Monday, August 06, 2012

18th Sunday - homily

I've been able to watch a little of the Olympics and have been so impressed by these amazing athletes, many of whom are teenagers.  It's been so good to see the female swimmer from Aurora, Colorado win four gold medals; her town and state needed that after the summer they've had. By the way, she said before London that she is seriously considering becoming Catholic! And, our area received a dose of Olympic adrenalin from Katie Ledecky, a 15 year old swimmer from Bethesda. Katie won a gold medal and set an American record in her event.  She is a strong Catholic who prays a Hail Mary before every race.

But, the coolest event I have seen at the Olympics has been trampolining. It's the first time I had seen it and I couldn't believe what I was watching.  The guy I saw was from Russia and he had to have been bouncing 50 feet in the air! He was doing all of these flips, twists, and turns, and then coming down in the middle of the trampoline.  He did this at least five times in a row.  I was dizzy just watching him. And, then he walked off perfectly fine.  If I landed one of those bounces, I would be happy to be alive...and then walk away quickly.
Athletes can teach us so much about discipline, especially Olympic athletes. If we took care of our souls the way they take care of their bodies, we would be in great spiritual shape! When people come to me struggling to live one of the virtues, I often point to the example of athletes. They make a habit of doing what is right; that's the definition of a virtue. Athletes repeat the same practices every day, believing that "practice makes perfect". We approach prayer in the same way, repeating the same practices every day and every week.  The Church has always held up the discipline of athletes as something we should emulate in our lives of faith.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9, St Paul writes, "athletes deny themselves all sorts of things. They do it to win a crown that perishes, but we for a crown that doesn't perish" (v. 25).

Jesus commands us in today's Gospel, "do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life" (Jn 6). Are we working for food that perishes? Do we put all of our time and effort into the things of this world only? Or, are we working for the food that endures for eternal life? Do we invest in the things of Heaven while on Earth? I’d like to go through some aspects of your lives to help see for what you are working as a whole.

The area in your life to which this command most directly affects is your vocation and career. Are you working to build up your own kingdom or the kingdom of God? Financially, do you spend money only on material items? Or, do you give to the Church and the poor through tithing? In relationships, are you looking for people who are rich in the things of the world or people who are rich in the things of God? How much of your free time do you give to the Lord in prayer? In November, will you vote only according to politics or according to morals? The biggest distinction between food that perishes and food that endures for eternal life might be in the moral life.  Are we working toward pleasure or joy? Pleasure is food that perishes; it doesn't last. The things of the world might bring pleasure.  But, the things of Christ bring joy. Joy lasts.  It is among "the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you".

This first part of the "Bread of Life discourse" is a lead-in to the Lord's teaching on the Eucharist which we will hear over the next few Sundays. He introduces the Eucharist as the "bread of God...which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world". The people's response to the Eucharist should be our response: "give us this bread always". If every Catholic knew what we are receiving in the Eucharist, we would all not only be here every Sunday…we would be on our knees coming forward.  The food that Christ offers, particularly the Eucharist, is the bread which comes down from Heaven.  It is different from all other food around us; it satisfies us and does not leave us hungry. "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst".

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