"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
Aug. 5th: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Overview: Starting this Sunday and continuing through the end of the month, the Gospel will be from the Bread of Life discourse in John 6.
The first reading each week prefigures the Eucharist in one way or another. This Sunday we hear about the manna from heaven. Following their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites began to make their way south to Sinai. Their provisions had run out and food became scarce. The people grew hungry and began to complain, wishing they were back in Egypt where they had more than enough to eat. God responds to them as a loving Father by giving them quail and bread in the form of manna. This mysterious food was a type of the true bread of heaven.
The Psalm celebrates this miracle, recalling the “bread of angels” which rained down upon the people like dewfall.
In the second reading St. Paul reminds us that we mustn’t live “as the gentiles do,” hungering only for the things of this world. Rather, he exhorts us to be “renewed in the spirit of our minds and to put on the new self.” A
fter the feeding of the 5,000, which we heard in last week’s Gospel, Jesus now begins to explain the significance of the miracle. The manna which sustained their ancestors in the desert was but a foretaste of the true bread from heaven. He reminds them that the manna did not come from Moses, but from God. The true bread from heaven, the bread of life, is Christ himself, the Son of God “incarnate of the Virgin Mary.”
Key verse: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger” (Jn 6:35)
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle” (No. 1090).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The first element of Eucharistic faith is the mystery of God himself, Trinitarian love. In the Eucharist Jesus does not give us a ‘thing,’ but himself; he offers his own body and pours out his own blood. He thus gives us the totality of his life and reveals the ultimate origin of this love. Jesus thus shows that he is the bread of life which the eternal Father gives to mankind” (“Sacramentum Caritatis,” 7).
Life application: The Eucharist is not simply a meal among friends, but a participation in the very life of God himself. The liturgy is not primarily the “work of the people” but the work of Christ who “continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church” (CCC 1069). At Mass we receive the “bread of God which comes down from heaven”; bread which gives life to the world. The love of God which is poured into our hearts at Mass is not something we can keep to ourselves; by its very nature it must be shared with others.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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