August 19, 2018
20th Sun Ordinary Time
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
This is the 4th week in a row the Gospel is from John Chapter 6 “The Bread of Life Discourse”…So I ask you, If someone were to come up to you on the street and say, “Eat my flesh and drink my blood”, what would your reaction be? Shock, surprise, anger, confusion? You would think they were crazy right?!! Well, that’s exactly what Jesus told the people of His day and that’s exactly what He tells us today.
But can you blame the people of His day for not understanding? The scripture said, “The Jews quarreled among themselves saying ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Besides sounding crazy it was strictly forbidden in the Mosaic Law to drink blood yet Jesus is insisting that they eat His body & drink His blood! Did Jesus back down and say, “No, I really did not mean that. It was just figure of speech.” No, He did not! In fact, He emphatically repeated it over & over again! And He repeats it to us over and over again, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.” Why is that? You see, life is in the blood (without blood you die). And so it is with eternal life is in the flesh and blood of Jesus, in the host & cup that we receive at Mass! Because as He says, “My flesh is true food and blood is true drink (Eucharist).”
But the opposite of being shocked is complacency and routine. Every time we approach the Table of the Lord at Mass and we receive the consecrated host and cup we should be in awe, we should be amazed that we are truly receiving Christ Himself. As St. Pope John Paul II said, “This is no metaphorical food.” In other words, St. JPII is saying Jesus literally meant what He said. But many people take it for granted, maybe not fully believing or understanding what exactly they are partaking in. They come forward at Mass not prepared spiritually. They come forward with their mind and hearts someplace else. They come forward as part of a routine and because everyone else is doing it. Every time we approach the Table of the Lord at Mass we should be awestruck, amazed and grateful. Fully realizing that we are being given God Himself! How blessed are we as Catholics!
And why does Jesus emphatically insist that we eat His Body and drink His blood? Besides life being in the blood, He wants to become 1 with us. That’s why the Eucharist is also called “Holy Communion”. In the Eucharist, in Communion we enter into “union” with Him. We take on His characteristics, His virtues and His mission. When we become one with Him in the Eucharist we are transforming more & more into Christ who gave of Himself for the salvation of the world. He invites us to take on His life of mercy, of forgiveness, of generosity and of service for the good of others. Jesus gave His best on the cross and He continues to give His best, Himself, on the altar in every Catholic Church in the world every single day. In union with Him we are also called to continually give of our best: our best and first of our time, talent and treasure. Not our leftovers but our best…When we become one with Christ in the Eucharist we become a sacrament (a sign) to all the world that Jesus is alive in us by our compassion, by our faith and by our love.
And also, we become one with each other, we become in union with all who receive Him in faith. Through the Eucharist we are in “communion” with the Church, with the Body of Christ, as a sacrament of unity, of peace and of reconciliation. Together in union with Christ and His Body, the Church, we can have a positive influence on the world and draw souls to the Kingdom which is His mission, which is our mission.
The Eucharist is food for the journey. Just as we feed our bodies with physical food…we feed our spirits and souls with the Eucharist. It is fuel for our spiritual engine to keep going on mission even when it gets difficult. It’s not easy to live a Christian life in the world today. Wouldn’t you agree? But this is nothing new. Way back in the 1st century St. Paul tells us in our 2nd reading, “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” If the days were evil back then and it was difficult to live a Christian life how much more difficult is it today? With all the temptations of this modern world! How much more do we need to become one with Christ with His food for the journey to stay on the right track?!!
But the world and all who think like the world do not and cannot understand these things: that the simple bread and wine by the power of the Spirit working through the priest in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) becomes the true Body & Blood of Jesus. They cannot understand that by receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament we come in union with Him, empowered to change the world. It has been said, “To those who do not believe this is beyond understanding. To those in faith who do believe no explanation is necessary.” We cannot understand these things by the natural. It is only by the supernatural. We can only understand these things through the wisdom of God…In our 1st reading from the Book of Proverbs Lady Wisdom has prepared a great banquet and has sent out her invitation. But notice, she doesn’t invite the wise of the world who think they know it all and have all the answers. No, the scripture said, “Let whoever is simple turn in here; to the one who lacks understanding come eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed.” The great banquet of course represents the Mass and the “simple” is not an insult but refers to those who seek wisdom and understanding. The simple are the humble who know they need God’s wisdom to understand these things…Yes all are invited to the banquet but many choose not to come. Many think about coming but have other priorities or get distracted or side-tracked. Then some do come but don’t really want to be here. They come grudgingly or out of routine and they do not fully enter into the Mass or the purpose of the Mass. They approach the Table of the Word and the Table of the Eucharist not prepared or open to the graces offered…And this is a great tragidy because God offers us His very self in the Mass, especially in the Eucharist.
In closing, Jesus means what He says over & over: His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink. Let us approach the Table of the Lord not out of routine or habit but in awe, in faith and in thanksgiving. Let us come in “union” with Him and with each other and take Him out to the world to make a difference, cooperating with the grace we have been given. Amen!