Commentary: 18th Sunday Year B

First Reading: Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15
2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

“This account of bread from heaven shows both Israel’s impatience with the Lord and the Lord’s supreme patience with Israel. The historical basis is that God cared for his people and provided them with food during a generation’s wandering in the savagely inhospitable desert of Sinai, a huge, infertile expanse of rock and sand, where virtually nothing grows. This care is focused on manna, a sweet substance excreted from bushes on Sinai in a way Israel found miraculous.” — Wansbrough, H. (2012). The Sunday Word: A Commentary on the Sunday Readings (p. 207). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Response: Psalm 78:24b
24he rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven.
Psalm: Psalm 78:3–4, 23–25, 54
3things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us. 4We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 23Yet he commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; 24he rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven. 25Mortals ate of the bread of angels; he sent them food in abundance. 54And he brought them to his holy hill, to the mountain that his right hand had won.
Second Reading: Ephesians 4:17, 20–24
17 Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 20 That is not the way you learned Christ! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

What does all this talk of ‘new creation’ amount to in real terms? First, it poses the question whether we have really been renewed. Are my values and attitudes radically new as a Christian? Do they differ from the priorities that I would have without Christianity? Particularly with regard to the Body of Christ and its ministries, do I play my part in the web of Christian activities that go to make up the Christian community? Do I really exercise my talents in a way that builds up the community? — Wansbrough, H. (2012). The Sunday Word: A Commentary on the Sunday Readings (p. 208). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Gospel: John 6:24–35
24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?

The crowd asks Jesus for a sign, and this is strange. Isn’t this the same crowd that he fed the day before with five loaves and two fish (cf. John 6:1-14)? Didn’t they say at the time, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” (John 6:14)? Didn’t Jesus have to escape from them since they wanted to make him king (cf. John 6:15)? Sometimes, I’m the same way. There is an abundance of things that Jesus has done for me. At the moment they happen, I receive them with joy. Perhaps I am grateful, but more often than not, I don’t give Jesus enough credit. And even if I do thank him, on the following day (sometimes even sooner), I seem to have forgotten. And I go on asking more favors. Maybe I have the attitude that he never does anything for me. How can I be so dense to not grasp all the signs of love that he shows me every day? (Regnum Christi Daily Reflections)

31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

The crowd quotes Scripture to Jesus, trying to get him to multiply more loaves: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (Psalm 78:24) They are looking for their own material benefit and want him to do a miracle that will feed them every day, like the manna in the desert that fed their forefathers for forty years. Yet their own words condemn them. Psalm 78 is about the hard-heartedness of their forefathers in the desert despite the manna and other signs the Lord worked for them: “And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved…. In spite of all this they still sinned; they did not believe in his wonders” (Psalm 78:29, 32). Doesn’t Jesus deal with me at least as well as he did with the Israelites in the wilderness? Hasn’t he always been on hand to help me? (Regnum Christi Daily Reflections)

32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

They are asking for more ordinary bread. Jesus promises them something better – bread to feed the spirit. He starts by talking about ordinary things and then elevates the conversation to more spiritual things. We are well aware how much we need certain everyday things, like bread. Jesus is trying to help us see we need something to feed us spiritually just as much – if not more. The crowd ate yesterday and was satisfied yesterday. Today, they are hungry again, and come again to Jesus hoping to be given something like manna that will feed them every day, so they won’t have to worry about ordinary hunger again. Jesus goes beyond that and speaks to them of a bread that is coming, a bread that will feed them spiritually so that they will never have to hunger spiritually again. He gives them something far better than what they ask for: the bread of his own body. (Regnum Christi Daily Reflections)

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