Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time


Then the LORD said to Moses,
"I will now rain down bread from heaven for you. 
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow my instructions or not.



Every doctrine of the Church was born in controversy. I am neither a theologian nor historian but I think you can take that to the bank. Whether we're speaking of creatio ex nihilo or the Last Judgement, it has been and remains a disputed question. The people of God struggle to understand God's word; we form opinions, discuss, disagree and eventually must settle on a definition that contains without confining the mystery. This definition must appeal to the mind for acceptance and to the heart for consent. This struggle is just as true of the Eucharist in the long history of the Church as it is of today's controversies around abortion, birth control and climate change.
I hear ancient echoes of the controversy around the Blessed Sacrament in today's first reading. The Lord will rain down "bread from heaven" each day to test the Hebrew's willingness to trust in God, "to see whether they follow my instructions or not."
When the bread appears on the ground they ask, "What is it?" And that's what they call it! The word manna means What is it?
We still ask that question as we ponder the Eucharist.
But we don't simply ask, "How do the words make sense?" as if we're solving a riddle or a crossword puzzle. We're asking, "If I believe this how will my life have to change?" And, "If this is true, how does it challenge the deceptions, falsehoods and fake news of the world?"
Because the doctrine belongs to a communion of the faithful, many will also ask, "If I don't accept this teaching, must I leave the Church?" And, "Where will I go to find the Truth if I have left the Community of Faith?"
The gospel reading reflects that controversy as the Jews challenge Jesus, "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?"
Jesus answers without compromising, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."
There will be signs aplenty. His crucifixion, especially; and his resurrection and the preaching of the Church. But those who don't want to see the sign will not see it.  There's no surprise there. How often do we complain, "You never warned me!" when the warnings were falling on us as sharp and hard as hailstones. With every natural disaster people die despite innumerable alerts from local, city, county and state agencies. They weren't listening; they had tuned out.
The Lord gives us this sign of his love, the Eucharist. It is a sign that directs our attention to Calvary and Easter, by way of the Last Supper and the words of Jesus, "This is my body. This is my blood."
As Catholics and Christians we recognize and honor the human being's desire for God. Created in God's image we must know the Original of our existence! We understand that every culture in the history of the world has pondered the why of our existence. The question is made more acute when we consider the ravages of our technological progress in the last century. Suddenly, the human race is a blight, not a blessing for our fellow creatures. Why are we here if our end is the destruction of our world? There are "signs" that seem to come from the mystery behind the veil -- confusing, ambivalent and illusive -- but the only reliable word is Jesus, the Word made Flesh.
His presence is as solid as the Church, as clear as the printed word, as definite as the past. People may opt out of "organized religion" as if there might be another kind, but they walk away from the most certain sign of God's saving mercy. They might prefer another method of salvation -- something easier, cheaper or less demanding -- but this is the one we're given. When we study the life and death of Jesus and the mystery of the Eucharist we realize we cannot be saved by any other means. If we will not accept the humility of God who came to serve and not to be served we have chosen our own destruction. Not even God can do more for us.
Is it difficult? Yes.
Is it controverted? Of course.
Is is certain? It is as certain as our willingness to give as we have received.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.