HOMILY FOR THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR B
God is always present in our midst even when by every standard we do not deserve to have Him around us. He remains with us; working great wonders amongst us and making us perceive the scent of His goodness and benevolence, and to feel the extent of His embrace inviting us daily to come. May we never lose sight of God’s presence amongst us on account of the transient things of this life; Amen.
That God is always present amongst us is one truth that an average Israelite lived to testify if not from His own personal experience, at least from the faith experience of our fathers and mothers and siblings in the faith. The First Reading of today (Ex 16:2-4, 12-15) recounts a very unique moment in the story of our journey with God. Faced by the experience of hunger and lack in the wilderness after being liberated from Egypt, the Israelites taught that God had abandoned them to die. But God never abandons His own! In fact, it is we who abandon God! It is we who forget the many things God has done for us and the many more promises He has placed in store for us. In the Israelites we see the unpleasant face of humanity who at the slightest provocation, not just to God but also to fellow humans, forgets everything good in the past and even forgets to give the benefits of doubt to good will. One wonders how Moses must have felt at those poisonous words from the Israelites, “you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death.” Even when we abandon God, it does not change anything of His goodness for He is goodness in person. True to His nature and person, the Israelites made an indelible experience of God’s goodness and providence in the manna and the quails, well articulated in music form by the psalmist “the Lord gave them bread from heaven.”
The manna and quails in the desert were not just for the purpose of quenching hunger and thirst but were also momentary and concrete manifestations of God’s perennial presence in the midst of His people and the confirmation of the fact that He never abandons His people. In this same line, the Gospel Reading (Jn 6:24-35) continues part of the narration of the miracle of the feeding of a multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish. In this miracle, God reaffirmed His presence and closeness to His people. However, God’s presence amongst us and His closeness to us goes deeper than these miracles both from the time of Moses and in the ministry of Jesus. This was the mistake of the crowd who began to look for Jesus because they had all the bread they wanted to eat, because of the miracles. They couldn’t look beyond the bread to recognize the identity of the person in their midst. They wanted to trade the momentary for that which lasts forever. To refocus their attention Jesus affirmed “I am the bread of life, he who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.” In the person of Jesus Christ, God’s presence amongst us is definite, and in Him we find the true focus of all the manifestations of God in the History of Salvation. To perpetuate His presence amongst us, Jesus gave Himself to us in the Eucharist commanding us to do this in memory of Him. The Holy Eucharist is the surest and clearest and the most sublime reality of God’s presence in our midst. In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ is present whole and entire together with His soul and divinity under the appearances of bread and wine. In the Holy Eucharist, we experience the most intimate encounter and relationship with God. In the Holy Eucharist, we encounter the Emmanuel, the God with us. What is your attitude towards the Eucharist? To fully partake in the merits of this singular presence of God, in the words of Saint Paul in the Second Reading (Eph 4:17, 20-24) “you must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.” This is actually what it means to be a Christian! This is truly what the presence of God entails!
May we always experience the power of God’s presence amongst us every day of our lives and in this New Month of August; Amen. Happy Sunday and Happy New Month;
– Fr Cyril Unachukwu CCE