Bread of Life
Homily for August 19, 2018 (20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B)
A couple of months ago,
a father brought his children to the sacristy after Mass.
They had a question:
“Father, are we cannibals?”
This is an old story.
In the first centuries after Jesus,
when some people wanted to justify
their persecutions of Christians,
they often alleged superstition and cannibalism.
After all, didn’t those Christians admit that
they ate the body and drank the blood of their Christ?
Some misunderstandings and lies can last for many centuries.
But the truth will never die;
and the truth that we as Catholics proclaim is that,
yes, Jesus is really and truly present when we celebrate the Mass.
Just because that presence is supernatural
doesn’t make it any less real.
The most central way Jesus is present in the Eucharist
is in his Body and Blood,
the consecrated bread and wine.
In today’s gospel passage,
a continuation of his Bread of Life Discourse in John 6,
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.”
Our communion in and with Jesus makes us
the Body of Christ, the Church.
We are what we eat.
Just as the grains of wheat and grapes must be destroyed
before they can be transformed
into life-giving bread and joy-giving wine,
so Jesus allowed himself to be crushed
in his passion and death
so that we might have everlasting life and joy.
By sharing in his body and blood,
we also share in the experience and the promise of the paschal mystery.
Jesus is also present in God’s word.
It is in the Liturgy of the Word
that we enter the house of Wisdom and are seated at her table.
We learn to “forsake foolishness”
and “advance in the way of understanding.”
Jesus is present
in the members of his body who gather for the Eucharist.
The priest, however imperfectly,
stands in the place of Jesus
and does what he did with his disciples at the Last Supper. The people, through what Vatican II called their
“full, conscious and active participation” in the celebration
share in the offering of this new Passover sacrifice.
But there’s more….
Jesus is also present in us
—or he should be—
after we leave this celebration.
If we are what we eat,
then we will heed St. Paul’s admonitions in our second reading.
We will watch carefully how we live
and be people who are wise and “filled with the Spirit.”
We will be the Body and Blood of Christ for a hungry world,
a world that is hungry for meaning,
a world that is hungry for hope,
a world that thirsts for peace,
a world that thirsts for love,
a world that longs for an end to suffering.
A world that needs Jesus, the Bread of Life. +