18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

We have two beautiful homilies by Father Hanly for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: “What The Heart Hungers For” and “’I Am The Bread Of Life.’”

Two Homilies:

What The Heart Hungers For

What The Heart Hungers For

In Father Hanly’s wonderful homily for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, he looks at the hunger in our hearts and how to satisfy it.

Readings for Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

  • First Reading: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
  • Second Reading: Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
  • Gospel: John 6:24-35



Have you noticed, this is the second Sunday when the Gospel continues the chapters of St John’s Gospel known as the Bread of Life.

Remember last week, the Gospel was all about Jesus coming to the other side, to Capharnaum, and he was there, and there were so many people there, and then there was no place to send them.

So he tested his disciples and said to them, “Give them food.”

And Philip said, “It’s impossible. There’s too many of them. You should send them away. Send them back to their homes.”

And then Jesus sat down, had them all divided up into groups, and then he took five loaves and two fishes — the offering of a little shepherd boy who happened to be in that great crowd — and then he multiplied them and there was enough bread for all of them to eat and as much fish as they desired.

And then, of course, you remember they saw this and they said, “This is the Prophet. This is the one Moses spoke about. This is the Messiah. This is the one who is to come.” And so they were going to make him a king.

And Jesus knew this, and so he fled from them and he went into the mountains and hid away, because they wanted to make him king.

Today, we know now, from reading this Gospel, two things. We know why Jesus ran away from the crowd who were going to make him king, and we know that the people who were fed missed the point of the feeding, they missed the point of why they were fed.

But we know from reading last week’s Gospel that they were right: God was feeding His people. This time it wasn’t Moses. This time it was Jesus. He sat them all down in the desert and he fed them.

And every Jew that was a part of that first multiplication of the loaves and fishes — five thousand men — they knew what he was doing and they knew what he was saying and they understood something that we sometimes forget.

They understood that the meaning of the loaves that Moses fed the people with when the people rebelled against their freedom and wanted to return to the fleshpots of Egypt and he asked God and God said, “In the morning, they will gather manna, and in the evening, quail, and they shall know that God cares, that God feeds His people, that God nourishes people.”

And so it became a great sign and symbol down through the centuries that the one thing about the God of the Israelites is He cares, He cares for His people and He gives them what they need.

For them it was bread, but, as we can see, what Jesus was saying is, “God is not giving you bread. The Bread of Life is something much more important than a few loaves and a couple of fish. The Bread of Life is what you hunger for.”

And then all of us have to ask in our hearts, “What do you really hunger for?” To be a celebrity, to be rich, to live on the Peak, to be helpful, to be content, to be at peace?

The human heart is a hunter and it hunts after food. But the food isn’t always the ordinary food. The food is what the heart hungers for.

And probably at the bottom of all those hungers that we express — the need to feel accepted, the need to feel wanted, the need to feel loved, the need, sometimes, to feel better than everybody else or richer than everybody else or more important that everybody else — all these hungers are deeper and deeper and deeper until you get to the final hunger and this is what Jesus has come to give: the final hunger is we hunger for God Himself.

A saint once said, “If you find God, you will be satisfied. You will be satisfied if you live in splendour on the mountain top or you live in a slum hovel — because you will have the reason why you were born and why you have this hunger.”

But the problem with this hunger is how do you experience it?

Many people feel, “Well, if I’m safe and secure, and I have enough to eat, and a nice family, and a good job, etc, etc, that will be enough.”

But we know it is never enough, for beyond that is the deeper hunger. The hunger is this: we hunger for Christ. “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never hunger again. And I will give him the water of life. And he who drinks of me will never thirst.”

Now this is a very hard lesson to teach a people who are more concerned about the daily necessities. And that is why, in today’s Gospel, Jesus lays the foundation of what they missed.

Last time they met him, they were missing the point.

The point was that God Himself has come to be our Bread, to be our life. He has come to make us a people. He has come to bring us together that we might experience not only God, but that we ourselves are children of God, brothers and sisters of God.

And until this is realised, we will never understand what the words “Bread of Life” means.

