Homily for August 2

Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for Homily

The Israelites, freed from servitude in Egypt,
are crossing the desert on the way to the Promised Land and:
They. Are. Hungry.
In fact, they are so hungry that they tell Moses
 “You know what, Moses? We had it better as slaves back in Egypt
where we had bread and meat every day.
Maybe we should have stayed there!”

Do we see, do we understand what’s going on here?
This isn’t just about choices on a menu.  
Here are people:
who would trade in their freedom - for the sake of comfort;
who would surrender their autonomy - in return for pleasure;
who would lay aside their beliefs - in favor of personal satisfaction.

Such an ancient account may at least at first sound primitive to us
but it tells a story very much alive in our own day
and it raises questions for how we live.

What’s at stake in this story?
A willingness to concede freedom, autonomy and belief
in the interest of personal comfort, pleasure and satisfaction.
• Is any other dynamic more powerfully steering moral discourse
in our times than this one?
• Is any argument more closely protected
and more difficult to counter,
than a stand in favor of individual and personal liberty?
• Are any of today’s hot-button issues
NOT  heavily influenced and often decided on just this basis?

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong
with individual and personal liberty.
Christian faith and morals staunchly defend this –
but always, always in the context of our relationship with God.

And our relationship with God speaks directly
to this dynamic in our culture.
Our relationship with God circumscribes our freedom -
in order to protect it for us.
Our relationship with God defines our autonomy –
so that we might be self-giving;
And our relationship with God holds us to live as we believe –
so that order might be preserved and chaos avoided.

- God is not opposed to our comfort
but calls us to comfort others before caring for ourselves.
- God is not opposed to our pleasures
but calls us to find our greatest happiness
in bringing joy to others.
- And God is not opposed to personal satisfaction
but calls us to recognize the Creator
as the source of all our talents,
being careful not to find or take our own satisfaction
at the expense of another’s.

Do you remember hearing last week
of the throng Jesus fed with five barley loaves and two fish?
Some of them are still following Jesus in today’s story.
And Jesus knows they’re looking for more to eat
(they’re hungry!)
but he cautions them not to seek and work
only for food that perishes
but to work for food that nourishes the soul.

What kind of food do you and I work for?
Well, the truth is we do work for food that perishes:
we need to eat and to put food on the table for our families.
And Jesus would have no objection to that.
But he’s asking us if we also work,
if we work as hard,
for food that is truly lasting.

And a good test of that question
would be for each of us to look at:
- how persistently we invest in our own personal freedom;
- how jealously we guard our personal autonomy;
- how honestly we live what we profess to believe.

And an even more telling test would be for us to look at  
how faithfully we allow our relationship with God
- to draw the limits of personal freedom;
- to shape our surrender of self for others;
- to guide us in deferring to God’s word and will
in the choices and decisions we make every day.

In the story from Exodus,
God sends the quail and the manna to feed the hungry Israelites.
Later we’ll read of how they tired of being served
this miraculous food every day,
and began to complain that it was “wretched food.”
A perfect example of comfort, pleasure and personal satisfaction
trumping a people’s relationship with God.

In the gospel Jesus offers us food
greater than the “manna in the desert.”
He offers us “bread from heaven” which he promises
will give us life that will never perish.
It’s that very Bread
with which Jesus will feed us today, at his table.
Our Eucharist is the Bread of which he spoke.

forgoing all comfort, pleasure and personal satisfaction,
generously and graciously allowed
- his freedom to be stripped from him;
- and his personal autonomy to be nailed to the Cross
- so that his faithfulness might be our peace.

What he offered for us on the Cross
he offers us today in the Sacrament of this altar.
Come to his table and eat the Bread of Life
and drink from the Cup of Salvation
for this, indeed, is the food God offers us
 “which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”


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