Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)
1st Reading: Exodus 16 v 2-4
2nd Reading: Ephesians 4 v 17 & 20-24
Gospel: John 6 v 24-35
Today’s gospel was also the gospel reading on a recent weekday and it’s an episode we are very familiar with anyway. It’s hard to figure out the Israelites. They’d escaped from slavery in Egypt under Moses’ leadership and here they were on their way to the land of Canaan that God had promised he would give them. They’d already witnessed one of God’s greatest miracles in the parting of the Red Sea so that they could escape Pharaoh’s army and you would think that would have been an impressive enough experience that they would never doubt or question God’s care of them, but you’d be wrong.
They were constantly moaning and complaining – and not just against Moses but also against God himself. And typical of their complaints was as we heard in that first reading: “We had all the food we wanted in Egypt, why did you bring us out into this wilderness to starve to death?” God hears their complaints to Moses and he sends them manna from which they could make bread, and then he sends quails – birds – that they could catch and cook. God’s instruction through Moses was that as a sign of his providence the people should only collect as much manna as they needed – no more, no less – but they couldn’t even do that. Not trusting God, some collected more than they needed just in case, but scripture tells us that any extra they gathered went bad so they couldn’t eat it.
And, of course, it wasn’t long before they were moaning and complaining yet again, this time because they were sick of eating the same thing every day – bread and meat… what did they want in the middle of the wilderness? God was already taking care of them and it may not have been a 5-star menu, but it kept them alive and they were on their way to the promised land. And we haven’t even come to the episode yet when they abandoned God and began worshipping a golden idol just because Moses had spent too long up on the mountain receiving the 10 commandments from God and so they gave up on God and started worshipping a false god instead.
The thing is, though, that as tempting as it is to criticize the Israelites and condemn them for their infidelity, we are often just as guilty in our own way of failing to trust in God, failing to appreciate all that he does for us, just because sometimes things don’t quite go the way we expect, and when there’s no one else or nothing else for us to blame, we blame God. We might not say so in as many words, but it’s what we are thinking, and all too easily we seem to forget God’s providence in our lives, all the things he has done for us and all the things with which he has blessed us. When things aren’t going quite so well it’s not God, it’s life, and we just need to remember that God is always there to help us, especially at such times.