'Come to me' - Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > 'Come to me' - Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand was an extraordinary miracle. The ministry of the Lord was in full swing. He was preaching to bigger and bigger crowds. His reputation was spreading everywhere. He was known now for remarkable miracles of healing the sick and even raising the dead. People were captivated by his preaching. They loved to listen to him and would do so for hours. They had never heard anyone speak the way he did. They were drawn to him. He gave them new hope. He inspired them.

He now had a group of dedicated disciples whom he had selected from the many who were drawn to him. They accompanied him everywhere. He was forming them in private and preparing them for his great mission (though they would not have understood his complete intentions at this time). They had gone out on missionary journeys of their own and witnessed extraordinary things happen.

The period of the public ministry being described to us in the Sunday readings was clearly a high point of his ministry. The feeding of the five thousand would have sent ripples of excitement through those who were being attracted to him. What can’t he do?

It is clear from the comments of the Gospel writers that this miracle fueled new levels of expectation. We are told that the people wanted to make him king. The Lord needed to calm things down. So, he sent the crowds away. He told his disciples to get into the boat and cross the lake. He went up into the hills for solitude and prayer.

Today we follow the description of the discussion between Jesus and the people at Capernaum in the light of this extraordinary miracle of the feeding of the multitudes.

The conversation begins by the Lord challenging them about their motivations: You are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you have had all the bread you wanted to eat, he charged. He is challenging them because he could see that their interests were more material than spiritual. You are only interested in bread, he claimed. They were unable to recognize the deeper meaning of preaching, and the true purpose of his ministry.

He wanted them to understand that there was something much more important than food. He wanted them to understand that he was offering food of another kind: the food which he says “endures to eternal life”.

The Lord struggled to take the people to a deeper level, to the level of the spirit. They so often reverted to mere human thinking. His mission had a far deeper purpose and they could not see this. He had come to provide food for the soul, but they can't see beyond their physical needs.

The heart of Christianity is an appeal to the spiritual dimension of each person. Christianity offers spiritual nourishment. It provides food for the soul. As the Lord said in another place quoting the Hebrew scriptures, “Man does not live on bread alone.” Whatever the attractions of foods – and our televisions currently are full of programs on food – their appeal is passing. They do not and cannot satisfy our deepest needs.

There is much interest in food today. It is an embarrassing product of being too affluent, while others starve. We are constantly talking about food and wanting to experiment with different tastes. We have become food obsessed.  Beautiful and interesting foods attract us. But there is a deeper hunger in the human spirit. This is being ignored.

While our society is craves the satisfaction of our physical needs, it cannot see its deeper spiritual need. Our society is just like those in the Gospel today, wanting more bread.

The Lord challenges his listeners in Capernaum. They eagerly seek him, but they cannot see beyond their physical desire.

Those interested in more miracles of multiplication of loaves of bread fail to notice what the Lord really wants to offer. He offers what he calls “the true bread”. And what is this true bread? Himself. It is himself.

In a powerful and dramatic statement he says, “I am the bread of life.” I, in my person, am what will truly nourish you. He is speaking about coming into a relationship – a personal communion - with him in such a way that he becomes the constant enriching nourishment to their lives. The Lord declares: Knowing me, engaging your life with me, will nourish your life. It will so nourish every dimension of your being so that, as the Lord declares, “He who comes to me will never be hungry.” Let us hear these words again, because they are of such importance; “He who comes to me will never be hungry.”

The Lord is saying this now to us, each of us: Don't look for nourishment elsewhere. Whatever you find will not finally satisfy you. Meeting our needs in material things is not the way to go. There is only one place, one relationship that will meet your deepest needs.

Come to me. Come to me.

Today at the commencement of this Mass one young woman has reached a point in her life that she desires to know Christ and become a Christian. She is a Chinese student attending UTAS. Through the Catholic chaplaincy she has come into contact with the Catholic Church. She has done Alpha to learn more of the essence of Christianity. Today she is to be enrolled into the Catechumenate. She will commence a journey towards Baptism by coming to learn more of the teaching and life of the Catholic Church.

She has chosen to come to Christ. We welcome her with great joy upon the path to Baptism.