tracking him down the people ask him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Not exactly a relevant or important question, is it? We do the same, with our limited vision and lack of understanding, we ask the wrong questions. What is encouraging in the story is that Jesus does not rebuke his questioners, or send them away, instead he engages them in conversation. We have a lot to learn from Jesus and, if we stick with the conversation by both speaking and listening to him, we will grow in our understanding of who he is and who we are to become.

We gather again on another Sunday to celebrate Eucharist. Perhaps this was a very busy week and we did not have much time or thought for Jesus. But we are here with our questions and with open ears to hear what he has to say to us. His comment to the crowd implies a question he is asking them and us as well, “What are you looking for?” Are we praying to Jesus today because we believe he can get us out of a difficulty we’ve gotten into, or a misfortune that has befallen us?

There is certainly nothing wrong with praying when we are in need. But Jesus has even more to give us, for isn’t our greatest hunger the one we have for God? Do we want to experience God’s life in us and have a deeper relationship with God? That’s the bread that Jesus is offering us. In receiving Jesus today we receive the very life of God. For, as Jesus tells his disciples later in the gospel, “I am the way....” Realizing what our deepest hungers are, we make the petition of the crowd our own, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

A friend of mine was setting out on an eight hour car trip. As he was packing his car several of us asked, “Do you have enough food for the journey?” He said he did and even if he didn’t, he could still eat at a rest stop. But in Jesus’s time there were no rest stops along the sides of the road, so carrying enough food for the journey could mean the difference between life and death. Thus, it was a custom of the time to give food to those departing for a trip.

We are all on a journey and we don’t know how long it will last. Some sections of the trip may be perilous, faith-testing, exhausting and disorienting. We can always provide for our physical food; but to stay faithful to our calling as disciples of Jesus, we will need food that only he can provide – his very self. Isn’t that why we come each week to this liturgical celebration, to be nourished by God’s Word and the sacred meal God provides for us, Jesus Christ – our food for the journey?

There are as many hungers as there are people at our Eucharist. Some of us in the pews hunger for physical food: we are unemployed or under-employed; we lack adequate health care for medical emergencies; we struggle to pay tuition bills, etc. What can we in the parish do to address the hungers of our struggling brothers and sisters? Some parishes have food pantries, volunteer nurses and doctors, arrangements for lodging, job training, legal counsel, etc.

Jesus saw the hunger of the crowds and fed them. Certainly he would want us to address the physical hungers of those in our community. Jesus, the bread from heaven, gives us sight to enable us to see our immediate surroundings. With the eyes that he gives us we can see the hungers of people who are, not only our neighbors, but those beyond our borders. Consider, for example, the Christ-inspired vision of the organization “Bread for the World.” Guided by the compassion of Jesus they describe themselves as: “... a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad (Cf. Bread for the World: http://www.bread.org/)

While Jesus addresses people’s physical hungers, he also challenges them not to search for physical food alone – for they will be hungry again. Besides physical appetites, we also have spiritual and emotional hungers. As chapter 6 proceeds, we will learn more about how Jesus will satisfy these hungers. But, for now, why not try to name the hunger we feel at this moment in our lives, or the hungers we experience in our families and then hold out our empty hands and ask Jesus to feed us. He sees our hungers and will not deny us the daily bread we need.

John describes Jesus as a wonder worker; but he also shows him as someone who gives us bread “always.” Jesus is “the bread from heaven,” the one God has sent to teach us to trust God. The people name Moses as the one who gave them bread from heaven – but Jesus corrects them. They fail to see that it wasn’t Moses, but God, who gave them the bread in the desert. Jesus encourages his contemporaries to see that now he is the bread that God is providing for them. Not only did God give bread in the past; but God also freely gives bread in the present. (John’s Gospel is very much a present-tense gospel.)

The crowd asks Jesus, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” In response he states the core gospel message: the first work we must do is to believe in Christ, “the one God sent.” Having faith in Jesus is to believe God already loves us (John 3: 16). We don’t have to earn that love, Jesus is the visible sign of it. Accepting him and his message is to eat the bread of life, which “gives life to the world.”

