Homily for the 18th Sunday in ordinary Time
Dearly Beloved, I remember this dog in our neighborhood when growing up in Ghana. Most dogs do not live inside the main buildings as you do have here. They live within the compound and can go out by themselves and come home when hungry to eat unless the owner put it in chains. One of our neighbors had a dog who every morning would hang around the main street and chase after every car that passed by, until it was one day, knocked down by one of those cars. We all wondered why it was hunting cars. I know some of you in your neighborhoods have similar experiences.
I say this story to remind ourselves of how at times we spend time and energy on the very thing that is leading us to destruction. Jesus did not mince words telling the crowd who were looking for him,
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal."
So they said to him,
"What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"
Jesus answered and said to them,
"This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."
The work of God is to believe in his only begotten son. There is no question about “work”. You definitely have to “work” and live for something. Human as we are, there will always be the ardent desire and thirst for meaning. There will always be the feeling of inadequacy, emptiness, weakness, etc. There will always be the lookout for something more than ourselves to actually see ourself living. Take some time to look at yourself; do you think all is well with you or are you working hard to survive each passing day? What three things do you wish for that will bring an end to whatever problem or desire you have now? Permit me to ask you, will your situation and your problem be solved if your wife or husband begins to love you back and do the exact things you want? Will your problems be solved when you get that job or promotion with that salary increase, will you be okay if you succeed in getting your dream body? Tell me what those things are and I will ask God to get them for you as he granted the needs of the Israelites in the first reading. But will that surely solve that deepest need? NO
As in the case of the Israelites in the first reading, the easiest and the least God can do is to give you what you are looking for. He can do that and easily. Yes God gave them the food they asked. You read the whole narrative as to what happened thereafter, was this episode enough for them not to grumble and complain again? NO. They were at it again after a day or two.
Dearly beloved what is your life’s ultimate pursuit? Do you truly know about that which will make your life complete, that which will make that unguided desire go away? There is only ONE who knows and understands what exactly you need. Because he is omniscient, he knows the exact solution to the issue you are confronted with.
Looking at the life of the saints, we admonish ourselves. If there was someone who tried from so many areas to seek that which could make his life complete, then that will be St. Augustine. He searched for fulfillment in knowledge, in riches and wealth, in women, alcohol and other forms of worldly pleasures. But it was not until his conversion that he had the greatest fulfillment and satisfaction in life. So in his classic book, The Confession, he wrote “thou hast made us for thyself and our souls will remain restless until they finally rest in you”. No one, I believe, knew better the different states between a restless soul and a restful soul than St. Augustine.
It’s not as if you will have a trouble free or stress free life. That’s not what God has promised. But the certainty, that amidst all that surrounds you, you will always go to bed saying convincingly to yourself, that “it is well with my soul”, that I can assure you. Permit me again to share with you the last paragraph to our gospel today.
Jesus said to them,
"I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
Dearly Beloved, this is the promise and assurance we have. Whoever comes. Trust God in His promise. Many of you have experienced what I am talking about, this awesome presence of God that makes you sober and at peace in every kind of situation. A deeper relationship with Christ has brought so much change into your personal and family lives. I know many here who may be willing to testify even openly, but for some who have not so much tried, do you believe this possible?
Dearly Beloved, allow God in your daily life. Have time for personal prayers. Continue to spend time praying together and talking about Christ as families. It is that which sets your heart at rest and at peace then you will begin to live confidently and hopeful in every situation.