August 1, 2021
by Chas Kestermeier, S.J.
Creighton University's English Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 113

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

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Enjoying Vacation Time

Psalm response: The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

Paul is fairly clear in what he says in today’s passage from his letter to the Ephesians: he is concerned about their spiritual progress, and he outlines just exactly what the situation is not only for a convert but for everyone who wishes to grow into a full human being, and particularly for Christians.

He describes baseline human beings, the kind we find in every culture, at every age, and with every stage of refinement.  These people live only on the level of the material – what they can sense, what they believe is logical – but in fact these “material” humans have no serious thought as to who or what they are or are called to be, no ambition to reach higher than wealth, status, and power – and that often with complete disregard for what it costs them or those around them.  They are, like the smallest children, highly self-centered even when they serve their communities, since for them this service is a cheap way to gain status and respect without really involving them with the “little people.”  Paul says that they have “empty minds” and live moved by “illusion and desire.”

These are the people who either believe the news in a superficial manner or who think that the whole thing is a conspiracy.  For them advertising is simply another form of news, informing them of what is newest, best, and cheapest and gives them the highest status; all of this is pandering to our material side, the conviction that one’s current position is always correct and that one is thus absolutely free to do what he or she thinks is best – or maybe rather what they simply feel like doing.  That imperious and insidious call to immediate satisfaction of whatever urge one has only too often leads to violence and casual, dehumanizing sex.  I could name products and television shows which promote this vision of “modern” and “up-to-date” humanity and indulge their cravings, but each culture has its own. 

The material people, even the wealthier and better educated, are manipulated by the world at its most material and the flesh at its most insistent.  And they are themselves the ones who lead the dance of manipulation.

Paul calls his Ephesians to consider the alternative and what it will do for those who seize it: a “new life in Christ.”  He tells them that in order to discover what that is, those who seek for more than what this world, this flesh, offer, they must set aside the old ways, the dependence on that world which reveals itself to be untrustworthy and fails to truly satisfy.  For him this world’s values and the activities that flow from them are only a dead weight that smothers and blocks our progress toward God because we limit ourselves by choosing them. 

We must find rebirth in the “new man created in God’s image,” and that is Christ himself.  In him and through him we will discover that holiness which I would call the purity of transparency, an openness of desire and act, a life with a humble, patient, and true love at the center – and that love is Christ himself.  Jesus says, at the end of today’s Gospel reading,  “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” 

What do I personally feel the Spirit calling me to, here in what Paul is saying? 

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