Homily – 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)
Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.
This passage from the second reading is most appropriate for our reading of the Gospel today. Heed its advice. Watch carefully…. Do not continue in ignorance but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.
Why is it so important? Because this passage is central to our understanding of the Eucharist which our faith teaches us is the source and summit of Christian life. The Catholic church teaches that “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” In everyday terms what looks like bread to us, after the consecration, really is Jesus Christ himself. When the priest elevates the Host, he holds up Jesus Christ and that is who we worship. Jesus is the source and summit of Christian life.
Is it hard to believe? Yes because the appearances of bread and wine remain. It is so hard to believe, in fact, that a New York Times/CBS poll says most Catholics who go to mass regularly don’t believe the host is really Jesus Christ. They believe it is only a symbol. Those 65 and older do the best. 51%. Those 18-29 need the most improvement. Only 17% of them believe the truth. What we believe does not change the reality of what is true. What we believe or don’t believe just makes us ignorant if it isn’t the same as the truth. The Truth is that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ no matter how ignorant we are of it.
We must not continue in our ignorance. We must try to understand the will of the Lord. The scripture is clear as we see in the Gospel today.
Jesus said to the crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
We begin where we left off last week. Jesus is saying that he is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Manna. He says it three times in this chapter of John. I wonder how clear he needs to be before we finally begin to understand and believe. He is the true bread. The bread we must eat is his flesh. Did he really mean we are supposed to eat his flesh? Surely he meant something symbolic and not his actual flesh right?
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
The Jews understood what Jesus was saying perfectly well. They understood that what he was saying was exactly that we must eat his flesh. Literally not figuratively. There is no other way to interpret this passage other than literally. The words Christ used, clearly meant we must eat his very flesh The Jews never quarreled about what Jesus meant. They knew exactly what he meant. They just did not believe him. They probably thought he was going crazy. Do we think he was Crazy? That is the choice we are faced with. Either he was telling the truth or he was crazy. Surely he will change his mind when he sees how people are reacting, won’t he?
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
In fact Jesus doesn’t change his mind. He says it again but this time even more forcefully. Amen, Amen means truly, truly. Their disbelief of what he is teaching causes them to react strongly. He says Truly, truly I say to you… Do you think he meant truly, truly but not really? Or did he mean what he said: truly? In the Aramaic language the phrases: to “eat the flesh” and “drink the blood” of someone had a figurative or symbolic meaning as well as a literal one. The figurative one meant you were persecuting, assaulting and destroying someone. Is Jesus saying: unless you persecute, assault and destroy him you will not have life within you? That is exactly what the devil wants to do. Is the Devil the greatest saint then? Does he have the most life within him? If you understand Jesus figuratively or think he is speaking symbolically then the Devil is number one. Catholics believe Jesus means exactly what he says.
For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Jesus again says that his flesh is True food and true drink. He tells us this 7 times in 7 verses. If he didn’t mean it why would he say it so many times. What does true mean? If I tell you this is true Gold and hand you a piece of coal then I am either crazy or a liar. Jesus was neither. When he tells us his flesh is true food and true drink we take him at his word. He is God. God said let there be light and there was light. When God says something it is Done.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
The Eucharist is Christ’s fulfillment of the Passover of Old. During the Passover in Egypt all the families had to gather together to sacrifice a pure and unblemished Lamb. This was to avoid the plague of the firstborn. It was the beginning of the Exodus that led the Israelites out of slavery and into the promised land. The Lamb was to be eaten and if it wasn’t the Angel of the Lord wouldn’t pass over and their first born would lose his life.
Christ fulfills this. He institutes the Eucharist on the night of the Passover and brings it to fulfillment. Christ is our pure and unblemished Lamb. He is the True Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one that will be sacrificed for us on the cross of Calvary. His flesh must be Eaten in order for us to begin our Exodus out of slavery to sin and into the promised land of freedom in Christ Jesus. We must eat his flesh if we are to have life.
We see this in the representation of the Sacrifice of Christ at the Mass. Jesus is the true Lamb of God, the fulfillment of the Old Testament Paschal lamb at the first Passover. Listen to our prayers at Mass. We believe as we pray. Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world Have mercy on us. Only Jesus can take away our sins. He is the true lamb of God.
This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper. This refers to the consecrated host the priest holds up. The Eucharist we celebrate is Christ’s last supper. It is the fulfillment of the Passover meal of old. We eat the Lamb of God who was sacrificed at Calvary. That is how we fulfill our Passover.
Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I will be healed. In truth we aren’t worthy to receive Christ. We would be worthy to receive a symbol. The Eucharist isn’t a symbol but the real body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ and that is why we ask to be healed.
Two thousand years of Church teaching and the scriptures testify to the fact that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ. Saints, like St. Tarsus, died rather than surrender the Eucharist to those who would harm it. The Church has taught it infallibly and Christ promised to preserve it from error. All of these things bear witness to the truth that the Eucharist is truly Christ and not just symbolic and still most of us don’t believe it.
I could go on and on. I want to go on and on. I want you to believe with all your hearts because I know it will change your life forever. It will give you the new life Christ is talking about. I know that there is no other life worth living because I tried. I know nothing can compare with the life Christ is talking about. I believe what he says. I believe he keeps his promises and he said if we believe we will remain in him and he in us and that is what I want for everyone of us. I want you to be happy and I know that can only come from embracing the truth as God has revealed it. I will help you to understand it as much as I am able if you will let me. Sometimes I wish I could make the choice for you but then I know I would violate your free will. God has given you the choice of whether or not to believe. The choice is yours. Choose well.