Sunday, Aug. 5, is the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B, Cycle II). Aug. 6 is the feast of the Transfiguration
of the Lord.
Tom likes to help our kids understand the Real Presence from a young age. He repeats this "lesson" with them often, young minds being what they
are. The first few times it takes prompting, but not after that.
First, he asks: "Who is in the tabernacle?"
"Jesus!" they answer.
"If Jesus is a grown-up like me," asks Tom, "how can he fit in a place that small?"
"Because Jesus is God, and God can do whatever he wants!" they answer.
(They had to be taught that one: "Is Jesus God?" "Yes." "Does God have the power to do whatever he wants?" "Yes." "Can Jesus be as giant as the earth if
he wants?" "Yes." "Can Jesus be as little as an ant if he wants?" "Yes." "Can God fit in this box if he wants?" "Yes.")"
Why would Jesus want to be little and stay here in our church?" Tom asks.
"Because he wants to be close to us," they answer.
"What is the closest he could possibly be to us?" asks Tom.
"Inside us," they answer.
"That’s why he decided to be small and to be like bread," Tom sums up. "So he can be as close to us as possible."
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15; Psalm 78:3-4, 23-25, 54; Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; John 6:24-3
God doesn’t just give his people what they want — he gives us something unexpected that shifts our very understanding of ourselves.
This happens dramatically in the first reading. The Israelites have followed Moses into the desert, but now they are having second thoughts about ever leaving Egypt.
Sure, they were slaves there. But they were also fed. God gives them something unexpected: They are willing to trade freedom for food; he gives them both. They thought of themselves as slaves and beggars; that day they learned again that they were God’s people.
The same thing happens in the Gospel.
Today’s Gospel follows last Sunday’s. In that one, Jesus multiplies the bread and fish and feeds the people. Then he has to hide because he "knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king." They didn’t have a pious devotion to them; rather, they loved him because they "ate the loaves and were filled."
Like the Israelites, they are so focused on the material things they need that they are willing to become subject to whoever is willing to give them those things, be it slave master or king.
Jesus gives them something superior: "the food that endures for eternal life." They wanted a king who would feed them on earth; he gave them the Eucharistic Lord whose food would give them eternal life.
St. Paul explains more about this tension between the earthly longings of humanity and the eternal urgings of God.
"You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds." Instead, he said, "Be renewed in the spirit of your minds."
He is telling Christians that one of the key changes in their lives after their baptism should be their mindset. He contrasts it again by saying, "You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires." Instead, "put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness
and holiness of truth."
He’s saying: Don’t be satisfied with small, earthly things. Do big, eternal things.
We have been given a great gift in the Eucharist — Christ himself.
And we are changed because of him.
Tom and April Hoopes write
from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence
at Benedictine College.