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Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

eucharistA reading from the Book of Exodus
(Chapter 16: 2-4,12-15)
How could all this happen—bread in the morning and quail in the evening? Of course, we have no idea, except that through thousands of years this story has been told. Scientists and scripture scholars have made numerous suggestions, but the fact remains that this story has strengthened the faith of millions of people throughout the centuries. The point of the story is simple. God takes care of his people, is faithful to his people, even when they are doubtful, complaining, and angry. God’s people have often been unfaithful and have done horrible deeds. We have lost our way.
But God has never forsaken us, and we always come back to him through the power of his mercy and forgiveness. Has that been true in your life as well or in the lives of your loved ones? We do not live in perfection, we live in faith and forgiveness, and we continue to be nourished by the bread of life in the Eucharist.
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 78:3-4,23-24,25,54)
“The Lord gave them bread from heaven” (verse 24b). Today, we too will receive the bread from heaven. Let us rejoice as we receive the Body of Christ.
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 4:17,20-24)
Paul writes to the Ephesians, most of whom were Gentile converts, “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (verse 17). He is addressing new converts who all too easily might slip back into their old ways. After all, life as a Christian is new to them, a different way of life, a turning away from the old ways. It is also exciting to them, as though their minds and hearts have been suddenly opened to a whole new horizon. “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (verses 23-24).
“Put on the new self.” Have you ever wanted to do that—get rid of some of your worst fears and self-doubts; find that place “deep within” that you have glimpsed from time to time, perhaps when you were younger, or maybe just yesterday? It is there within you, within each of us. It is a gift, a gift of the Spirit. You and I need only to ask, to open our minds and hearts, and to never give up, to continue our journey into the ever-embracing power of the love of Jesus through his Spirit within us. Our “new self” is already there, struggling to emerge in the midst of our weakness as we continue to call it forth in faith and an enduring hope.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:24-35)
The story of God giving his people manna in the desert was still a powerful reminder at the time of Jesus of God’s care for his people. So, when Jesus fed the multitude, they were amazed and impressed, and then followed Jesus. He challenged them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal” (verses 26-27).
Now, Jesus has their attention and an amazing back-and-forth begins. The people ask him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one that he sent.” They reply, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?” Jesus reminds them that it was “God my Father” not Moses who fed them in the dessert. “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” Now, they are excited and they ask Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Then Jesus gives them the real answer: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (cf. verses 28-35).
You and I gather at church on Sundays to be together, to hear the word of God, and especially to receive this Bread of Life, the very person of Jesus himself under the visible appearances of bread and wine. We are nourished, renewed, filled once again with the very presence of Jesus. It is so easy to take this all for granted. We have done it hundreds and hundreds of times, and yet it is always new, always regenerating for our deepest selves, beyond all those fears and doubts, into the joy of his loving presence.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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