Sunday Sermon for August 5, 2012, the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35

Last week we saw how St. John begins the sixth chapter of his Gospel by showing that Jesus is the Prophet and the Messiah and, as such, He is greater than Moses or any of the prophets. Today we come to the heart of the matter that demonstrates the true and absolute greatness of our Lord.

The people had seen the sign that Jesus performed in feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes, He walked across the Sea of Galilee, and now they ask Him what sign He is going to perform so that they may see and believe. One must ask what else would He need to do before they would begin to believe in Him.

Our Lord, however, uses this as an opportunity to point out that Moses did not give the people of old the bread from Heaven; rather, God gave them this bread. In the first reading we hear about the initial reception of this bread which was like flakes of hoarfrost on the desert floor. The people asked “Manna?” That is, “What is it?” It was not immediately recognizable as the bread God was giving them to sustain His people in the desert.

Now our Lord tells us that the bread God gives not only gives life to His chosen people, but this bread gives life to the world. When the people ask for this bread Jesus responds “I am the Bread of Life.” He is the true Bread sent from the Father so that we might eat and live.

You and I both know that this Bread from Heaven is still present among us in the Holy Eucharist. The difficulty for us is that it is not immediately recognizable as God Himself, the Bread that sustains us to life eternal. One might expect that if this is truly God there should be some extraordinary signs accompanying His presence. Instead, He remains hidden among us asking for an act of faith.

This faith, He tells us in the Gospel is exactly what we are to be working for. Our Lord tells us that we are not to work for bread that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life. When the people inquired about this Jesus answered that the work of God is to believe in the One He sent. This does not mean simply believing that God became man in Jesus 2000 years ago, but also that He remains among us in the Blessed Sacrament.

This faith is not merely a matter of believing a series of propositions, but it is believing in a Person. Once again, it is not merely the acknowledgement that God exists or even that Jesus is both God and man, but going beyond what we can grasp with our minds and entering into a relationship with the Person in Whom we believe.

St. Paul tells us in the second reading that if we have been taught the truth as it is in Jesus, then we need to change our lives. He goes on to say that we need to put away the old self of our former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and put on our new self created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.

In other words, we have to stop living as if we do not believe in Jesus and begin living a truly Christian life. Our minds need to be formed by the truth, but our hearts or our wills need to be formed so that we put that truth into practice. This is the new self created in God’s way; if we live according to what we profess we will live righteous and holy lives.

Unfortunately, many of us have been fallen into the trap of thinking that we have to be like everyone else. We might even go so far as to point out that some of these people believe in Jesus and live worldly lives. This would be acknowledging the truth with our minds, but not embracing it in our hearts.

If we are to live as persons created in God’s way, then our lives need to be an extension of the life of Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, Who shows us the way to live Godly lives. God wants us to be holy. Do we really want to be holy? Do we really want to be righteous in our dealings with others? This is the difference between the old self and the new self, the difference between a pagan and a Christian. Work for the food that endures to life eternal: believe in the One Whom God has sent, the One Who remains among us in the Holy Eucharist.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit