Sunday Sermon for August 2, 2015, the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35
In the second reading today St. Paul calls his Ephesian converts to a deeper conversion, emphatically stating: “I declare in the Lord.” He could not have used any language that would have been stronger to make his point. And what was the point? “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” Such a way of thinking, he makes clear, is in opposition to Christ.

Today we live in a society that has rejected the ways of Christ and has reverted to pagan ways. Tragically, many Catholics have followed in that way which is antithetical to the Catholic way of life. In order to understand this a bit better, we can ask what it means to live a Catholic way of life. St. Paul says that we have to put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth. It is precisely with regard to this point of truth that St. Paul also states that we need to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. Our minds are made for truth and the truth will set us free.

In opposition, St. Paul says speaks of the old self and the old way of life as being corrupted through deceitful desires. So we have the futility of the mind linked with the corruption of deceitful desires and the renewal of the mind as God’s way of righteousness and holiness of truth. This means that the truth for which our minds were created is corrupted through deceitful desires.

This makes sense if we consider the inner workings of the human soul. The soul, according to St. Thomas, has two faculties: the mind and the will. The mind presents various possibilities to the will and the will is supposed to choose the highest good. Unfortunately, we all know that in our weakness, we can get confused and suddenly things that are not even good can be considered as a great good. Just think of a drug addict as an extreme example. Clearly, the meth or cocaine is not good for the person, but they are addicted and their body screams out for a fix. Their mind may even present getting off of the drugs as a good, but the will rejects that and chooses whatever may be necessary in order to obtain more drugs.

The same principle holds in less extreme cases as well. We have all experienced it hundreds of times in our own lives where we choose something that is obviously not the greatest good, or even a real good at all. However, at the time we saw it as being “good.” This can be an issue when topics related to morality come up: contraception, homosexual “marriage,” Communion for people in a non Sacramental marriage, etc. Some people have fallen prey to the societal norms and the truth has been corrupted by error. Others believe the truth, but they have allowed themselves to compromise “in order to get along.”

Whatever the reason, it is always comes down to a matter of self interest. Just look at the first reading as well as the Gospel today. In the first reading we hear the people in the desert grumbling against Moses and Aaron; in reality they were grumbling against God. They were hungry and seeking food. That is all understandable, but they failed to have faith in God Who had shown Himself so powerful in all He had done for them. In the Gospel it is even worse: after all the miracles Jesus had worked, and the feeding of 5000 with a few loaves of bread and a few fish which He had just worked, the people were interested only in themselves and wanted Jesus to feed them always.

We see in these people the same thing that happens in us: the objective truth is set aside in favor of our subjective desires. In other words, the thing which corrupts the truth is our selfishness. In the context of the Gospel reading which provides the foundation for the Eucharist, we can ask about our participation at Mass. So often we hear things like “I don’t get anything out of it,” or “It’s so boring.” In other words, it is all about me. We get Jesus in the Eucharist; the sacrifice of Calvary is taking place and that is not boring. In these examples we can see where the ways of the world have infiltrated right into the Mass.

The truth is that we are there to love Jesus; Jesus is there to love us. There is nothing greater, nothing less boring. It is in this kind of a way that we have to reject the futility of the pagan ways of thinking and have our minds renewed in righteousness and holiness of truth.

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