Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Exodus 16:2-4,12-15
Ephesians 4:17,20-24
John 6:24-35

Most of us have to admit that we have little opportunity to impact the global economy and less faith in the ability of the federal government to help us balance our checkbooks or pay our mortgages. At the same time, the thought that there are those without checkbooks who have lost their homes and are looking for shelter prickles our consciences.

We live in a complex society and can easily admit that the luxuries of another generation have become the necessities of today. Our wants have become our needs.  Accepting the challenge of today’s liturgy will enable us to respond to the real needs of our society.

The complaining Israelites must have felt somewhat like many Americans do today. We can imagine their frustration when the Lord agreed to feed them only day by day. God would not allow them to stockpile their resources. They would have to trust the Lord to continue to provide. Each day and God’s action would be a reminder of their real needs.

Many today have discovered the meaning of living from payday to payday if not from day to day. This is indeed a precarious position for them. The balance between trusting in providence and using the gifts that the Lord gives seems risky. How will they meet their everyday needs? The answer lies in the community accepting that challenge first.  

Our own sense of Gospel poverty and our need to trust in God encourages us to address the very real material needs of the larger community. We are being asked to live simply so others can simply live.  
The message of the Gospel is similar with the added reminder to look at just why we follow Jesus. Is it because we are looking for him to do for us what we ought to be doing for one another? Like those first followers are we asking, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?”  The followers of Jesus were altogether too comfortable with allowing him to provide for them what they could provide for themselves. He had fed them once, and they returned to him for more of the same. He saw that they sought him for what he could provide rather than for the simple love they ought to have had for him and his preaching. He asked them to look beyond the needs of that moment toward the future — to a time when food and drink would not be their first concern.

At this Eucharist, we promise that we will seek new ways to bring the world to an awareness of its greater needs. We will find a way to provide bread for the world today so all might be united tomorrow. This is the challenge of our future. The call to Gospel poverty that we hear in today’s readings challenges the values we esteem without question…productivity, self-reliance, and competition. Gospel poverty challenges us to be totally open to God’s grace, to model ourselves in the image of Jesus, to place our hope in the Lord rather than in material goods. This is not the poverty of the inner city, of the poorly fed and housed, of the vulnerable and disenfranchised in our society. Gospel poverty is the result of choice — the determination to identify oneself with Christ. It is a choice to spend oneself in the service of the Gospel. Too often, this is a choice that the materially poor cannot make. They are, ironically, too materially poor to choose to be poor in the Lord.

 At this Holy Mass, we gather to discover once more what is lasting and worthwhile. The Lord continually assures us that nothing will separate us from his love. Our sense of Gospel poverty encourages us to address the needs of the human community. The Lord provides what only he can give. He gives life to his people and fulfills the promises of David. For this, we give thanks and praise.