Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 113
1st Reading: Ex 16:2-4, 12-15 Psalm: Ps 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54 2nd Reading: Eph 4:17, 20-24 Gospel: Jn 6:24-35
The First Reading:
The mana given to the Israelites during the exodus is one of the most enduring themes in Jewish and then in Christian tradition. God provides for his people, even when they are trying their best not to deserve it. Constantly stiff-necked, they longed for freedom. When they get that freedom, they long for the food they had in former captivity. They have no gratitude for what God has done for them. Yet God provides nonetheless.
Psalm 78 is quite long (about 3 pages in my study bible). It recounts the story of the covenant from the time of the exodus to the time of David. The entire relationship between God and his people was understood through the idea of covenant. Through it, both parties were bound to terms set down in the law (which functioned much like the terms of agreement). Returning to the text, we find that the psalmist presents God as ever forgiving. He always allows his people to return even after they violate the covenant. By every right in the covenant, God did not have to do this. Instead God chose to stay with them, and forgive them when they cried out to him for mercy.
The Second Reading:
The second reading for today continues in Ephesians, as it has for the last several weeks. Here Paul stresses the old and the new. This time in contrast with the “Gentiles” by which he is more referring to the Hellenistic culture than to the non-Jews (who were in his audience). It is important to read between few lines in between the two sections of today’s reading.
…darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess….
Here in lies the tie. The gentiles are being compared to the Israelites. It was hardness of heart that keeps them from God’s love and being renewed by that love. It was this part that must be thrown out so that we may live in God’s grace and mercy.
Today’s reading almost directly follows last Sunday’s reading. It pulls from John in what I think might be one of the deeper gospel readings in a while. We must discuss what John means be signs. Signs are the not just miracles as they are called in the other Gospels. Instead, John presents the miracles as signs which are evidence of Jesus’ identity as messiah and God. Jesus is rebuking the crowd for not seeing the bread as more than just a miracle. They can’t see that the feeding of the 5000 was a sign of Jesus’s identity. When Jesus questions the crowd, they repeat the assumption that the time of the Son of Man would coincide with mana returning (2 Mc 2:5-7). Yet, Jesus even breaks down this expectation and shows that they have more to learn. The mana will not be physical bread, but rather it is him. He is the bread of life sent from heaven.
Putting Them Together:
All the readings today are about mana and the covenant between God and his people. During the exodus, the people complained that they had no food. In response, God gave them mana. The psalmist recounts the many times the people strayed away from God, but God always brought them back, showing that God had more interest in his people than just a legal agreement. God must have loved them immensely. Paul reminds us of the past to show how we should live in that love and transform our lives. Finally, John reminds us that Jesus wants us to realize that the mana we seek is not a material bread to keep us from hunger. Rather, it is Jesus, the bread sent down from heaven who gives new life to those who partake of him. In this Eucharistic reality, we are bound in a new covenant: love.
(Source: Hermano León Clipart)
All quoted text is from the NAB translation. All lectionary information is from the USCCB. All commentary on the scripture is strictly my own except when referenced. If you want to read more, I highly recommend the online resource “Text of the Week”.