18th Sunday, Ord. Time – B, August 1, 2021


Ex 16:2-4.12-15; Ps 78;Eph 4:17. 20-24; Jn 6:24-35


I would like to share with you a popular Hindu parable which I learned when I was still new in the seminary. This parable is about a stone-cutter who was working on a piece of stone in the fields and he was sweating it out, trying to get a piece of stone from a big boulder.  And then a king passed by. The stone cutter thought to himself, “Oh how I wish I were a King!” The Lord answered His prayers. And from being a stone­cutter this man was transformed into a King!

He was soon dressed like a King. And as he was moving around his kingdom, it was very warm because the sun was scorching hot. He realized that even if he was already a powerful king, he could not do anything about the sun! So he told God, “Lord, I don’t want to be King anymore! It seems the sun is more powerful than a King, I want to be a sun!” So he became the sun. Very Hot! And he was making everybody perspire! Until one day, clouds passed by and overpowered the heat of the sun.

              So this man said, “Lord, I don’t want to be a sun anymore; make me into clouds, because it seems that the clouds are more powerful than the sun!” So the clouds were sailing theskies very gracefully, and beautifully; until they became very heavy. The clouds became water; and the clouds became rain! So he thought that he was still very powerful because there was a big flood on earth. Until he saw that there was still something that was left unmoved in spite of the great floods he has caused! And it was a piece of stone.

              Then he said, “It seems that the stone is more powerful than the rain, the water, and the flood! Lord, I want to be a big stone.” And after he became a big stone, he saw that there was a stone cutter who was more powerful than the stone. So he said, “Lord, I don’t want to be a stone anymore, I just want to be a stone-cutter.”

We can have plenty of reasons to be discontented. We can have plenty of reasons to complain. We will not run out of reasons to complain. But let me tell you, if we have ten ‘ reasons to complain, there are certainly more than a hundred reasons to be grateful. And yet we are people who love to complain. And yet we are a people who always tend to neglect appreciating the good in each other.

The Jews were not very far from that. The Jews were fed, five thousand men of them, by the Lord. And they admired the Lord for performing such a wonderful miracle. And then, they were starting to recognize that there was something special about this Jesus! Their typical Jewish rabbis, teachers and preachers were not doing the things Jesus was doing. And so they told Jesus, “You know, if you are really the Messiah, Moses gave us mannah in the desert. If you are the Messiah, you should give us mannah also; because that is the sign of the messiah!”

The Lord said, “I am the bread come down from heaven. I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me shall not thirst.” But what did the Jews say, “NO! We know your family; we know where you come from. You cannot be the messiah! We don’t believe in you!”

The Jews chose to be discontented rather than see the wonderful signs the Lord has done for them. Would it not be true that we complain too much. We see faults in each other too much. We see faults in our friends too much, that we forget that we have been blessed that, we forget that we have more reasons to be grateful, to be thankful to God for.

Have you ever seen a carabao? In the Philippines, many of our farmers still use carabaos for their farming. Of course we don’t see carabaos in the city. I grew up in a city so I don’t know much about carabaos. But a priest friend who has spent his childhood in the rural fields, his father being a farmer, told me something special about their carabaos. They  had two carabaos which they kept at the back of their farm­house. To keep their carabaos within the limits of their property, his father set up barbed-wire fences around. The carabaos had more than enough green grasses to eat within their back yard. This friend of mine told me that every morning he would always see these two carabaos sticking their head out between the barbed-wire fences. Trying to eat the grass outside the yard. The grass looks always greener at the other side of the fence.

There is always a temptation even for us human beings to think that “others are better than I am;” “others are more fortunate than I am;” that “God loves them more than He loves me;” “they have all the blessings in the world while I have all the reasons to complain.”

We have a strong message from St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians in the second reading. He says: “I want to urge you in the name of the Lord, not to go on living the aimless kind of life that the pagans live. You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self which gets corrupted by following illusory desires.” What St. Paul is trying to tell us is that: it is our illusory desires that make us want to complain. And again, all these illusions are but caused by our short-sightedness. The closer we are to being blind, the greater is our desire for visual, material, physical signs.

And the good news is that God recognizes this short-sigh­tedness. You want a more visible sign? You want a more physical sign? I give you my son, in flesh and blood! BUT like the Jews in the time of Jesus, all our illusory desires have kept us blind to the very person of Jesus Himself!

Jesus repeats the good news for us in the gospel this Sunday: “Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures.” And what Jesus is saying can be summed up in a single sentence: The human heart has a hunger and thirst that nothing on earth can satisfy.

It’s a lesson that we must learn, if we are ever to find true happiness. Fame and fortune, all the wealth in this material world, promise to fill the void, the hole, the emptiness in the human heart.  But in the end they leave the heart more hungry, more thirsty, more short-sighted, and ever more complaining, than it was before!

Let us pray for the grace to overcome our persistence in complaining, in fault-finding, in being unhappy with our situation. At the same time let us ask the Lord for the grace to think positively, for the grace to see the reasons why we should be happy and why we should be grateful, let us ask God to open our eyes to the blessings we have received and to the blessings we still fail to see because we are a people who love to grumble, we are a people who love to complain.

Jesus dares us to live in contentment –  content with the fact the we have Him, the Bread of Life. He alone suffices!