Living the life of Jesus in the world is hard. We can get discouraged, want to give up, or even lose our way. Sometimes the world of death seems to be triumphing over the life God wants to give us. The front page of any newspaper or news link on the web, is enough to discourage us. The gospel today reminds us however, we are not making our journey alone. We travel with one another, sustained by the bread of life given us by a gracious God.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/080424.cfm

A GOOD BOOK FOR THE PREACHER

“Preaching in the Light of the Word: Enlivening the Scriptural Imagination”
edited by Michael E. Connors, CSC (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2024)


A collection of essays for both preachers and laity. Examines how the biblical texts challenge, inform and inspire us to a deeper encounter with God and the believing community

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

“Put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” Ephesians 4: 24

August is that time of year when parents often purchase new clothes for their children before they return to school. I can remember going shopping with my mother and how good it felt to put on that new outfit for the first day back at school. It seems, as this scripture suggests, that, in this 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, it may also be a good time to reflect on how we can improve our Christian self.

So how do you put on a new self in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth?
In his exhortation Evangelii Gaudium , Pope Francis invites us to put on a new self—one that transcends self-centeredness and embraces the transformative power of God’s love. The exhortation states:

187. Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.

192. Yet we desire even more than this; our dream soars higher. We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a “dignified sustenance” for all people, but also their “general temporal welfare and prosperity.” This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.

197. [The Savior] assured those burdened by sorrow and crushed by poverty that God has a special place for them in his heart: “Blessed are you poor, yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk 6:20); he made himself one of them: “I was hungry and you gave me food to eat”, and he taught them that mercy towards all of these is the key to heaven (cf. Mt 25:5ff.).

Therefore, as we put on the new self, we find it is a self that is concerned for both charity and justice for the poor. The Church teaches that it is the vocation of the laity to sanctify the world by their social and political participation. As Catholic Christians, we are called to inform our consciences by our faith and to give witness to what is true for the benefit of the common good where all are lifted.

It feels good to put on a new self that seeks a better, more just world for all, especially the poor.

Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. “Faith Book” is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.


From today’s Gospel reading:

So the people said to Jesus,
“Sir, give us this bread always.” He said to them, “I am the bread of lie,
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Reflection:

While Jesus addresses people’s physical hungers, he also challenges us not to search for physical food alone – for we will be hungry again. He encourages us to come to him for the food that lasts. Why not try to name the hunger we feel at this moment in our lives and then hold out our empty hands and ask Jesus to feed us. He sees our hungers and will not deny us the daily bread we need.

So, we ask ourselves:

  • What is our deepest hunger our most urgent thirst?

  • What physical hunger in the world are we being called to address?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

“One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I am posting in this space several inmates’ names and locations. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know that: we have not forgotten them; are praying for them and their families; or, whatever personal encouragement you might like to give them. If the inmate responds, you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Warren Gregory #0156518 (On death row since 5/18/1993)

  • David Lynch #0251740 (5/17/1993)

  • Jeffrey Barrett #0021418 (6/1/1993)

----Central Prison, P.O. 247 Phoenix, MD 21131

Please note: Central Prison is in Raleigh, NC., but for security purposes, mail to inmates is processed through a clearing house at the above address in Maryland.

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

On this page you can sign “The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty.” Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty: http://www.pfadp.org/

DONATIONS

“First Impressions” is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like “First Impressions” sent weekly to a friend, send a note to Fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to Fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.:

St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars.

Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: https://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

RESOURCES

ORDERING OUR CDs:

We have compiled Four CDs for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C.

  • One combined CD for “Liturgical Years A, B and C.

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: https://www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the “First Impressions” CD link on the left.

OTHER PUBLICATIONS BY EMAIL:

1. "HOMILÍAS DOMINICALES" ---These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to "Fr. John J. Boll, O.P." <preacherexchange@att.net>

2. "VOLUME 2" is an opportunity for you to hear from the readers of First Impressions. To subscribe or Send your own reflections: Send them to "Fr. John J. Boll, O.P." <preacherexchange@att.net >  Your contributions to Volume 2 are welcome.

OUR WEBSITE:

https://www.preacherexchange.com - Where you will find Preachers Exchange, which includes "First Impressions," "Homilías Dominicales," and "Volume 2" as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching and Scripture reflection.

FOR EMAIL HELP OR TO UNSUBSCRIBE, SUBSCRIBE, OR CHANGE:

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