Sunday, 5 August 2018 : Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday of the Lord, we listened from the Scriptures, through which we heard about the Lord Who fed His people with food, to sustain them through life, beginning from the time of the Exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites traversed the desert for forty years in order to reach the Promised Land. They took so long on the journey because they disobeyed the Lord and refused to believe in Him. They made complaints after complaints, that the Lord punished them for their disobedience.

But God never intended for them to be destroyed, and He never wanted to punish them unless it was necessary for Him to do so. When He punished them, He was like a father who disciplines his children, wanting them to be developing well and not be spoilt by their own lack of discipline and understanding of what it means to grow up into a good and obedient child. God was doing what was necessary to ensure that His children would not end up falling further into sin.

The Israelites were swayed by the ways of their neighbours and those they have encountered during their journey, including that of their Egyptian former slave-masters. Although their ancestors and they themselves worshipped the one and only True God Who has brought them out of slavery, but the love of gold and worldly pleasures tempted them into sin, as they could not resist the temptation of gold and the wealth of the world, when they carried off many golden vessels and items given to them by the Egyptians.

They ended up making the golden image of a calf, likely modelled after the pagan gods of the Egyptians, and claimed it to be their god. They would rather worship an empty, human-made idol made by human hands rather than the One Who created all of them and the entire universe, the One Who had also shown His might and power before them, by His ten plagues and the many miracles which He had performed in their midst.

And that is the story behind what happened to the people of Israel, and why they constantly sinned against God, grumbling and complaining, because they sought worldly pleasures and they wanted to satisfy their body’s desires. They felt the urge of their bodies to satisfy themselves with food and sustenance of this world, and when they could not get what they wanted, they rebelled against God Who has loved them so much.

But against these people, these unfaithful and ever ungrateful children, God was ever patient and loving, and He provided them with food, food from heaven itself, the bread called the manna, as well as large flock of birds that flew into the encampment of the people of Israel. They had enough food to eat, for not just a short moment of time, but for the entire forty years period of their journey. They were well taken care of, and when they were thirsty in the middle of the desert, God gave them crystal clear water to drink.

Last Sunday, we also heard about God Who fed His people, especially the Lord Jesus Who fed the multitudes of the five thousand men and countless more women and children. He blessed and broke the bread that miraculously were able to feed all of them, despite there was being only five loaves present, and with twelve baskets of leftovers. God loved His people, and He knew of their hunger, and that was why He fed them with food, to make sure that they did not suffer from the hunger.

However, today, it is reminded to each and every one of us, that we have received an infinitely greater gift of sustenance from God, one that does not merely satisfy just the hunger of our physical bodies. On the contrary, this perfect gift from God satisfies all of our needs, fulfilling our hearts, minds, souls and indeed, our entire being. This gift is none other than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, the Most Holy Eucharist.

Today, all of us are reminded that Christ Our Lord is the Bread of Life, as He Himself mentioned in the Gospel passage we have today. And this life is not just the earthly life and existence which we have now, but true life, that is everlasting, our eternal existence with God. Just as we need to eat food in order to sustain ourselves bodily and physically, and how those who lack food will eventually die, without the Bread of Life, we will perish eternally and suffer an eternity of true death.

Now, brothers and sisters, do we all realise just how beloved and fortunate each and every one of us have been? We are truly very fortunate and blessed to have God, Our loving Father, Who devoted Himself to our care and to our whole well-being. Just as He had taken care of the people of Israel every single day for forty years in the desert, He has also taken care of every single one of us.

First of all, He gave us life, so that we can live in this world. He gave us opportunities, one after another, to find our way and path to Him. And then, He gave us the promise of eternal life through His Passion, suffering and death on the cross. He gave us nothing less than His own life, so that we can live. And not just any life, but life of eternity, and an eternity of loving existence with God, through the sharing in His Body and Blood.

The Holy Mass is as we know it, the sacrifice of the Lord on Calvary which is happening at every moment the priest offers up the bread and the wine, and relating what happened at the Last Supper, when the Lord Jesus said, “Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is My Body…” and also “Take this all of you and drink of it, for this is the chalice of My Blood…” It is the same sacrifice of Our Lord that we participate in, and the same Body and Blood which He has given to His disciples at the Last Supper.

It is the essence and reality of bread and wine that has been completely transformed by the priest, in persona Christi, by His power and through the Holy Spirit, into the Lord’s own Body and Blood, which we receive as the sign of our reception of the Lord into ourselves and our Communion with the whole body of the Universal Church. The Lord Himself has come into us, in flesh and blood, and we took Him into our own body, which has then become God’s Holy Temple.

Unfortunately, there are still quite a few of us who do not realise this truth, or that they chose to ignore this fact. Many of us do not show the proper reverence to the Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, treating it nothing more than receiving and consuming a piece of bread. And many of us treat the Eucharist lightly and even with contempt, by the way that we receive the Lord.

What do I mean by that, brothers and sisters in Christ? We all know that the Lord is truly present in the Eucharist, but yet, some of us come to receive Him when we are not in a proper state to receive Him, meaning that we are not in a state of grace. We committed all sorts of mortal and serious sins, and yet, we come to receive the Lord with our sins without repentance and without regret for them.

Now, this is a serious sin against God and a scandal for our Church and our faith. St. Paul reminded us all through his Epistle to the Corinthians that each and every one of us is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling place of God Himself. And it is therefore right and just for us to make sure that we keep this Temple holy and clean from defilement. Yet, many of us have defiled God’s holy Temple by our own sins and by our own refusal to repent.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore let us all reflect on our own lives. Let us all look again at all the things we have done in life thus far, both good and evil, and think of whether we have done what we should have done as the followers of Christ, or whether we have wandered off far away from God’s path. Let us all seek to rediscover the true purpose of our lives, that is to serve God and to glorify Him.

Let us all distance ourselves from the many idols and distractions present in our lives, so that we will no longer fall into the same predicament as that of the Israelites. Let us all distance ourselves from all these distractions and temptations, and do our very best to love the Lord from now on. God has loved each and every one of us so much that we could not have existed and lived without Him. We must repent from our sins and truly regret all the wicked things we have done in His presence.

Are we thankful to God Who has loved us and given us what we need in life? Have we taken His love for granted, and even betrayed Him or else abandoned Him for something we deemed to be better than Him, when He has done everything He could to provide for us and to give us His love, that He gave us nothing less than His life, bearing His cross and die for us? Should we not love Him with the same generosity and conviction in love?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to turn to the Lord, Our God, with a renewed sense of purpose and with a new commitment, to love Him with all of our hearts, with all of our minds and with all of our might. He, the Bread of Life, has given us so much, for our sake, that now, we have to also love Him in the same way, devoting ourselves to Him, from now onwards.

May the Lord, Who gave us life and Who loves us dearly, continue to bless us and to be with us, every single day of our lives, that we may continue to draw ever closer to Him, and to love Him with ever greater passion, through our every actions, words and deeds. Let us all have the Lord as the centre and focus of our lives, that we may no longer be separated with Him, but growing ever more intimate in our relationship with Him, day after day.

O Lord, Bread of Life, be with us always, and dwell within our hearts that we may be sanctified by Your presence. May all of us be holy just as You are holy, in our every words, in our every dealings with others, and in how we show the same love You have shown us from the beginning of time, to one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in You, Our loving Father. Amen.

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