Sunday, August 23, 2009

21st Sunday - homily

Before I begin a meditation on today’s Gospel, I would like to make a clarification from today’s second reading, St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (Chapter 5). We hear one of the most fiery lines in all of Scripture: “wives, be subordinate to your husbands”. Some wives have told me that whenever they hear this reading in Church, their husbands nudge them, as if to say, “see”, which prompts a not-so-nice look from the wife. But, this is also one of the most misunderstood lines in all of Scripture; I understand why people can get so upset about it. But, let’s clear up the misunderstanding.

Another translation of this is “wives, be submissive to your husband”. Submissive means “to be under the mission of”. Wives are to under the mission of their husbands. What is the mission of husbands? It is the mission of Christ: to serve their brides. Christ’s mission was to serve the Church, his bride. He served his bride to the point of death, giving himself completely to her. Husbands are to serve their wives in the same way: they are to give themselves completely to their brides. Wives, let your husbands serve you! Now, wives are nudging their husbands, saying, “see…you serve me!”

I ask you all to put yourself in the scene of this Gospel (John 6). Picture yourself in a large crowd, maybe on a hillside. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of people. And, there is a great buzz in the crowd. You are all there to hear one man, Jesus of Nazareth. You have been there with the crowds, following Jesus every day. You have witnessed his miracles – you have seen him cure blind and deaf persons, seen him walk on water, and turn water into wine. You have heard his amazing teachings. You haven’t met him yet, but something happens to you when Jesus speaks. Now, in his this huge crowd, he is presenting a new teaching.
He is teaching about bread. He uses the word bread many times, and then refers to himself as bread. He says that he is the “bread of life” and the “bread come down from heaven” and that his “flesh is real food” and his “blood is real drink”. It’s such a big crowd that it takes a while for everyone to hear what he is saying. People start to question it, then complain, then get very angry. “This is a hard teaching…who can accept it?” Then, you see people begin to leave. Again, they had been following him every day…these are his disciples! And, they are leaving him because of this new teaching.

Now, we learn two things from the Jews in the Bread of Life discourse. Number one, this is a hard teaching. Number two, they took him literally. They heard him say over and over again that he will give them his flesh and blood to eat and drink. They were outraged at this and left him. Now, Jesus didn’t stop them and say, “wait, wait, wait, you misunderstood me. I wasn’t speaking literally”. He didn’t say this because he WAS speaking literally.

As you’re contemplating all that’s been said and if you are going to leave, too, you hear Jesus say to the Apostles, “Do you also want to leave?” You notice Peter, the leader of the Apostles. He has this dazed and confused look that says, ‘Jesus, I have no clue what you’re talking about’. Peter says to our Lord, ““Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” When you hear Peter say these words, you wonder to yourself, ‘has Jesus just spoke for Heaven? Is this God’s newest teaching? Will He really give us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink? Do I believe what I am hearing?’

Each of us is really in this scene because we have just the heard the teaching on the Eucharist. Are we with the small group of disciples who believe Jesus, even though we don’t understand it and can’t explain it very well? Or, are we with the many, many disciples who have rejected the teaching on the Eucharist? My brothers and sisters, many Christians have rejected this teaching. They have left the Church because of the teaching on the Eucharist. I have spoken with many of them over the years and have heard them mock the teaching, calling it ridiculous. I simply echo the sentiment of St. Peter and ask them how they can live without the Eucharist.

We come here every Sunday and with our presence here say that we cannot live without the Eucharist. Let us continue to be with the disciples who stayed with our Lord. Let us believe even though we don’t understand how bread and wine becomes Christ’s Body and Blood at every Mass. Let us be faithful disciples who believe with Peter and the Apostles that Jesus, especially with regards to the Eucharist, has the words of eternal life.

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