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18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15 + Psalm 78: 3-4, 23-25, 54 + Eph. 4:17, 20-24 + John 6: 24-35
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: August 1, 2021

There is a difference between “belly food” and “soul food.”
There really is no comparison between “belly food” and “soul food.”
One satisfies for a brief instant and the other lasts forever.

While wandering hungry in the desert, the people of Israel are invited
to feast on “soul food,” to trust that God will provide for their needs.
The manna that God sends from heaven is this “soul food,” just enough for every day.
But they must trust that God will feed them, they have to rely on God’s goodness.

The Israelites are tempted to return to slavery in Egypt in order to feed their bellies,
rather than trust that God will feed them and lead them to the Promised Land.

It can be hard to trust that in the long term, God will bring good
out of tough “desert days,” when all we can see is what we are lacking.
The needs that loom before us can make us forget God’s faithfulness.
We need a sign of God’s faithfulness, a reminder that he takes care of us.

Which is why the Father who fed the Israelites in the desert with bread from heaven sends the One who is the Bread of Life come down from heaven
to feed our souls hungering for God.
Jesus is the bread of God come down from heaven who gives life to the world.
To believe in Jesus, to give ourselves in trust to Him,
means feasting on a life full of meaning.

The crowd of people following Jesus have full bellies from the loaves of bread
he has given them to eat. They look for him and find him, seeking more free food.
They come to Him thinking only of their bellies, and he wants to take them deeper,
he wants to give them soul food, he wants to give them the very gift of Himself.
But they like free food and are having hard time going any deeper.
Their bellies are full yet their minds and hearts are still empty.

Jesus wants to take them to a deeper level which goes beyond any earthly need or want. He wants to lead them into everlasting life by the gift of Himself.

To “believe in Jesus” means giving ourselves to Him, recognizing the saving truth
that only in him will our deepest hungers be satisfied, our greatest thirsts quenched.
For full bellies do not make for full lives,
but somehow a full life found in our relationship to Jesus seems to satisfy every hunger.

But this means we have to step out of a life that is steeped in ignorance and self interest and into Christ.
This is a life-long journey, an ongoing conversion, a continual turning away from shallow desires and turning toward Him who is the desire of our heart.
We are starving for a life that really matters and we find that life in Christ.
When we believe that Jesus Christ is the bread of life, that in Him
every hunger we have is satisfied, then our lives are transformed.

Life in him is different than any other kind of life,
because it is a life which death can never cut short.
It is a life we can start living now, free from anxiety and full of confidence
in Jesus’ desire to provide us what we need.

As St. Paul describes this process, we leave behind the old self
concerned only with selfish desires and put on the new self in Christ.
Which is why the Church gifts us with this Sacraments,
to draw us into this new life in Christ Jesus.
We put on this new self in Christ in Baptism, and this new self is nourished
by the bread come down from heaven in the Eucharist.

Joining our lives to the life of Jesus Christ, we become a new person.
Then we begin to understand what St. Paul means when he says we need not fear
hunger or hardship or persecution, because Christ Jesus is with us always,
feeding us with his love.

Jesus did not promise his followers contentment, ease, and plenty in this life.
In fact, when we have these things,
there is a risk of forgetting there is something else ahead.

The Son of God came down from heaven to show us how to live, by giving his life away in love of others and in love of His Heavenly Father.
This is a life that satisfies, a life given away in love,
which becomes bread for a hungry world.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi