Homily – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Now some of you in the Nave are probably wondering what this young, inexperienced priest is going to say about that second reading. The expression comes to mind: “Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.” Well I am not a fool but I am not a coward either. I must save that homily for another time, when I don’t have to rush, in order to finish talking about John 6. Let me, however, first state for you the plain truth about this controversial reading. In no way is this reading demeaning to women if you understand it from a Catholic perspective. If it sets some people on edge or if it causes some to gloat then I can tell you that they are not reading it from a Catholic perspective. The Catholic Church acknowledges differences between men and women and their roles but No teaching of the Catholic Church ever demeans women. If fact it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that aside from the humanity of Jesus Christ there is no one who was, is, or ever shall be holier or has greater dignity than the woman Mary. That is not the teaching of a Church that demeans women. Now we return to John 6 and the Eucharist.

In our first reading we see Joshua put before the people a decision. He says: “Decide today whom you will serve”. Surprisingly enough the people do not respond with grumbling this time but rather with a faithful answer. “Far be it for us to forsake the Lord….He performed those great miracles before our very eyes….therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
We see quite the opposite in our Gospel today. Remember Christ just told them they must eat his flesh in order to have life within them. They respond: “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Jesus doesn’t back down or change his tune. He challenges them further. “Does this shock you?” Evidently it did and evidently it shocks some people still today as I mentioned last week with close to 70% of Catholics not believing in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.. Christ says there are some who do not believe. In fact some of his disciples leave him this day and return to their former way of life. They leave Christ because they do not believe they must literally eat his flesh. If Christ didn’t mean what he said would he have let them walk away? Wouldn’t he have told them “Come back, you misunderstood.”. He doesn’t. He turns to those who are left and asks if they also want to leave. He stands his ground. He doesn’t change his tune. He presents the truth and then lets each of the disciples decide. He does the same for us.
The Eucharist, that is what were the host and wine before the consecration, is the actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. It is Jesus Christ. That is the truth that causes so many to leave. That is the choice each of us is faced with. Do we or do we not believe? To be Catholic you must believe this. Our answer must also be as Peter: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Over the last few weeks I have laid out some themes in my homilies on John 6. All are important to prepare to receive the teaching on the Eucharist. I showed you that we must be a people of Thanksgiving. Eucharist, from the Greek, means thanksgiving; so that means we must be a Eucharistic people. I showed that we must believe every word that Jesus says no matter how difficult it might seem. He gives us the teaching on the Eucharist as his flesh and we, like the disciples, must choose to believe or walk away. Finally, I showed we must take care to be good stewards of the material blessings we have in our lives. If we do not then we will neglect the spiritual ones. The spiritual blessing I was preparing you for is also a material one. We must be good stewards of the blessed Sacrament. If we do not then we too walk away from the Lord and his teaching even if we keep coming to the Catholic Church every Sunday. We must not walk way from this teaching on the Eucharist.
You can often tell how much people value something by the way they treat it. They are much more careful with a new car than one that is 10 years old. They hold a newborn baby more carefully than they would a doll. This pattern should hold true for the Blessed Sacrament as well. You should have much greater care for the blessed sacrament than you would for an unconsecrated host which is simply a piece of bread. The way each of us receives the Eucharist says a lot about what we believe. First we must be able to receive. That means you must be Catholic, have observed a 1 hour fast, and not be in a state of serious sin. We don’t exclude non-Catholics to be mean. We don’t have open communion because we want to protect their integrity. When a Catholic receives communion they say Amen. Remember that means Truly or I believe. A Catholic receiving communion is saying Truly to two things. One that they believe in the Catholic Teach on the Eucharist and two that they are in full communion with the Church. A non Catholic would not want to say this and we shouldn’t put them in a position where they would have to violate their integrity. A non Catholic or a Catholic who can’t receive should come up and cross their arms to receive a blessing. To do otherwise or attempt to receive would be a violation of their integrity and would be disrespectful to Catholic belief.
The Eucharist is to be received either on than tongue or in the hand. Generally there is little room for disrespect if we receive on the tongue. If we receive in the hand we must be careful about our manner and how we handle the blessed sacrament. We should handle it with as much care as we would an infant. Jesus puts his life in our hands and we should not take that lightly. The proper way to receive the Eucharist is to make a sign of reverence when we approach. The priest says: The body of Christ and you should respond Amen in a voice loud enough so he can hear you. This tells the priest you are a Catholic and you know what your receiving. Remember Amen means truly, truly. Then you present your tongue or your hands to receive the blessed sacrament. The proper way to receive in the hand has been established for well over 1600 years. St. Cyril of Jerusalem instructed first communicants to: stretch out both hands making “the left hand a throne for the right hand, which receives the King”. This is the way we should receive our King as well. This means not one handed, and not like we were receiving a football or in any other way lacking reverence. There also is no need to point. Jesus knows where he is to sit and even though I am new I know where to seat him. Our left hand should be under our right and then we step to the side and reverently consume him.
We must respect Jesus for what he is: the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Just because he humbles himself in order to give himself to us doesn’t mean we can treat him as if he isn’t truly present. How you handle the Eucharist says a lot about what you believe.
The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords deserves proper respect and reverence. We must be good stewards of the gifts we have and not take them for granted. I admit it is tough because St. Michaels doesn’t have a kneelers and the tabernacle is in a side chapel so a whole generation has grown up unaccustomed to reverencing the Blessed Sacrament with our bodies as well as our lips. Kneelers are coming and we are working to make the Eucharistic Chapel a more sacred space. Until then we must be vigilant and not become lax in the reverence we show Jesus Christ in the blessed Sacrament.
I encourage you to develop a greater love for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. If this is tough for you then take Jesus’ advice in the Gospel. He says no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father. Ask the Father to give you the gift of faith in the Holy Eucharist. In the Gospel of Mark a man asks for a miracle and Jesus tells him that all things are possible to those who believe. Immediately the man cried out and said “I believe; help my unbelief.” This too should be our cry as we ask for greater faith in the Real Presence.
The decision to believe is up to you. The scriptures present us with a decision:

Joshua addressed all the People: If it does not please you to serve the Lord then decide today whom you will serve.
Jesus asks: “Do you also want to leave?”
Scripture also provides the answers that will bring us happiness beyond our ability imagine:
Joshua answers: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Peter replies: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

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8 Responses to “”

  1. Peter Says:

    Father,

    I enjoyed reading your homily. It gladdens my heart to know that your flock is receiving such solid instruction regarding the Most Blessed Sacrament. I pray that the Lord will touch many hearts through your homily and cause people to reflect more deeply on the miracle of all miracles made present before them on the altar.

    God bless!

  2. Father Paul McFallon, S.T.D. (Cand.) Says:

    Dear Father Reitmeyer, I read your homily for the 21st Sunday in which you speak of the glories of the Holy Eucharist.
    I humbly offer one change and one addition.

    1.)[CHANGE] You wrote: “The Eucharist, the host and wine after consecration, is the actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.” If we think about the Eucharistic mystery, there is no “wine after consecration.” Wine ceases to exist at the moment of the Transubstantiation of wine into the Blood of Christ. Therefore, we should not say “wine after consecration” because in a valid Catholic Mass you will never find wine in the Chalice after the Consecration.
    I am very sensitive about correct Eucharistic language because I have encountered numerous errors. For example, there is a popular hymn in some parishes which should be removed immediately because it tears down Eucharistic Faith rather than build it up. This specific hymn is entitled, “The Supper of the Lord” by Laurence Rosania. It is published by Oregon Catholic Press and its copyright date is 1994. The very first words of the hymn are: “Precious Body, Precious Blood, here in bread and wine.” This, of course, is heresy. To speak of the Body and Blood of Christ existing with bread and wine is the Lutheran concept of consubstantiation. Our Catholic truth is that bread and wine cease to exist at the moment of the Consecration due to Transubstantiation. As a pastor, I directed our Music Director not to sing this hymn. She became upset.

    2.)[ADDITION] When discussing the requirements for the reception of Holy Communion, you wrote: “First we must be able to receive. That means you must be Catholic and not in serious sin.”
    You are absolutely right, Father Reitmeyer, but I would expand it slightly in order to mention the requirement to fast for an hour.
    I would say: “This means you must be Catholic, not in serious sin and have fasted from food and drink (except for medicine and water) at least one hour before receiving Holy Communion.”
    By adding this, you refer to the grave obligation of the Communion Fast.

    May God bless you abundantly, Father Reitmeyer.

    Father Paul McFallon, S.T.D. (Cand.)

  3. Father Todd Reitmeyer Says:

    Father,
    I of course agree with you on transubstantiation and I see how this might be confusing. Technically I think it is correct grammar in that I am talking about a temporal order here. The host and wine, after Concesecration become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

    I will reword it when I give it to make sure that is more clear.

    Thanks for the idea about the fast as well.

  4. Father Todd Reitmeyer Says:

    Padre Paul,
    Upon further reflection I thought I should ammend my online homily as well. Your suggestions are certainly appreciated and I hope you find the changes acceptable and more clear.

    Even though something might be technically correct we are shooting for a clear understanding right? Thanks again.

  5. Father Paul McFallon, S.T.D. (Cand.) Says:

    You are very gracious, Father Reitmeyer. Thank you very much for your humility. What a great example for me. Father Paul

  6. Marsh Fightlin Says:

    Hi, Father Todd:

    I liked your comments on Ephesians 5.

    You are so right. The Catholic Tradition has consistently cautioned against a misreading of Paul’s admonition to wives. The “submission” is mutual. Both spouses are equal in dignity. Neither spouse is to be treated as a slave or a child. As JP II says, there is to be no “unilateral domination.”

  7. The Barrister Says:

    Excellent homily, Father. Excellent. We should ALL be reminded, ever so gently, of WHY we are in Church and exactly WHAT we are receiving! Rebuilding Christ’s Church will require rebuilding the reverence of Her flock, one sheep at a time.

    I’ve seen Paul’s admonition put thusly: Wives, let your husband choose the film you’re going to watch tonight; husbands, choose a film you know your wife will like…

  8. Jude Oniah Says:

    I really enjoyed this conversation. It is awesome and enriching.
    Fr jude

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