July 18 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
I bet many of you have had a travel nightmare! Flights delayed then canceled requiring an unexpected overnight stay in a city not your destination. Frustrated and hungry you end up in accommodations miles from the airport, and by the time you got to the hotel you discover the restaurant is closed. This happened to me on a flight from California to Chicago via Dallas. Storms in Chicago forced the cancellation of my flight home and there were no other flights that evening. Others and I ended up at a hotel in Fort Worth, starving, and the restaurant is closed. The hotel staff, recognizing the need of the many stranded travelers, surprised us by ordering several extra-large pizzas for us to share. It was like a miracle! It surely was manna in the desert to us that night! We all fell asleep grateful instead of grumpy!
In today’s first reading, the Israelites are hungry. They are truly in need of physical nourishment and God provides for them by sending them food in the form of manna. In the Gospel, however, the people searching for Jesus are no longer physically hungry. The passage follows immediately on the heels of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. As the crowds return in search of last night’s miracle worker, Jesus knows that their stomachs are full and that they likely had eaten breakfast before getting into their boats to travel across the sea. Jesus knew that the people, having had their physical needs met, were now able to accept the true bread from heaven. They were now free to hear and receive the good news that Jesus had to offer them, the bread of life, a relationship with him.
In our efforts to be missionary disciples, we often get it backward. How many times do we harshly judge those not in our pews before meeting their very real needs for food, clothing, shelter or health care? St. Mother Theresa often described the loneliness and emptiness of people in the West as a hunger more difficult to satisfy than physical hunger. How often do we not recognize that hunger and fail to nourish those who are lonely or hurting? In spite of our best intentions, do we sometimes find ourselves quoting the Catechism rather than first seek to understand their situations or their pain? Pope Francis often speaks of the church as a field hospital.
Today’s readings show us that God truly does start from the ground up. God met the Israelites need for food in the desert. Jesus met the crowds’ need for food in Galilee. Only then did Jesus offer them the true food, the bread from heaven that was his very self. God uses us, the body of Christ, the church, to do as Jesus did!
Have a blessed week!