August 5, 2018
by Mary Lee Brock
Creighton University's Werner Institute
click here for photo and information about the writer

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 113

Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Psalms 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
John 6:24-35
Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Judging Others? Or Ourselves?

The readings today help me center myself and focus on what is truly important.  Jesus shares the simple but profound message that he is the bread of life and whoever comes to him will never hunger and whoever believes in him will never thirst.  But it seems that we do not always readily embrace this powerful message.

My life is filled with blessings.  My work is engaging and my social calendar is busy.  I share love with many family members and friends. Yet there are times when I find myself overextended and under appreciated.  After working hard on a project that still needs more attention I wonder when is enough, enough?  When I get over tired I can find myself being drawn into envy and the loneliness supported by consumerism and individualism.  The first reading from Exodus opens with the Isrealite community complaining about being led into the dessert and fearing they will die of famine.  God sends them bread so they will know the he the Lord is their God.

Social media can be a place where we compare our lives to others in an unhealthy way.  But it can also be a place where we can celebrate joys experienced by others and be in solidarity with those who are hurt.  And in a surprising way we can get inspiration from social media.  A friend just posted this:  Stop worrying about how it is going to happen and start believing it will.  This is something God might have said to the Israelites.

In the second reading Paul is guiding the Ephesians to their true lives.  He tells them they must no longer live in the futility of their minds.  This advice rings so true today as it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking we can reason our way through any situations.  We start to think we can rely only on our own resourcefulness rather than rely on God’s grace.

Paul goes on to say that we should put away the old self of our former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds and put on the new self, created in God’s way of righteousness and holiness of truth.  I find setting aside my comfortable habits to be very challenging.  Even the habits and patterns that do not always help me be my best self are like a well worn pair of shoes.  I am barely aware of their presence in my life.  Putting away my old self requires active intentions.

Pope Francis helps us explore ways we can put on our new self is his recent document  “Gaudete et Exsultate,.” “Do you work for a living?” the Pope asks. “Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters” (14).

Pope Francis goes on to say: Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self. To depend on God sets us free from every form of enslavement and leads us to recognize our great dignity. (32)

In today’s Gospel from John we see Jesus in his truly human form.  He is tired after feeding the large crowds of people with loaves and fishes.  And yet there are cries from people in the crowd who want proof of who Jesus is by demanding he perform miracles.  Although frustrated with the demands of the crowd, Jesus continues to guide and teach.  He shares that it is important to not work for food that perishes but for the food that gives eternal life.  I think of the times when I am searching for an answer to a challenging situation, so I can imagine the confusion people in the crowd must have experienced when they heard Jesus say that the way to accomplish the work of God is to believe in the one he sent.  That teaching is simultaneously so simple and so complex.

As I pray with the readings from today I explore these questions:  How can I trust the word of the Lord?  Where do I see examples of someone who lives on the true bread of life?  What steps can I take to put away my old self?  Who can I invite into my life to help me stop working so hard for food that will perish but rather seek the food that gives eternal life?

One does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

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