Homily for Eighteenth Sunday B

Manna from heavenThe Israelites have very interesting history. They were slaves in Egypt, but liberated by God using Moses and Aaron. He made a way for them through the sea and led them out of the land of slavery, but they complained against Moses and Aaron. They complained of lack of food in the desert and therefore desired to go back to Egypt where they claimed to have at least enough to eat. The Israelites were about making the same mistake Esau made when he sold his birthright to Jacob for a plate of pottage (Gen. 25:29-34); the people of Israel were about to sell their right, their freedom, their blessings and their future to the Egyptians for food. But they were later reminded in Deuteronomy 8:3 that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.

The Israelites were led out of the land of slavery by the mighty hands of God; yet, there was something still very attractive to the people of Israel in that land of slavery, there was something making the people still want to go back. That is what happens to so many Christians today; they found themselves in some form of bondage, and even though they’ve been liberated from it, they still find something attractive about that former way of life. The devil keep making them feel the need to go back for just a taste. Beware, its a trap. If the Lord has liberated you from the bondage of drunkenness, do not be attracted by the sight of a bottle of bear. Do not be attracted back to your Egypt, hold onto what St. Paul says in our second reading today. You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.

The devil wants you back to “Egypt”, but God wants you in the promised land through the desert. The desert or wilderness may be regarded as a deserted area, but it is spiritually a place where God provides and sustains his people with power. Amidst the dryness and deserted nature of the wilderness, God provided for his people. He rained down bread from heaven for them to eat and sends quails as meat. The hunger they experienced was not a sign of God’s inability to provide for them but a form of discipline (Gen.8). The desert or wilderness therefore is a place God trains his people to learn to be the children of God. It is a place God speaks tenderly to his people (Hosea 2:14), a place of divine encounter. That is where God wants you and not Egypt where you have all to eat, yet remain a slave. No matter how dry your “desert” is at the moment, it is far better than your “Egypt”. The Lord can rain down “bread” for you and send “quails”.

The word is mana from heavenThe Egyptian food only satisfied their physical hunger, and even the manna or the bread God rained down in the desert was also to satisfy their physical need of food. There is a different kind of hunger these food cannot satisfy, that is why Jesus said in our gospel reading; Don not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of man is offering you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal. Jesus is the real bread from heaven.

The people looked for Jesus because they had all they wanted to eat, not because they believed him. In the desert they wanted to go back to Egypt, not because they love the Egyptians but because they had all they wanted to eat. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob not because he loves his brother so much, but because he had all he wanted to eat. So many Christians are led astray today because the devil is giving them all they want to eat, they want to remain in “Egypt” because of comfort. But Jesus tells us today that he is the real food from heaven, not the one they ate in the desert. He is the food that satisfies spiritual hunger, he is the food, the real bread that endures to eternal life.

bread and wineAt Mass we have the opportunity to eat the real bread from heaven; the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist God is present; body, Soul and Divinity. The Eucharist is God’s gift of himself to the Church and he invites us to become what we eat. It is not like the manna in the desert given to satisfy physical hunger, the Eucharist is given to satisfy our spiritual hunger. It is not the food eaten with just mouth, but with faith.

As we celebrate this Sunday, let us renew our commitment to follow Jesus not because of mere food, but because he is the only way to the Father.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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