Revolting against God and Searching for Jesus Christ: Homily for the eighteenth Sunday in ordinary time year (B). Rev. Fr. Boniface Anusiem Ph.D
Revolution is a well known phenomenon in our human society. It can be described as a turnaround against an existing structure which can be socio-political, economic, cultural or ideological. In recorded history we are aware of a good number of revolutions; in fact from 2380 BC to 2012 there were more than four hundred revolutions. The prominent among them were the French, American, English, Russian, Turkish, Chinese, Iranian and quiet recently Egyptian, Libyan and Syrian revolutions.
In every revolution, there is a significant general reaction from a group. In all the revolutions known in history one could see a minority or suffering group suddenly rising up to oppose the measures of the majority or draconian group. Though individually we could fall into religious dyslexia and begin to question God on certain experiences, but for a group of people, nay a race to decide to join their voices and hands to revolt against the God who had been superlatively kind is only known among the Israelites within the context of their journey to the Promised Land. In the first reading today we are presented with the story of the revolt of the Israelites against God through their murmuring against Moses and Aaron and essentially against God who sent them to them as messengers.
The people just left the land of Egypt, the land of slavery. It was not long they miraculously crossed over the Red Sea. On reaching the other side of the Red Sea, they started revolting as a people. They started murmuring because they were hungry. In their revolt, they wished they died in Egypt where they had meat to eat. A closer examination of the content of the people’s revolt showed how ungrateful they could be. Fifteen days after crossing the Red Sea they began to accuse God of planning to do away with them in the desert. Two weeks and one day after an amazing crossing over to the other side of life they wished that they were on the other side of slavery and death. After a fortnight the people of Israel imagined that God had abandoned them to perish. We are often like the Israelites; quick to forget the things God had done for us. Very prone to undermining God’s power and might during the desert experiences of our lives. Yes life is not all milk and honey. Actually before we get to the “milk and honey landscape” we may necessary pass through the desert of difficulties. The desert stands for the period of trials. The desert stands for the period of challenges.
In the gospel reading of today, we are presented with the aftermath of the multiplication of loaves. It is expected that those who participated in the meal from the five loaves of bread and two fish went home with joy and recounted the event to those who could not come. Based on this news so many people came and began the ultimate search for Jesus. I can imagine the desperation during the legendry search for the Lord. This search actually reminds me of the usual final lap of the Reality Show in Nigeria called Gulder Ultimate Search. In all the eight seasons one notices the anxiety and desperation that overwhelms the usually last two or three contestants who search frantically for the hidden treasure at a given location. The person who finds it wins!
For the searchers of Jesus in the gospel periscope of this Sunday one treasure is at stake and that is bread and perhaps fish. They were actually committed searchers. They saw his followers leaving with a boat but without him; however crossing over to the other side of the sea they saw Jesus and wondered how he crossed over. Unknown to them he walked on the sea, just like the Israelites crossed over the Red Sea (though on dry shod). Meeting the people the other side of the sea he was confronted with the statement that they had been on the lookout for him. Their motive for searching for him was not hidden from our Lord and he told them directly and bluntly that their frantic search is directly connected with the multiplication of bread he did and not faith in the miracle itself. Here (John 6:26) Jesus Christ made it clear that there is a distinction between the outcome of a miracle and why such a given miracle was performed. Let us attempt to understand why the miracle was done. Jesus Christ did not perform the miracle just for the sake of giving the people dinner; he actually established from the miracle that God cares comprehensively about us. He went on to tell them not to be bothered about perishable food, but about the one that gives eternal life and that is the one he (our Lord) gives. Furthermore they asked what they could do to do what God wants and Jesus asked to believe in the one he sent.
The people did not give up on the last statement of our Lord as they pressed further by asking Jesus for a miracle to convince them to believe in him. They quoted the miracle of the Manna in the first reading. In essence the people were insistent for another miracle of multiplication of bread. That was why they took the pain and risk to cross over the sea to Capernaum. Our Lord then turned their attention to another kind of bread which upon partaking in it they will not be hungry again. Instantly they opted for that “miracle bread”. Contrary to their expectation, Jesus told them that he is that bread, the bread of life. This discussion will continue in the coming Sunday on Jesus Christ as the Living Bread.
Today we concerned with the revolt against God and the search for Jesus Christ. An attentive reflection of these two activities connects us with a common factor that explains why the people revolted against God in the first reading and the ultimate search for Jesus Christ in the gospel reading. This factor is simply the satisfaction of physical hunger with food (be it in form of bread, meat or fish). This is the same situation with most of us. When we are faced with some identifiable lacks in our lives, we tend to put God on the hot seat to provide answers why things should not be excellent for us. But when we get superlative or good times we tend to forget that God even exists.
On the other hand most of us join the band wagon to and fro the Church on Sundays and other days, but the question is “ for what specific motive?”. It is not uncommon that most of us butterfly from one church to the other, from one religious house to another in search of miracles. Some people are fundamentally attracted to those worship centres where it is perceived that there is someone (a man or a woman) who sees vision and can perform wonders. This is not actually the essence of our Christian vocation. The great miracle is that you know God; the greater miracle is that you worship Him, love him as well as others and the greatest miracle is that you finally succeed to be with him in heaven. If we understand these very well there will not be need for us to revolt nor search for Jesus because of perishable things but for values that are eternal (Matt. 6:33).
Have a wonderful Sunday and indeed a graceful Month of August.