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18th Sunday of Ordinary Time

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 1, 2021
Ana Cloughly, OSB, Sisters of Benet Hill Monastery, Colorado Springs, CO

We are in an interesting time in the Church’s calendar of readings, (the lectionary). We interrupt the gospel of St. Mark and take a few weeks to be with the gospel of St. John. Last week, Jesus went to an out of the way place and the people follow him. He taught the people. As the day went on, Jesus realized the people needed something to eat. The disciples were perplexed when Jesus told them to get enough food for a crowd of five thousand people. Then a little boy provided a small amount of bread and some fish. Jesus had the people sit in groups and he proceeded to bless the food and have his disciples distribute it to the people. By then end of their meal, there was enough crusts of bread to fill twelve baskets.

This week we pick up the narrative at the point at which the people realize Jesus has moved on and they go looking for him. When they find him, Jesus sees the opportunity as another teaching moment. Jesus explains that the people were not following him because of the signs he has done but because they had their fill of bread. As we know, Jesus was not just interested in filling their bellies. He wanted to fill their deepest needs as well. Strangely, the people ask Jesus for another sign to prove who he is that they may believe in him. I guess feeding five thousand people was not the sign they were looking for. When the people ask what they can do to have the bread of eternal life, Jesus says God has set his seal on him. The people must do the work of God and that work is to believe in him.

Although when we read this gospel, we generally think of the mystery of the Eucharistic bread. Today though, a quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S. J. comes to mind as I ponder this week’s gospel. Chardin was a French Jesuit priest, scientist, paleontologist, theologian, philosopher and teacher. Chardin says, “The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason to hope.” 

Our world is in the midst of so much change. It often overwhelms me especially the threat associated with climate change. The quote by Chardin offers a little insight into what we today can do today in the face of a worldwide crisis. Our faith is in the trinity. Our trust is in Christ who came to offer us a glimpse into the love God has for the earth. In a time of oppression Jesus gave the next generation reason to hope. It is through the mystery of Christ’s enduring presence that we have received a reason to hope and trust that all shall be well. Now it is us who must pass on a reason to hope to the next generation.

It feels like our problems are much more complex than in the time of Jesus. And maybe they are. A reason to hope is the one thing we can do. I’m energized in my hope as I participate in conversations and action on the part of young people who are moved to make a lasting change in how we see the earth and the needs of future generations. Believing in Jesus is not limited to a Sunday morning in Church. Rather it is the strength we gain from the bread we receive to go out and do what needs to be done to ensure a future and hope for those that follow us. We need to be the sign that Jesus offers to all.

Sister Ana Cloughly is the Director of the Contemplative Vision Ministry at Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs, CO. She facilitates courses in contemplative prayer  practices and Christian mysticism, leads group retreats and is a Spiritual Director. She is a member of the planning committee for the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Federation of St. Scholastica.

Sister Ana's reflections begin May 30 and continue through August.