Sunday Sermon for August 5, 2018, 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 St. Paul says we are no longer to live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. He goes on to say this is not how we learned Christ. In the Gospel Jesus is asked by the crowds what they must do to accomplish the works of God. Our Lord responds: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the One He sent.” This is similar to the answer our Lord gave regarding eternal life: “To know You, the One true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.”
Belief in and knowledge of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, is something very personal. In other words, it is not just knowing about God as we can gain from reading a catechism, nor is it simple belief in the existence of God. To know the Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ, requires entering into a deep and profound relationship with them. It would certainly be true to say this happens through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
If we know the Lord, we can no longer live like the Gentiles because to know God, Who is love, truth, and life, requires that we conform ourselves to Him. We will not want to sin because it offends the One we love; we will not want to live according to secular norms because they violate the truth; we will reject worldly ways because they lead to both spiritual and eternal death. Recall the words of our Lord when He said: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus is the Truth and only in Him do we find true freedom, i.e., freedom from sin and death, freedom to live as the children of God. When we look around our society today we see willful slavery to a variety of sins: drugs, sex, failure to keep the Sabbath holy, selfishness, materialism, pleasure seeking of whatever kind. The worldly way of looking at things tells us that all this pleasure and the abundance of material goods should make us happy. However, the latest studies show that the happiness of people in America has dropped to an all-time low.
We are not interested only in happiness, but in joy. Happiness comes and goes with external events, but joy is a virtue that remains. The Saints were joyful in the midst of persecutions and sufferings. They may not have been happy about some of the things they had to deal with, but they remained joyful. Now, ask yourself how many truly joyful people do you know? Our lack of joy is due to living in a certain futility of the mind which seeks the self instead of seeking to love. This is the seeking of deceitful desires, as St. Paul calls them.
St. Paul directs us to be renewed in the spirit of our minds and to put on a new self, created in God’s way of righteousness and holiness of truth. We have to make an effort to know the truth, but we also have to make an effort to know Him Who is Truth. When the people ask Jesus to give them always the bread of God that comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world, He tells them “I am the Bread of Life, whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.”
We have been renewed in Christ, but we have to make the choice to come to Him in order to know Him. Too many people today have rejected the Eucharist because they are not able to see our Lord with their eyes. In this way they see the Blessed Sacrament as being less than the Manna the people of Israel ate in the desert. I say this because at least the Manna was recognized as something miraculous, God intervening in the world to feed His people. But the bread for the Eucharist is made by natural means with nothing miraculous about it.
Once again, this is the futility of the mind. We have accepted the lie that “seeing is believing;” the only things that are real are the things we can see. Even worse, we now have a generation that thinks with its emotions and, since we cannot feel Jesus truly present in the Eucharist, we reject the truth of the Real Presence because we have no subjective visceral experience of Him.
Jesus is there, waiting silently and passively for us to come to Him. Belief in Him leads to love of Him, and the more we know Him and love Him, the more we will be conformed to Him and the greater will be our joy. This is the new self, created in God’s way of 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 www.thewandererpress.com.