Home » Gospel Encouragement – 1st August 2021 – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Encouragement – 1st August 2021 – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers,
We are now in the summer holidays, and reflecting that, the Church gives us another Gospel to reflect on over these weeks; the Gospel of John, and, in particular, Jesus’ teaching there on the Eucharist. It builds up to quite a climax over the weeks, so be ready!

Today sets the scene for what is to come, and reflecting that we see in today’s readings we might want to ask ourselves: who likes a bit of a grumble? Sadly, my life story tells me quite clearly that I do. My good friend, Fr Andy, often has to remind me when the grumbling mood is on me. In a kind of humorous code he tells me that I have ‘ranting eyes’. My ranting eyes appear when I get on my high horse, and think that my perspective on everything is the completely correct perspective. We see grumbling like this in today’s readings.

In the first reading Israel, having been set free from hard labour slavery, are now moaning that they don’t have the food that they used to have to eat when they were in servitude in Egypt. It’s not just grumbling, but ungrateful grumbling. However, God heard their grumbling, and met them in their need, sending them meat in the form of quails and bread made from the miraculous manna that he provided each day in the desert. This manna, like last week’s first fruits of barley loaves, is a precursor to the feeding of the 5,000, another reminder that God supplies all our needs.

And in the Gospel Jesus knows that the people following him around Galilee aren’t necessarily following him for his teaching, but for the excitement of the miracles that he brings about, such as the feeding of the 5,000 that they experienced in last week’s Gospel. Very soon, when they don’t get what they want, they will start to grumble. While they love the signs and wonders, the depth of Jesus’ teaching – that he is the bread of life, the true bread from heaven – is too much for them. When he ultimately states at the end of the chapter that they need to eat his body to have the fullness of life, virtually all of them reject him, even some of his disciples.

They love what seems to them to be a show, but fail to hear his clear message today: “believe in the one (Jesus) that he (the Father) has sent”. The challenge is not to grumble at what they can’t as yet comprehend, but to accept the truth revealed before their eyes. When any of us do this, this is the ‘spiritual revolution’ taking place within us that St Paul talks about in the second reading. The spiritual revolution that means that we choose to make Jesus our souls aim in life, not the other temptations that come our way.

If any of you have ever watched or played in a darts match, there’s a helpful analogy there. The bullseye is the centre, the heart of the board, but you only score 50 points when you hit it. The top of the board, right on the outside edge, earns you 180 points, and so is the more tempting target. However, in our life of faith we are invited to aim for the heart of what is best in life, the bulls eye, Jesus. We are invited to aim for him, not the more tempting, short term gains of the edge. Why? Because these things, which are furthest away from him, can undermine our faith in subtle ways that we aren’t necessarily aware of: more and more money, greater and greater achievements, and the like. Jesus is all we need to truly fulfil us. Ever growing faith in him is the ongoing spiritual revolution that we all need.

Many people in our world today are grumbling: ‘where is God?’! Well, for us, as people of faith, we know that he is each and every one of us. He’s in us in the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and he’s in us in a very particular way every time that we receive the Eucharist. God chooses to use us to meet the needs of the world. As St Teresa of Avila put it:
“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.”

In the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Eucharist in our lives, God strengthens us for our own difficult times and to bring his love to others. I always remember hearing a doctor being interviewed who works with ‘Medicins Sans Frontiers’ in Yemen or the Sudan. The journalist asked him where God was in such desperate, awful situations as the horrific warfare of such countries and he simply replied: “in me”.

I/we need to grow in trust that God is working through us, through our faith, through our availability. This growth in trust is part of our personal spiritual revolution. Often I feel inadequate to the tasks before me: in my tiredness when I get called into the hospital in the middle of the night; when I say the prayers of the Church with the dying, which seem so simple for the most important moment of our lives; when I seek to give wise counsel to those in need; when I pray with or for others for healing or strength or whatever it may be; when I manage practical issues beyond my knowledge and experience, like Health and Safety regulations; when I have to deal with personal issues, such as who should provide care for my mother in her need. In all these situations I feel unworthy and unable, but have learnt to trust as best I can – often very weakly – in God’s wisdom and strength.

My situation and yours are different, because all our situations are different, but God uses each of us equally, you as an individual as much as me, and as much as anybody else. As we grow in trust in that truth, let’s pray for a spiritual revolution in each of our lives, that we grumble less and trust God more.

With every blessing.