Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17; John 6:24-35
As I began to think and pray about the three scriptural readings for today, the Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, I was instantly struck by the Spirit’s invitation to “stay open and move on” during life’s journey – every moment of every day. Obviously, this mantra phrase is easy to write, speak about, and read; but…to really accept and adapt to a “staying open” stance, can easily surface in us, many challenges and strong resistance vibes.
In the Old Testament reading from Exodus, we meet Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites dealing with changes in their secure daily routine and regular life-pattern. They have been chosen by God to move to the Promised Land, and to embrace freedom. Yes, their Creator is present, and is supporting the travelers to stay open and “not to give up “on the journey. Clearly though, resistance is strong among these followers, even as they looked back on their days of enslavement in Egypt. A familiar life-pattern there, had provided them an expected feeling of safety and security. Now, looking ahead, would require them to take risks, and to trust in God! Moses and Aaron promoted and believed in God’s Providence, and they were nourished by faith. However, from the Israelite’s perspective, everything, including food in the desert, was definitely “out of question!” Quail, was provided by God in the evening, and in the morning, manna rained down. This sustenance was completely foreign to the Hebrews, and they asked one another, “What is this?” Moses replies: “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.” Indeed, God’s stance was not indifference to the situation; rather, the Holy One was integral to the new way’s path, and knew this could lead to a faithful answer. Indeed, this new way would offer deep rootedness in trust and hope in God’s providential care.
John’s gospel message too, picks up the faith theme from the Old Testament: “stay open and move on.” In last week’s gospel story, we found Jesus teaching truth to a large hungry crowd of followers. At that time, Jesus performed a miracle by multiplying five loves and two fish into more than enough food to feed five-thousand people. This meal may have fed an audience physically, but in no way satisfied them on several other levels. As Jesus moved on from the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum, the same crowd went looking for him. These people had a deep spiritual hunger which they couldn’t understand. They knew more than enough food had been given, but still…their longing to embrace the presence of Jesus remained. In todays reading, he continues to teach and instructs with clarity: “Do not work for food that perishes but for eternal life.” Jesus reminds them that God fed their ancestors, in the desert a long time ago; but now it’s their turn to listen and hear the truth. Jesus states, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” To allow this revelation to change them for the better, they are enticed to stay open to faith and to relinquish dependence on “food that perishes.”
Finally, Paul’s life, in the second reading, sums up the message given to us, in this Sunday’s liturgy: “stay open and move on.” Clearly, we know that Paul was converted to Christianity, he stayed open to the Spirit and moved on during his whole life. Indeed, we can witness through the scriptures, the profound effects of God’s grace working in and through him.
Let’s take to heart Paul’s urgings now: “Put away the old self of your former way of life…be renewed in the spirit…and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
Sr. Shirley Jeffcott, OP