18th Sunday in Ordinary Time          

            One time a man approached me and shared with me how he had been struck by my homily the previous Sunday. According to him, he considers himself to be a hard worker. He worked and continues to work very hard to accomplish things, to achieve his ambitions, and to fulfill his personal dreams. When he was in college, he worked very hard to be able to study in the most prestigious university along Katipunan. After graduating, he worked right away in a multi-national company, which, only after a few years, sent him to Europe and promoted him to a highly-coveted position.

            Aside from having a lucrative or high-paying profession, he has some businesses that are doing well. He is just in his late forties but he has already his dream house, his dream cars – he has already built his field of dreams. He worked very hard for these things.

            Having said this, the man told me, “Father, your homily hit me – bull’s eye!” He pointed out the part of my homily that struck him. It was actually a quotation from an article I had read. I still remember it because he asked for a copy of that homily and I even shared my encounter with him in one of my Masses a few Sundays after. According to him, what struck him is this part: “Our life may be productive… but deep down we recognize something is wrong” “We just have to acknowledge that we lack a deep sense of meaning and fulfillment.”

            The man followed up our conversation with an email, and he was honest and sincere in saying, “Father, that is a good description of my personal life right now.” “I’ve worked very hard – I’m practically working to death – to have the best things the world has to offer.” “And I have them, at least most of them, but I don’t feel any sense of fulfillment.”

            Honestly, that was not my first “encounter of a kind.” I have already met and talked to several people in that similar situation or circumstance. And I have observed a much greater number of people whose personal lives can also be described like this: Working very hard to get the goods the world has to offer… but deep down they lack a sense of meaning and fulfillment.

            Jesus, in today’s gospel reading, addresses this issue – saying: “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize and recognize that this is also addressed to each of us – very much so.

            In contrast with the bread that can satisfy the hungry stomach, the food of Jesus satisfies the deeper hunger of the human person. Food for the belly is perishable food, good for earthly life that ends with death. But the food which Jesus offers is nourishment for another kind of life – life with God which finds its fullness in the life beyond death. This is eternal life.

            But eternal life is not just a reality beyond this earth. Eternal already characterizes this present life            anchored in faith and love of Jesus, and in living his commandment of love. Eternal life is the life in the age to come, yet it begins as a person is baptized in Christ, knows him, and bears witness to him. This life is characterized by the tension of “the already and the not yet.” So, let us work for the food that endures for eternal life.

            Let us end with a prayer: Lord Jesus, You want to give us more than material things; You want to bestow spiritual blessings upon us. You want to give us more than success and achievement; You want to make our lives fruitful for God’s kingdom. You want to give us more than job or business; You want to commission us for a noble task. You want to give us more than political power; You want to empower us to serve others. You want to give us more than good physical health; You want to heal our mind and spirit. Lord Jesus, help us to realize that in our hearts there is a hunger no other food can satisfy, there is a thirst no water can quench, there is a void no material object can fill. You alone can satisfy the hunger and thirst in our hearts. You are the Bread of Life for which we hunger. You are the Life-giving Water for which we thirst. You are the happiness and success for which we strive. You are the peace and joy for which we search. Lord Jesus, our hearts are made for You, and they will not rest until they rest in you. Amen.

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