Monday, August 06, 2012

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 5, 2012

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15, 31
Second Reading: Ephesians 4:17-24
Gospel:  John 6:24-35

To start the shared homily, I will just share a few thoughts on each of the readings and give a brief discussion of what questions the readings raised for me.

When I looked at today's readings, the idea of gift kept echoing in my mind.  The first reading from the Exodus tells us that the Israelites quickly forgot God's gift of freedom from Egyptian oppression as they began their journey in the desert.  It tells how our loving God sent heavenly bread and meat to feed them when they complained they had no food.  I think it is important to situate this reading in the context of the whole chapter in which it appears.  You see, the only requests God made was that they should gather enough to eat and that they not try to save any of the bread or meat for the next day.  However, some of them did not heed the Creator's instructions and gathered more than the needed and tried to hoard what they did not eat.  When they did, scripture tells us that their hoardings "bred worms and became foul."   They did not trust in God’s love or beneficence.  This happened a few times until the Israelites finally got it.  

The second reading tells us that Jesus taught us how to live as beings Created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  In Spanish translations of the scriptures the word righteousness is translated as justice.  The word holiness comes from an Old English word meaning "wholeness", which denotes the presence of sacredness in an object, being, person, place or idea.  So, we could say that we are created in God's image and gifted with a sense of justice and the spark of the Divine.  Therefore, knowing this, we are not to act like those who are unaware of who they are and Whose they are.
In the today's Gospel, we are again faced with people who do not realize the gifts they have been given.  They have just witnessed the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.  They see Jesus on the other side of the lake and they know he didn't get there by boat.  Jesus knows they are looking for him not because they recognized the gift of witnessing miraculous events but because they were looking for more food.  Parker Palmer suggests that the miracle was not literally a multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  Rather, that Jesus got those present, who had food with them, to share their food with the others.  When they did this, there was enough for everyone.  This would be no less a miracle.

Jesus recognizes that they have not learned or appreciated what they have just experienced.  He tries to tell them to put their efforts into what is life-giving.  By the exchange between Jesus and the people, we know that they are familiar with the scriptures.  So they know the word of God but seem to be unaware that the Torah and the Prophets, like the gospel, actually call upon us to act.  The Creator has told us what is good; and what is required of us: to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.

The people who had this verbal exchange with Jesus are like many of us.  We may know this or that passage or parable, but don't really want to do what is it calling us to do.  For example, I said that these readings spoke to me of gift, that is, of the gifts that God gives to us.  I ask myself, how often have I refused to share these gifts?  I'm not speaking of financial gifts; these are easy, relatively speaking.  Rather, I'm speaking of the gifts of our time, talents, knowledge, of small kindnesses and considerateness.  Also, I ask, how often have I not given my all?  How often am I short with those close to me and generous to those I'm trying to impress or influence?  Do I not share myself because I'm afraid I won’t look as good, as talented, or as knowledgeable as another?

God doesn't ask us to be perfect but as the second reading says, we should be restrained in our wants, take no more than we need, and practice our faith in a way that is not watered down.  I say this because the second reading mentions licentiousness, greed and impurity.  I want to think beyond the headlines and the Catholic preoccupation with the sexual.  Licentious also means unrestrained; and, impure also means adulterated or watered down.   If we look at this reading through this changed lens of meaning, it has individual as well as social, economic and climate justice implications.  Showing our thankfulness and appreciation of God's gifts to us includes sharing our gifts.  This has implications for us as individuals, and, as participants in our political, social and economic structures.

Please share your own thoughts on any of the readings.

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