18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Sunday Church at Home

during the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

 

Jesus Bread of Life.

 

The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

 

Leader:        In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply:      Amen

Leader:        Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply:      Blessed be God for ever

Leader:        From the days when the Jewish people wandered in the desert to this very day, God has been ‘food to the hungry’ and ‘meaning to those who lose their way’. Today we join the hungry crowds who gathered at the Galilean lakeside. We, too, come seeking Jesus, asking him to feed us with the bread of life.

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

 

First Reading: Exodus 16:2-4.12-15

 

Introduction to the reading: The book of Exodus tells of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt and their journey to Mount Sinai some 1200 years before Christ. The bread described in today’s reading is called manna, a word derived from the ancient Hebrew words for “what is this?”

 

A reading from the Book of Exodus

At that time:
The whole congregation of the people of Israel
murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,
and said to them,
“Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord
in the land of Egypt,
when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full;
for you have brought us out into this wilderness
to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the Lord said to Moses,
“Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you;
and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day,
that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

“I have heard the murmurings of the people of Israel;
say to them, ‘At twilight, you shall eat flesh,
and in the morning you shall be filled with bread;
then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp,
and in the morning dew lay round about the camp.
And when the dew had gone up,
there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing,
fine as hoarfrost on the ground.
When the people of Israel saw it,
they said to one another, “What is it?”
For they did not know what it was.

And Moses said to them,
“It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.

 

The word of the Lord.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 78:3 & 4bc.23-24.25 & 54 (R. 24b)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

The things we have heard and understood,
the things our fathers have told us,
we will tell them to the next generation:
the glories of the Lord and his might,

Yet he commanded the clouds above,
and opened the gates of heaven.
He rained down manna to eat,
and gave them bread from heaven.

Man ate the bread of angels.
He sent them abundance of food;
So he brought them to his holy land,
to the mountain his right hand had won.

R/. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

 

Second Reading: Ephesians 4:17.20-24

Introduction to the reading: In our series of readings from the letter to the Ephesians, we have come to a part of the letter which gives advice for daily living. Today’s reading describes the effects of baptism. In the waters of baptism, we symbolically die to one way of living and rise to a new way of life.

 

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians

Brothers and sisters:
This I affirm and testify in the Lord,
that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles walk,
in the futility of their minds;

You did not so learn Christ!—
assuming that you have heard about him
and were taught in him,
as the truth is in Jesus.
Put off the old nature
which belongs to your former manner of life
and is corrupt through deceitful lusts,
and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and put on the new nature,
created after the likeness of God
in true righteousness and holiness.

The word of the Lord.

 

Alleluia, alleluia.
Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Alleluia.

 

Gospel: John 6:24-35

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John

At that time:
When the people saw that Jesus was not there,
nor his disciples,
they themselves got into the boats
and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea,
they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you,
you seek me, not because you saw signs,
but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
Do not labour for the food which perishes,
but for the food which endures to eternal life,
which the Son of man will give to you;
for on him has God the Father set his seal.”

Then they said to him,
“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God,
that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do,
that we may see, and believe you?
What work do you perform?
Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness;
as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven,
and gives life to the world.”

They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
he who comes to me shall not hunger,
and he who believes in me shall never thirst.

The Gospel of the Lord

 

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

Homily

Harold Kushner is a rabbi living in the USA. In 1977, his son Aaron died from a disease called progeria. This is a rare disease that causes premature aging. Aaron was only 14 years old when he died, but he had the internal organs and appearance of an old man.

The devout rabbi had a faith crisis when Aaron died. He asked the question – why did Aaron have to die at such a young age. They were a devout family – good people striving to live their faith. Why did such a bad thing happen to good people. Had God abandoned them? If the universe was created and is governed by a God who is of a good and loving nature, why is there so much suffering and pain in it?

After much reflection, study and prayer, he wrote a book called “When Bad Things Happen To Good People.” Rabbi Kushner seeks to offer comfort to grieving people. On a number of occasions I have recommended this book to help people working through a tragedy in their lives.

What is important to notice is the title of the book. The title is “When… Bad Things Happen to Good People.”  It is not “If Bad Things Happen to Good People.”

If bad things happened only to bad people, that probably wouldn’t disturb, or test our faith. We might even have a sense of satisfaction!

What goes around comes around is a common saying in this kind of situation. But, we know this from experience, bad things happen to good people also: people who pray, come to church regularly, donate to the poor, and are active in their communities.

When bad things happen to them too, testing their faith, then our faith is tested as well: a child dies from an awful disease, like the rabbi’s son; we lose our job during the pandemic; we go through a financial crisis; a marriage breaks up; a good kid goes haywire or becomes an addict; a family business is looted and they lose everything; being hijacked and killed for a car.

There are many other tragedies that stir questions in us. These things don’t happen just to bad people; bad things can happen to any of us and do.

When they do, we look for some explanation, some “logical reason” for the bad things that happen. Logic does not solve the problem. I’ve never liked the “logical” answers people come up with. I get angry when someone says: “God is testing your faith”; or “God will never give you more than you can bear.” What kind of God behaves like that? The truth is we are left with mystery, not answers. But, we are not left alone.

As we gather today we are just 50 people in church. We can be in smaller groups as we gather at home, or on online to share faith with Our Sunday Church at Home. It doesn’t matter what size of group we are, because we all can identify with the crowd in the gospel story. St. John says they came, “looking for Jesus.”

