Homily, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bread of Life

19th Sunday of the Year B -- August 8, 2021 -- Msgr Joseph K. Ntuwa

Readings: 1 Kings 19:4-8, Ephesians 4:30-5:2, John 6:41-51

This is the third week that we have been listening to St John's discourse on the bread of life, and still the crowd are struggling to understand what Jesus is talking about. Probably, the preacher too is struggling to find something new to say! One can understand why the people find it hard to comprehend. They are murmuring because the Lord has described himself as the bread that came down from heaven. They think Jesus has no right to say this since they know his parents, Mary and Joseph Jesus silences the murmurers by saying; “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him.”

Just think about this! If you had been alive when Jesus walked the earth, would you have believed in him? If you had seen him with your own eyes and heard him speak, would you have followed him? Would you have left behind your old ideas about religion and society to put faith in a man who claimed to not only be the Messiah but the Son of God?

These questions help us to understand some of the struggles the people of Jesus’ day must have faced when confronted with his preaching. He claimed not only to know God but to be God. For this reason, so many people of his day had trouble understanding and believing in him. Nonetheless, many did come to believe in Jesus. Many left their jobs and families to follow him. And after he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, many gave their lives to spread the Gospel. How were Jesus’ disciples different from the crowds that rejected him and later called for him to be crucified?

Jesus speaks about this in today’s Gospel. Believing in him is a gift from the Father. As Jesus puts it;  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him…” Those who accepted Jesus’ teaching and followed him did so because they had been given faith directly from God. It was not because they were smarter than everyone else or better people. For some mysterious reason known only to God Himself, they received a special gift of faith. The same is true for us in our day. Why is it that the Gospel message is so compelling to us? Why is it that many of us have changed our lives in radical ways to live up to the ideal life in Christ? Well, at the same time, we see a world with so many people who have rejected Jesus and his Church. We see so much hostility to the Gospel message even among our family members and friends.

Why are we different? We might be tempted to believe that we are better people than those who refuse to accept the Gospel, but that would not be what Our Lord taught. The simple fact is that, for some mysterious reason, we have been given the light of faith whereas others have not or have been given less light than we enjoy.

Faith is a gift. It is not something we have achieved or a title we have earned. It comes to us directly from the Father. Therefore, none of us can boast about it. It should not be a source of pride for us, or a reason for us to have a judgmental attitude toward those who seem to lack faith. We could just as easily not have been given this gift. There are many people we know who struggle in their faith.  So, the only proper response for us is to humbly accept the Word and live it with the grace that comes from God.

If we have been given this gift, we will be accountable to God about how we’ve put it to use. Have we loved others, served the poor, counseled the doubtful, and guided the lost by the light we have received? We have been given the greatest treasure of all — faith in the Son of God, the Bread of life in the Eucharist.  How are we putting that gift to use to draw others to Jesus?

Elijah in today’s first reading got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.  The true food and drink which Christ gives us in himself leads us out of the deserts where weakness saps our will. On the strength of this food, we will walk all the way to the mountain of God, namely eternal life.

 

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