We have a symbol every Sunday. We give out Holy Communion and everyone receives the Bread of Life, Jesus himself. And we receive it, but very often we forget the next step. And the next step is the vital step.

Because we are not to feed on the Bread of Life for ourselves, we are to feed each other with the Bread of Life. It is not that I find myself one with Jesus on a Sunday morning as I sit and pray. It is that Jesus has made us one people. One Bread, one God, one people. The Bread that comes down from heaven must be shared by the people who receive it.

And so what Jesus is saying is, “I shall make of you a community, a people. I shall restore the full meaning of what it means to be a human being. One father – under God, one people.”

The point was missed because the people were looking for material things. But Jesus persists. He runs away from the one thing that could destroy what he had come to give.

He had come to give peace. He had come to give love. He had come to give all the precious things we hunger for.

But he found that, unless we shared them with each other, we would never know what love is, we would never know what these gifts are, we would never know what it means to be a child of God until we reach out to the people around us. We will never know what it means to be one, unless we learn to forgive, unless we learn to share.

Now, I always think of two things.

What Jesus is asking of us is not that we believe that he is the Son of God, that we believe that what he says is true, that we believe all of these things. He’s looking for our trust.

He’s not saying, “I’ll give you a few sermons and then you’ll see if they are reasonable enough and you follow them and then you will be happy.”

He is saying, “I want your heart. I want your soul. I want to be as close to you as you are the bread you eat — the food you eat is one with you.

“I want you unconditionally. I want you because I want you to understand that when God loves, God gives. And I give myself to you that you might give yourself to your brothers and sisters.

“And in giving yourself to your brothers and sisters, then you will understand that the Messiah is the one who gives himself that all people might finally understand and experience the loving God who gives, and to understand what love really means.”

The only one at the first multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the only one who understood, or began to understand, what the meaning of that great mystery was when Jesus took this ragtag gang of people — who are all interested in their own lives and in their own things — and sat them down that they could see each other and talk to each other and share bread together, the only one whose heart sang, and who understood, even dimly, what Jesus had done, and what he had hoped to do, was the little boy.

The little boy, remember the little boy?

When the apostles Philip and Andrew said, “We do not have anything to feed them, send them away.”

And then Andrew said, “But there is a little boy here who brought his lunch, a couple of loaves, tiny little loaves, and a few fish, and what are these among so many?”

And Jesus took the loaves, he blessed them, raised his eyes to heaven, gave them to his disciples to distribute, and there was enough for everyone.

Without the little boy, there would have been no miracle.

Not because loaves couldn’t be bought, five or six.

Because Jesus took the loaves from a little boy who gave away his own lunch — everything he had — generously and largeness of heart and he gave it and in his naïve way said, “Here is the way that you can feed these people.”

That’s not faith, that’s trust.

And this is what Jesus expects.

Trust is different from faith. Faith is, “I believe in this, I believe in that,” and, sometimes, of course, it’s a part of trust. But trust means, “I give my life into your hands and I hold on to you and I never let you go.”

And I’ll end with a story about Coney Island.

When I was a little boy, I was very, very, ill. I had many illnesses — osteomyelitis and a few other things — and I was kind of very … it made me very angry all the time.

And my father one day took me to Coney Island, which is kind of like it’s the greatest place in the world for kids, in Brookyln, on the shore, with all the rides and the Ferris wheel and Mile Sky Chaser in the sky, and he brought me there one day and he said, “We are going to have a good time together.”

And he took me into Steeplechase Park, which is one of the large amusement parks, and I saw the rollercoaster for the first time.

And I said to myself, “I can’t go on this.”

And he smiled at me and he says, “Yes, you can.”

I said, “No, this is terrorising. You see, it goes way up and falls down and whirls through the sky.” And here I was, only about nine years old, and I said, “No, no, no, no, I can’t go on this.”

And he said, “I’ll go with you and I’ll hold you.”

And so we got on to the roller-coaster and sped through the skies.

And I was terrorised only until I felt my father’s arms close to me and I held on. And after the first thrill, I became an addict for roller-coasters.

The reason was I put my faith, not my faith but my trust, not in the roller-coaster, I put my trust in my father. And I knew what he was trying to do.