Looking or seeing in John’s gospel implies believing. The crowd had been fed on the bread in the wilderness which Jesus provided for them. Now they come looking for more. Jesus says to them, “You are looking for me not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” As important as bread is for hungry people – Jesus thought it was important, he fed them bread – still, we know more is needed in our lives than a full belly and clothes on our backs. We want to “see” more.

The crowd’s gaze stopped at the bread. They only saw Jesus as “the Bread Multiplier” – not what the sign of the bread meant. If you are not watching the Mass on our YouTube channel today, but came in person to church, then you probably walked, or drove in at the sign out front at the gates to the church announcing  “Bryanston Catholic Church.” You didn’t stop and gather around the sign. You came to where the sign pointed. We don’t stop and focus on signs, but follow where they lead us.

Jesus accuses the crowds of stopping at the sign, not understanding what the breads meant. He also accused them of forgetting their faith history. The disciples and other devout Jews got it: Jesus stirred their faith memory.

But just to be sure, Jesus explained the sign of the breads to them. When their ancestors were dragging themselves through the wilderness, with the Egyptian army at their heels, God protected them and fed them bread day by arduous day. And in Jesus, God is doing the same thing. Jesus spells it out for them,

“I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

The God who fed the hungry in the desert was doing it again and Jesus was performing signs to help them see that. Did they understand it?

There are other signs as well in John’s Gospel. A thirsty woman at a well was promised living water – did they understand it? A dead man was raised to life – did they understand it? And now a struggling, hungry people in a wilderness are being fed – did they understand it?

Bad things happen to good people“– and when they do, do we recognize the signs that God is feeding us in our desert and hard places?

God has sent us Jesus, as the “sign of all signs”. God has heard us in whatever wilderness or desert place we find ourselves now. God hears even the longings we don’t name: our hunger for truth and goodness; our hunger for meaningful relationships and healed relationships; our hunger for holiness and grace; our hunger to make a difference for the good and not just be someone who is passing through life.

God continues to perform signs for us and feeds us in surprising ways – do we recognise it?… a surprise gesture of kindness from a friend, or even a stranger; a job that turns out just right for us; a word of forgiveness we have not earned, but we received nevertheless. Or, the moment out of the blue, when we appreciate our lives, and those around us and we realize it is good to be alive – do we recognise it?

These and other signs we could name at this Eucharistic celebration: God’s presence with us when good things happen, or when bad things happen. God is with us giving us daily bread as God does at our celebration today. We will pray for that bread in the Lord’s Prayer.

We also know that we are called to be signs of God’s bread for others. We have work to do, feed the hungry by spending time with people who lonely and isolated.  Let’s look around us: in our families, schools, at work, in our community.

Bad people instigated the violence and looting in South Africa. After billions of Rands damage, there are more people who are hungry, more people who have lost their jobs and livelihoods. All require dedication and perseverance on our part.

So again we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread… and help us be daily bread for others, signs to them that You have not forgotten them.”

From today’s Gospel reading:

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.”

Reflection:

We are called to be signs of God’s bread for others. We have work to do, feed the hungry by spending time with people who are lonely and isolated. Let’s look around us: in our families, schools, at work, in our community. All require dedication and perseverance on our part. So again we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread… and help us be daily bread for others, signs to them that You have not forgotten them.”

So we ask ourselves:

  • For what am I hungering in my life?
  • Where am I going to look to satisfy this hunger?

 

 

Prayer of the Faithful

 

Leader: Let us bring our petitions before the Lord who understands our every need before we even ask.

Reader: We pray for Pope Francis, who understands the spiritual hunger of Christ’s flock: (pause) that the Church may be nourished and renewed in his care.

Lord Hear Us.

 

We pray for a spirit of understanding: (pause) that Christ will free us from narrow thinking and help us take on the mind of Christ so that we may see and understand God’s vision for life.

Lord Hear Us.

 

We pray for the government of South Africa: (pause) that there may be a greater political will to bring justice and peace to our country, to alleviate the hunger and needs of the poor, refugees, and the victims of the politically motivated looting.

Lord Hear Us.

 

We pray for all who are experiencing the desert in their life’s journey: (pause) that they may encounter Christ in their loneliness, a new vision in times of confusion, and renewed energy when the path ahead seems endless.

Lord Hear Us.

 

We pray for the end of the covid-19 pandemic: (pause) that there be a successful rollout of the vaccines and we pray for the conversion of those who spread misinformation and lies.

Lord Hear Us.

 

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for Vanda Lupini, Mike Cerqueiro, Mario dalla Pria and Carl Altgayer who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine on them.

May they rest in peace.  Amen

 

Leader:        Let us pray a Prayer for Healing:

 

Gracious God,
for all who have contracted covid-19,

we pray for care and healing.

For those who are particularly vulnerable,

we pray for safety and protection.

For all who experience fear or anxiety,

we pray for peace of mind and spirit.

For affected families who are facing difficult decisions,

we pray for policies that recognize their plight.

For our brothers and sisters around the world,

we pray for shared solidarity.

For public officials and decision makers,

we pray for wisdom and guidance in the roll-out of the vaccines.

Father, during this time,

may your Church be a sign of hope, healing and love to all. Be with us, Lord.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

 

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

 

 

 

CONCLUDING RITE

 

Leader:        Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

All say:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:        Lord, giver of lasting life,
satisfy our hunger through Christ, the bread of life,
and quench our thirst with your gift of belief,
that we may no longer work for food that perishes,
but believe in the One whom you have sent.
We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

All:               Amen.

Leader:        May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

All:               Amen.

 

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