Sunday, Aug. 5, is the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B). Mass Readings: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15, Psalm 78:3-4, 23-25, 54, Ephesians 4:17, 20-24, John 6:24-35.
We all have a comfort zone — a place, a way of living that we’re used to, where we feel safe and secure, even if it isn’t ideal. But at times, God calls us out of our comfort zone so that he can give us something better.
For the Israelites, Egypt was their comfort zone. No, it wasn’t ideal. They were living as slaves, and they eagerly responded to Moses’ call of deliverance. But when the initial euphoria of liberation wore off and they encountered the hardships of travel to the Promised Land, their faith wavered.
Instead of trusting God to provide for their needs, they began to resent Moses for taking them out of Egypt and looked back fondly on their life in slavery, when “we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread.”
Then God did the unexpected: He sent them flesh to eat in the form of quails, and he rained bread from heaven, so that “mortals ate the bread of angels.” The bread was completely outside of human experience, and the Israelites didn’t know what to call it.
Centuries later, when people followed Jesus into the desert and began to be hungry, he also provided them bread in a completely unexpected way by miraculously multiplying the few loaves they had with them. This led them to follow him even further into the wilderness, so they might experience even more miracles of this sort.
But Jesus planned to give them something even better. As “the Bread of Life,” he would give them his own flesh in the Eucharist, for “whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
By this, he wasn’t referring to physical hunger or thirst, but to something more profound. He was presenting himself as “the true bread from heaven” that spiritually “gives life to the world.”
This reveals to us how God calls us from our comfort zone — from lives of slavery to sin where we feel secure, wrapped up in worldly concerns like having flesh in the pot and physical bread to eat. He calls us to liberation from these lives, and though breaking free of sin can cause discomfort and hardship, God will give us what we need to get through these trials.
God calls us to a life of freedom and holiness, where Jesus himself provides for all our needs — both physical ones (by miraculously multiplying loaves if needed) and spiritual ones (by giving us his very self in the Eucharist).
Our ultimate destination — the true Promised Land — still lies before us, in the eternal life which is to come. And though we still meet hardships on the journey, we can trust Jesus to see us through them.
In response, we “must no longer live as the Gentiles live.” We must no longer live as we did in Egypt. Instead, we must bravely face the road ahead, rejoicing in God’s providential care in this life and in the eternal home he has for us in the next.
Jimmy Akin is the senior apologist at Catholic Answers,
a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine
and a weekly guest on Catholic Answers Live. He blogs at NCRegister.com.