GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
The 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time for Year B continues our journey through John 6. This is the second of five Sundays devoted to this central chapter in the gospel on Jesus' actions during his public ministry that led to the institution of the Eucharist, and that also reveal his real presence in the Eucharist. So for this Sunday the church focuses on the aftermath of the feeding of the 5000. This is in John 6:24 and it says this:
So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Caper'na-um, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal."
Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?"
Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Lord, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.
Okay, so what's taking place in this episode of the gospel? A number of things are worth highlighting. First, in terms of geography, Jesus has performed the multiplication of the loaves out in a wilderness, in a lonely place, and now he's come back into town. They’ve crossed the sea of Galilee back to the town of Capernaum and so when the crowds find him on the other side of the sea the next day they want to know when he came there. That's an allusion to the fact that during the night he crossed the sea by walking on the water. So the lectionary actually skips over the famous account of Jesus walking on the water, but in John's gospel in the full chapter 6, that's the episode that takes place between the feeding of the 5000 and the coming of the crowds and the coming of Jesus to Capernaum. In any case, Jesus responds to them by saying you seek me not because you saw signs but because you ate your fill of the loaves. So what he’s getting at in that statement, first and foremost, is that in context what they’re trying to do is get more free food, and that’s basically what he’s saying. The reason you're looking for me is not because you saw that the sign, the miraculous feeding of the 5000, and it pointed you to a deeper reality, a deeper truth about who I am, you’re coming to me because you ate your fill yesterday and you want more food.
So in that kind of gentle rebuke Jesus goes on to say don’t labor for food which perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. Alright so what’s Jesus talking about there? Well what he's doing there is he's trying to lead them beyond the earthly food of the loaves that were multiplied and fed to them, to the heavenly food, to the supernatural food that he has not yet given them as Son of Man, which of course is going to be the Eucharist.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
...when Paul says to the Ephesians:
...that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do… (Ephesians 4:17b)
It’s a little bit ironic, because he’s speaking to Gentiles. So in the Church at Ephesus, there may have been a few Jews in the congregation — in fact, I don’t doubt that because Paul’s normal method is to go to the synagogue first and then to go to the Gentiles. So he goes to the Jews first and then the Greeks. You see this throughout the book of Acts. He only really goes to the Gentiles if he’s been unsuccessful in the local Jewish synagogue.
So in the case of Ephesus, this is a predominantly Gentile congregation. So when he says:
...that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do… (Ephesians 4:17b)
Physically speaking, they are still Gentiles — ethnically, culturally. But sacramentally and spiritually, they are now in Christ. And it’s an interesting thing for Paul to say it this way, because remember, Christ in his humanity is a Jew. He’s fully Jewish. He’s circumcised on the eighth day like every other Jew. He’s descended from the people of Israel. He is a full blooded Israelite. And it’s fascinating because when Gentiles become part of the Mystical Body of Christ, there’s a sense in which — although physically and ethnically and genealogically they’re still Gentiles — they are in fact no longer Gentiles, so that Paul can actually speak as if they’re no longer Gentiles and exhort them saying, “Don’t live as the Gentiles do”, as if the Gentiles are a different category of people.
And the reason Paul can say that is, of course, because Paul is speaking about morality. He’s talking about the lives that the Gentiles lead. He’s not interested in blood lines and ethnicity. He’s speaking about morality. And as a Jewish author, Paul would have been very clear and very aware of the fact that Gentiles — for the most part, there are always some exceptions in some individuals and whatnot, but as a whole, taken as a whole — pagan culture in the first century AD was vastly more tolerant of immorality than Jewish culture was. In particular, that’s true of sexual immorality. And that’s why you see Paul refer to licentiousness and lust and that kind of thing.
