19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Homily Ė 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

During the last two weeks I have shared with you certain themes in the readings to prepare you for this week and the next two weeks readings. For you see the very last sentence of this weeks Gospel begins for us the Christís teaching on the sacrament of the Eucharist. This understanding of, reception of, and worship of this sacrament is so foundational to Catholics that the documents of Vatican II called it the Source and summit of Christian life. The question we need to answer is do we really believe that. I do with all my heart and it changed my life forever. Now I am very tempted to give you next weeks homily but I will resist and stick to todayís readings.
The themes I mentioned before included: The need to be a people of thanksgiving, the need to be good stewards of the material lest we neglect the spiritual, The need to work for the true food that lasts for ever. I told you of how God works through Ages that last thousands of years. He gives us hints in the Old Testament of what is to come and be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love him. Finally I told you of the absolute importance of believing every single word and teaching that Christ taught us. Either he was a liar or he was telling the truth. You must decide what you believe. It wonít alter the truth at all. Truth is absolutely independent of what you believe. It will however alter you, eventually.
Now donít panic. I am not going to talk about all of them today. But I do want to look at two of the points in light of todayís readings. 1. Godís acting through Salvation to fulfill Old Testament Shadows of things that come to full light only when we have Christ. 2. The need to believe every word that Jesus said. He is God after all.
In the first reading we see Elijah and he is preparing for a spiritual journey. One in fact that will last 40 days and 40 nights. A heavenly messenger arrives and brings him food. Bread and water. He says that he must eat or the Journey will be too long for him. Elijah eats and drinks. He is strengthened and he begins his Journey to Meet God.
We too are on a journey to God. It is the walk we call life. The whole purpose is to return home to heaven. Of course you can choose another destination if you like. In fact if you donít have the strength for the journey you might not make it. God once again has sent us a messenger. One who provides us with food and drink to strengthen us for the journey. In fact He sends his son. He sends Jesus who is also God the Son. So we know, that beyond any shadow of a doubt, the food and drink provided to us will be better than that provided by a mere messenger, even and angelic one. The kingís Son has better things to offer than the Kingís messenger.
In last weeks reading God told Moses he would provide his people bread at dawn and in the evening he would provide them flesh. Elijah ate bread and drank water in the dawn of Salvation History. When Christ comes, it is evening of Salvation History, we will eat Flesh. In fact that is what he tells us that in Todayís Gospel if we are willing to believe it.
We see in todayís gospel that the people are once again grumbling. Jesus says he is the bread they will eat. He is the bread come down from Heaven. You see they donít believe that he is God. They think he is a simple man, born of a man and woman. They donít know what we know. They donít know that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and that he is the Son of God, the messiah.
Jesus tries to tell them. He says it is written that they will be taught by God. The Jews understood this to refer to the Messiah who would establish a new covenant sealed with his blood. One might say the blood of a new and everlasting covenant. If you pay attention you will hear that again today. He tries to tell them but they refuse to believe. The arenít interested in spiritual food. They want their next meal of earthly food.
Jesus tries again. He promises that whoever believes has eternal life. He dangles the carrot so to speak. Do you believe what he said? Do you really or are we also skeptical? Jesus continues. He tells them of how this moment was prefigured. Your ancestors ate bread (manna) and they died. If you eat this bread of life then you will not die. Remember we arenít talking earthly death but spiritual death.
So what is this bread from Heaven? What is it we must believe to have eternal life? What must we eat not to die spiritually? This is the climactic moment. What is the answer he gives us? This is Christís answer to us and to the Jews. Jesus says: I am the living bread whoever eats this bread i.e. whoever eats Jesus will live forever. The bread he will give at the last supper and at the Eucharist is His very flesh and he gives it for the life of the world.
The question each and everyone of us needs to answer is the same as the one the Jews with him had to answer. Do we believe him? Do we believe Christ is the bread we must eat? Do we believe the Eucharist is the flesh of Christ?
Do we believe that after the Consecration that the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ are present and that we receive them when we receive communion? Wasnít he just talking symbolically? He didnít really mean we eat flesh did he?
Next week we hear the answer of the some of those following him. Perhaps it will be the same as yours. But I promised to wait until then to do talk about those readings and I want to be a man of my word.
I leave you with something to think about in your answer; The two principles I began with. What were Shadows in the Old Testament become fulfilled realities in the New Testament. So you must decide if God was faithful in providing what he said he would: flesh. Second: We must believe every single word and teaching that Jesus Christ taught us. Either he was the Son of God or he wasnít. Either he was telling the truth or he was lying. Either we must eat his flesh or we donít have to. What you choose to believe doesnít alter the truth. Truth, reality, is absolutely independent of what you believe. But it certainly can alter you. The choice is up to you. Choose well.

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