August 5, 2012 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Ps 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54; Eph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35
The Lord’s generosity knows no bounds, just as His love for us is unconditional and everlasting. It does not spring forth from some deserving act of our own, as if He owes it to us to be generous with His gifts — nor does He expect anything in return. The Lord gives, and He gives generously, solely because He loves us. Thus, it is our duty as disciples to live lives of gratitude to God for all He has given us. But His generosity is in no way bound to our responsibility to live gratefully or, for that matter, to our ability to actually do so.
As today’s readings show us, God gives and gives and gives — regardless of our response, and regardless of our attitude toward Him. He gives of Himself, and He gives out of love — pure and simple.
Today’s first reading begins with the Israelites’ ingratitude. God had just used Moses and Aaron to lead them out of slavery in Egypt. Yet, all they could focus on was their current lack of food. But despite their poor attitudes and their utter ungratefulness, the Lord continued to work wonders for them. He continued to give of Himself out of love for them.
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you … I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your full of bread.”
Then, when He does rain down heavenly bread for them, there is more than they could ever consume. He gives beyond measure.
Likewise, when we reflect on today’s Gospel, we see the Lord give Himself abundantly — over and above what the people deserve or even what they expect.
The people are looking for Jesus because they were awed by His miraculous multiplication of the loaves. They believe in His power. But Jesus tells them, “Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures for eternal life …”
Not understanding His point, the people press Jesus.
“What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the dessert … ”
And Jesus responds, ” … My Father gives you the true bread from Heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world … I am the bread of life.”
Here again, the Lord’s gift of Himself far surpasses expectations and is beyond anything we deserve. In His Eucharistic gift, Christ gives us the bread of life — a bread not as man understands it, but a heavenly bread. It is so much more than bread that physically nourishes. In the Eucharist, Christ offers us Himself — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — so that we might have life in Him. It is so much more than we deserve. But it is true that the Eucharist IS Jesus Himself, and He invites us to partake of it, to take Him into our very bodies on a daily basis. And He promises, “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Generous and loving as He is, the Lord provides for all of our needs. He gives us Himself as nourishment. His blessings, in every area of our lives, are beyond measure. How will we respond?
It is our duty as Christ’s disciples to give ourselves to Him in gratitude, to live for Him and show forth His glory.
There is no way we can repay the Lord for His love and generosity, nor does He expect us to. But we can, and certainly should, show Him our gratitude.