So for example, with regard to marriage, the sanctity of the marriage bed, sanctity of holy marriage, there’s a writing from Judaism in the first century known as the Sibylline Oracles
. It’s reflective of Jewish views in the first century AD — very popular writing. It’s not in the Bible; it’s an extra biblical text. But just for example, it draws a contrast between morality in Jewish circles with regard to marriage and wedlock and then morality within Gentile circles. So listen to this quote from the Sibylline Oracles
. This is the first century AD:
They [the Jewish people] are mindful of holy wedlock, and they do not engage in impious intercourse… as do Phoenicians, Egyptians, and Romans, spacious Greece and many nations of others, Persians and Galatians and all Asia, transgressing the holy law of immortal God…
That’s from Sibylline Oracles
book 3. So notice what it’s saying there is that if you look at the commandments, like the commandment against adultery, the Jews as a people honor that. They hold it up in form. Marriage should be faithful and between one man and one woman. Fidelity within marriage is something the Jews held out as an ideal.
This ideal was not honored by the nations listed here: Phoenicians, Egyptians, Romans, Greece, Persians, Galatians … in other words, the whole Roman Empire. So this contrast between the way Gentiles treat questions of immorality, especially questions of marital relations and issues of sexual immorality, is dramatically different from the Jewish perspective on the holiness of marriage (matrimony) — the holiness of the human body, the creation of man and woman, and what man and woman are made for by God … what we might even call Theology of the Body, like John Paul II did.
So Paul is taking up this question of morality, and he’s saying to the Ephesians: You can’t live like Gentiles do. The Gospel changes the way you live. You should look different than the pagans, because their intellects are darkened, they’re ignorant of God’s law, and they are known for their licentiousness and their lust. And this is just true. The vices that were rampant in the first century AD in pagan culture are the same vices that are rampant today in secular culture … and I won’t list them. They’re everywhere for you to see.
So Paul here is getting to the moral component of Ephesians. He’s dealt with some of the doctrinal and Christological issues, ecclesiological issues about the Church and Christ, faith and Baptism, and one and two. Now, what are the moral implications of that?
And this is so important. When Paul tells the Ephesians that they have to live lives of morality in Christ, they can’t live like pagans when it comes to sexual immorality in particular, he doesn’t just say, “Here’s the list of rules. Don’t break them.” He’ll give some rules, trust me, but notice the theological reason he gives for this is that they are part of the new creation. They’ve been made new in Christ. They’re not the same people they were anymore. That’s why he says to them:
You did not so learn Christ! Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life… (Ephesians 4:20, 22a)
So Ephesians, the people that he’s talking to, these Christians, they’re not perfect. They would have lived the kinds of immorality that were rampant in paganism in the first century AD. But now they are in Christ through faith in Baptism, and they need to:
… be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:23-24)
So here Paul once again has recourse to the image of the two circles that I’ve talked about, the old and the new creation. But here he uses it in the language of old and new nature. So before your Baptism, you belong to the old creation. You were in Adam, and you had the old sinful nature that you inherited from Adam. That’s why the pagan and secular peoples of the world sin, because it’s a fallen human nature. But now that you are in Christ, you need to put on the new nature and leave aside those lusts, leave aside those acts of immorality, and live a life worthy of the calling to holiness that you have as a baptized Christian in Christ. That’s your vocation. Your vocation here, as Paul says, is to righteousness and holiness.
So Paul didn’t have to wait for Vatican II to describe the universal call to holiness from Lumen Gentium
, the document on the Church. He’s teaching it right here in the Scriptures, in Ephesians chapter 4. And notice the image that he uses here is both of an old and new nature, like human nature, what it means to be a human being. But it’s also an image of clothing. You took off the old nature like an old garment, a dirty garment, in Baptism. And now you’ve put on a new garment, a new nature now that you're in Christ. So don’t live like the pagans live.
If your life doesn’t look different from the secular people around you in the world who are not in Christ — or I should say, as Paul says to the Ephesians, if your life doesn’t look different from the pagans who are living around you in Ephesus, whose lives are filled with immorality, who are not living according to the Ten Commandments, then you are not fulfilling your vocation as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. Because you’re called to righteousness, and you’re called to holiness. You’re not just called to be a member of the parish register of Ephesus, the Church at Ephesus. You’re not just called to be a member of the local Church. You are called to righteousness and holiness. You’re called to become a new person to put on the new nature in Christ.
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