He was trying to say, “Leave all your fears behind and I will take you riding on a great ride through the sky and, as long as you hold on to me, you do not have to fear anything.”

This is how you appreciate what happens here, in your life, any place.

Jesus gives himself to you and you hold on and he will take you to places you’ve never dreamed of.

“I Am The Bread Of Life”

“I Am The Bread Of Life”

In this beautiful homily for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Father Hanly puts Jesus’ words this week in the context of last week’s Gospel, to help us understand more clearly their full meaning and significance.

Readings for Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

  • First Reading: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
  • Second Reading: Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
  • Gospel: John 6:24-35



This will be a bit skipping around today, largely because I skipped around for the whole week and found it quite difficult to try to put, in sum and substance, the Gospel of today’s readings.

And also how can we have suddenly changed?

We have changed now to a Jesus who is quite strict, quite demanding. Loveable, yes, but at the same time adamant about what he himself feels we must become.

The best place to start it is last week.

My favourite character, not in all of Scripture but close to all of Scripture, is a little boy.

If you remember, last week, we had the first of the five Gospels on the Bread of Life. The Bread of Life, of course, is Jesus himself.

But you remember the story, I think. It’s the story of the loaves and the fishes.

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,

It’s a sign that he’s going to preach, from the beginning to the end, all about God comes among them up into the mountain top, just as Moses went up to the mountain top to see God and receive the Ten Commandments.

and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near. 

which we celebrate around Easter time, the passing over from death to life. For the Jews it was a passover from slavery to freedom, and for us it was a passover from darkness into the bright light of the Messiah.

When Jesus raised his eyes
and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip,

Philip as you know is one of the disciples.

“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.

If he knew what he was going to do, what is he testing them for?

Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.”

This is kind of worldly. If you’d all picture yourself in this scene, picture…

The first thing we ask is how much is it going to cost us to feed all of those people. And that’s what Philip…

Philip wants to know how much he’s going to lay down and where he’s going to find the money and how he’s going to bring it all in. Times do not change. Two hundred denarii or days’ wages worth of food wouldn’t be enough even to begin to feed all these people.

One of his disciples,

Now you all know Andrew. Andrew is Peter’s older brother. We always think of St Peter as older, but he’s not, he’s the younger, Andrew is the older.

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here

That’s the little boy.

“There is a boy here
who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”

Five barley loaves…

Barley loaves are the food of the poor, the food of the rich being bread made out of wheat. But if you eat bread made out of barley, you’re kind of on the lower rung. So here he’s got just a few, five, barley loaves and two fish.

And how and why did he bring them?

He was all by himself, apparently. Well, he’s got a little bag and his mother probably gave him what he needed. And, of course, it was his lunch. It was something to eat while he was there with the Master.

Lots of people were coming and going, and all of them came to see Jesus. To see Jesus because he was a healer and many of them came for healing, but he was also someone who gathered a large group of people who felt lost and alone and didn’t know what else to do, so they followed this young man who spoke from the heart and was so different.

Jesus said,

when he heard about the barley loaves and two fish,

Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” 

(sit down)

Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.

Just the men. That doesn’t mean the women and the children. Amazing number of people.

Then Jesus took the loaves,

Now listen carefully, because John, who wrote all of this, John was just about a young man, a very young man, not much more than the boy who was there at this event of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.

Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. 

Nice and cosy. Jesus was turning an angry or mixed up mob of people, all with their own personal needs and desires, and he was making them into a community. They’re all sitting nicely together in small groups, facing each other, chatting about whatever.

And, of course, I’m sure they also brought a lot of food.

So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

These are the words of the priest, yes? You take it, you say, “Jesus took the bread, giving thanks, distributed it and said, ‘This is my body.’”

and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves
that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” 

Things are looking very good for Jesus and his message.

Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

This is a beautiful, beautiful reading. And it makes us think a lot about ourselves, because he’s describing the Church, you know. We are here just like they were.

The disciples are all there. People are coming who all have different ideas in their hearts: what they want and what they don’t want, what they would like to have and what they will settle for. Some of them don’t even know how come they wandered in.

