Monday, August 13, 2012
19th Sunday - homily
Before I was ordained a priest I was stationed at a parish in the area. I became friends with a family through the high school youth group. The father and a few of his kids were having an awakening in their Catholic faith at that time. The mother was not Catholic but was becoming more interested in the Catholic Church. She and I started to have conversations about the faith. Ultimately, we talked about John 6, the Bread of Life Discourse, which we are hearing these Sundays...these awesome Sundays with John 6! Like many Protestants (and most Catholics), she wasn't familiar with John 6. She wasn't aware how much Jesus talked about his flesh and blood in this chapter, and how real and literal his language is.
I pointed out to her a distinction we can make between the Protestant Communion and the Catholic Eucharist based on the distinction our Lord makes between manna and the Bread of Life. Manna was just bread; Protestant Communion is just bread. The Bread of Life and the Catholic Eucharist are the same thing: the Body and Blood of Christ. It is his actual flesh and blood; it's really Him. As she was learning this, she became more attracted to the Eucharist. She paid more attention at Mass which she attended with her husband and children. She expressed a desire to become Catholic and receive the Eucharist.
But, she ran into a problem. She explained to me the problem she was having was with Catholics after Mass in her parish. She said they were gossiping, cursing and telling inappropriate jokes in the parking lot...right after receiving the Eucharist. This caused her great scandal. She couldn't make the final leap to believe in the Eucharist because of the malice she observed in Catholics within minutes of participating in the majestic feast of the Eucharistic banquet.
St Paul tells us in the second reading to avoid such malice: bitterness, anger, shouting, etc. This grieves the Holy Spirit, especially after Mass at any parish. Grief has to do with death. The Holy Spirit grieved that this woman's faith in the Eucharist died because charity died in the parking lot. We hear about death in each of the readings today. In the first reading, Elijah's hope has died. He tells the Lord, "this is enough. Take my life". He has lost hope; he is in despair. In the Gospel, Christ teaches that those who ate manna still died.
But, the theme of life is the dominant theme. Life in Christ dominates death! The theme of life dominates because the theme is on the Eucharist. In the Eucharist is life. St Paul exhorts us to "live in love" and to be a "sacrificial offering to God". This is Eucharistic language. Elijah eats the food that the angel of God gives him and is filled with strength and hope. The Eucharist gives us strength, hope, and life to continue on our journey. Jesus teaches that He is the Bread of Life...whoever eats this bread will live forever. The Eucharist is our life!
If you are struggling in any way like Elijah was, if you are losing hope or down of life, I invite you to come to the Eucharist. Come receive the hope and strength of the Bread of Life. Take the time during Holy Communion seriously as the Lord is inside you. Stay after Mass for a few minutes to give thanks to God for the immeasurable gift of the Eucharist and Jesus' sacrifice. Attend a daily Mass sometime this week. Daily Mass is awesome! It's an incredible way to start the work day or spend part of your lunch break. Go to Masstimes.org for a listing of all the Masses in your area. If possible, too, spend some time in Eucharistic Adoration. This is the best way in prayer to experience the living Presence of God.
Jesus says in the last line of today's Gospel that this is all for real. "The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world". It is really his flesh...it is really our life.