Homily – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(The following homily is from Pastor Dick Dahl)

I suggest that today’s readings call us to examine what we value and change as necessary.

First we’re given the example of the Hebrew people freed from hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt. Despite their miraculous liberation, they found themselves wandering in the Sinai desert without adequate food and water. They began to think they had been better off in captivity.  But Yahweh God,  had not abandoned or forgotten them. Food came in the form of quail at night and a bread-like manna in the morning. Their attitude and values were tested. They needed to remember their God, our God, is the source of life and what we most need.

Examine what we value and change as necessary.

The opening prayer today said, “Creator God, gifts without measure flow from your goodness…to bring us your peace. Our life is your gift. Guide our life’s journey, for only your love makes us whole.”

In the second reading Paul says our minds must be “renewed.” He says our minds  need to undergo “a spiritual revolution.” He speaks of putting aside a former way of living and no longer being led by “illusory desires.”

The response after this reading was, “One does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Jesus had taught us to ask Abba God for “our daily bread.” Today, however,  he told the crowds and us, “You should not be working for perishable food, but for life-giving food that lasts for all eternity.”

I think of the years I spent worrying about being able to provide food, housing and necessities for my wife and children. Most of the seven billion people alive today are preoccupied with the pursuit of survival.

Jesus knows we need food to survive. That’s why his Father provided manna for the Israelites in the desert. It’s why Jesus fed the thousands who had listened to him for hours by the lake. But, without contradicting his words about feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, he is saying that our minds and hearts must not be confined to our material needs, as vital as they are.

A friend of mine reflected recently on how Pope Francis’s Laudato Si encyclical places environmental issues within a larger human “ecology.”  This friend thinks Francis’ contribution “is the notion that the environmental crisis is a symptom of deeper problems within our culture and our souls, namely that our culture has become one of ‘having’ rather than ‘being.’”

Francis, like Jesus, is telling us that consumption and accumulation is not what life is truly about. Bigger homes, even super-sized servings of food may increase the bottom line and expand our waists but not satisfy our spirit. We recall the words of  Mohandas Gandhi: “Live simply, that others may simply live.”

So, we are invited to examine our values and change them as necessary.  But today’s liturgy also invites us to expand our awareness of the gifts we receive from our God who loves us. Along this line I‘d like to share some words I read this week from David Brooks, an editorial writer for the New York Times:

“Gratitude happens when some kindness exceeds expectations, when it is undeserved. Gratitude is a sort of laughter of the heart that comes about after some surprising kindness.  Most people feel grateful some of the time…but some people seem…seem thankful practically all of the time. People with dispositional gratitude take nothing for granted. They are continually struck by the fact that they are…much richer than they deserve. G.K. Chesterton wrote that ‘thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.’”

Part of the mental revolution we are invited to experience today is gratitude doubled by wonder…especially as our Mother/Father God feeds us Bread from heaven, Jesus the bread of life.