Listen to an audio recording of Fr. Jeremy’s homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 5, 2018
Jesus spent 40-days in the desert in fasting and prayer to prepare for the start of His public ministry. We hear about that during Lent. At the end of His 40-days, Jesus has a showdown with the devil. Does anyone remember the first temptation the devil presented Jesus? It involves some stones! Since Jesus was hungry, after a 40-day fast, the devil tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread to eat… “if you are the Son of God” (Mt 4:4). The devil tried to tempt Jesus to use His power to fill His belly. Jesus counters the evil one by citing Deuteronomy 8:3. Jesus knows where true nourishment comes. “‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’” (Mt 4:4) Deuteronomy 8 describes how the Lord God cared for the Israelites during their 40-year sojourn in the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land by giving them manna. Deuteronomy 8 goes on to warn the Israelites of the dangers of worldly prosperity. Jesus knew His Scriptures!
Several months later after His desert encounter with the devil, Jesus did indeed used His power to fill bellies, but not His own. As we heard last week, Jesus multiplied the 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed the 5000 and more. The very next day, the crowds track Jesus down, clamoring. ‘Do it again! We are once again hungry. Feed us!” They make their demands, and they too knew their Scriptures. “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (Jn 6:31; Cf Ex 16:4-5). The Jews at large knew their Scriptures too! The people expect Jesus to provide for them daily bread, because God provided manna for the daily nourishment to their ancestors. Give to us, they seem to be saying, for it is written!!!
The Jews knew to look for God’s intervention and assistance precisely because “It is written.” We too are to look for God’s intervention and assistance precisely because “It is written.” God has been unfolding His great divine plan, Jesus is its center certainly, but God intends for us to be a part. It is no accident that when Jesus appeared to those first two disciples on the Road to Emmaus after His Resurrection, He did not start with the Breaking of the Bread, but first the explanation of the Scriptures (Lk 24:27). To experience Jesus as the True Bread of Life, one must first truly experience Him as the Word of God.
The Church too knows Her Scriptures! And so, as we gather each week in the Mass, we come first to the written Word of God. The Liturgy of the Word is meant to shape us, to form us, to encourage us to hope in God’s plan. To recognize its unfolding and our proper place in that great plan. They are not just stories from the past, they are the Story of Jesus. They are our story. It is written.
The readings at Mass that compose the Liturgy of the Word – the First Reading from the Old Testament, the Psalm, the Second Reading from an New Testament Letter, and the Gospel – are selected and structured to make meaning of the mystery of God’s plan. They reveal His work. The first reading (except during Easter) is always from the Old Testament. It describes how God has related to His people in the past and sets expectations for His future interactions. The first reading is always paired with the Gospel. There is a connection, a common theme, a thread between the two. When you come to Mass, a good way to focus on the readings is to intentionally listen for the link between them. Often the Responsorial Psalm takes up that same theme. The Second Reading, rather than highlighting the common theme provides a sequential selection of a New Testament letter from Paul or another Apostle. We should know our Scriptures, for in them we come to recognize Jesus.
We should listen to them, read them, and familiarize ourselves with them. The Scriptures, especially in the context of the congregation gathered in prayer are mean to wet our appetite for the main meal Jesus provides in His very self.
“‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’” (Mt 4:4) We cannot live by bread alone, but only by the word that comes from the mouth of God. Jesus is the Word come from God, and the Scriptures help reveal that Word. Jesus is “the bread of life; whoever comes to Him will never hunger…” (Jn 6:35). Jesus knew His Scriptures! The Jews knew their Scriptures. The Church would have us know our Scriptures too. Do we read, do we listen, do we study? If we would be fed, we must hunger. If we would receive the Bread of Life, we should know the Word that comes from the mouth of God. Do we?