And it was kind of a group of people who didn’t know each other too well. A large number — much larger than ours — didn’t know people too well, so they weren’t too friendly with each other, but they were (inaudible).

Anyhow, what I’m trying to describe is that when Jesus speaks to these crowds of people and when he talks about those times, he’s talking now, today, to you and I.

Because it’s the same Jesus that said, “Have them all sit down. Make them welcome.”

He had compassion on them. They had all kinds of this and that and problems of their own. And it was for him to say to the disciples, “Reach out and take care of them.”

Then why did he run away?

He ran away because he knew they were going to make him king. He knew they were going to lift him up high and say, “This is our hero. This is the one who is going to change everything. This is the one we put our faith in.”

But it never happened. And it never happened because God does not need kings. His Son does not need high authority. He does not need to be cultured. He does not need to be apart from the ordinary people. He does not need to do anything.

What he needs is what?

He needs for us to give our lives into his hands and then he will do something. That is what he needs.

Because you have freedom, and God has freedom, and Jesus has freedom, and we share that, and it all must be respected.

And so he knew that anybody having votes that, whatever, however you do it, and you create people who are above everybody else, who are leaders, who are this, who are that, are not welcome really in trying to build up the Kingdom of God.

And for the one reason that I think I always say. It’s because there’s no love in it. And if there’s no love in it, it’s not worth anything, we’re just playing games with each other.

There is love. And those who love understand that the love of Jesus is a self-sacrificing love, but it is the love that makes the world go round.

It is the only reason why they are sitting there and listening. Yes, they have many hungers, but the great hunger they have is the hunger for the love of God. And that is why they’re sitting there: hunger for the love of God.

And love means what? Receiving?

No. For Jesus there’s no such thing as receiving love. I mean there is receiving love, but it’s because you and I have loved out, and given this love of Jesus to other people. We are not waiting to be served.

And, of course, this is the great flaw in the people who came that day, and rushed all the way to Capharnaum to see him again.

Because he hid from them and he went back home to the house of Peter at Capharnaum and he stayed there.

And when they came to see him, they said, “Where did you go? Where did you go? We were going to make you king.”

He just smiled at them and he said,

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you are looking for me not because you saw signs

signs of a new era, signs of a new world

but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
So they said to him,
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to him,
“Sir, give us this bread always.” 

And now the final words, this simple itinerant man, walking around, overlooked, not appreciated, loved by many but certainly not a man of consequence, and this is what he says,

Jesus said to them,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

And that’s the Gospel story today.

What is it that we learn?

We learn that we are the people of God, that we are called by God, that Jesus is among us, that he walks with us and talks with us and sings with us, he dances with us, he is ours for all eternity.

The one thing that he asks of us is the one thing we find very hard to give to anyone: he demands surrender.

“You must give your life to me.”

You must understand that only when you give your life away, is it possible to build something real and lovely for you and your families and your children.

Where the whole world finally understands that it is in loving others, not ourselves — in loving others, in working for others, in healing others, in caring for others — that is the only way to build a world that we can say comes from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

FAQ for Homily for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

When is 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, in 2024?4th August 2024
What is the title of Father Hanly’s homily for Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B?"What The Heart Hungers For" and "I Am The Bread Of Life"
What is the next homily by Father Hanly in this Liturgical Cycle?
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Who was Father Hanly?Father Denis J. Hanly was a Maryknoll Missionary
How can we find other homilies by Father Hanly?By Liturgical Calendar or by topic or by title

Information about Father Hanly’s homilies for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

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If you would like to use our transcripts of either of these sermons (updated 2023), please contact us for permission.

Father Hanly's sermon for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, "What The Heart Hungers For" was delivered on 2nd August 2009. Father Hanly's sermon for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, "I Am The Bread Of Life" was delivered on 5th August 2012. It is sometimes hard to accurately transcribe Father Hanly's reflections, so please let us know if you think we have made a mistake in any of our transcripts, and let us have your suggestions.

We hope that Father Hanly’s homilies, always kind, always wise, always full of love, will restore you to peace and harmony through a new understanding of what is important in this world. We believe these homilies are inspiring for everyone, not only for Roman Catholics or other Christians.

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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
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