20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Published on Aug 21st, 2012 by Austin Keith | 0

As you know, this is the fourth of five Sundays devoted to the Sixth Chapter of John, the discourse on the Bread of Life.  This week’s Gospel reading gets right to the heart of its Eucharistic message: Jesus says, “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.  Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood you will not have life within you.”            Jesus doesn’t just speak about people believing in Him.  He uses the expression, the one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood. He uses Eucharistic terms, terms the ancient Christians were familiar with from their celebrations of the Eucharist and terms that we are familiar with from our Masses: “bread,” “food,” “flesh,” “blood,” “to eat,” “to drink,” “will give,” “for your sakes.”  Jesus, the true bread from heaven will replace the former bread from heaven, the manna and law, with His broken body and spilled blood.  The concrete place where the believer encounters the true bread from heaven is in the Eucharist.  The Eucharist is the action where the believer shares  the redemptive mystery of the Cross.

When we receive communion, we receive Jesus’ sacrificed body and blood. When we receive communion we enter into the mystical.  In fact, the earliest word to explain the action of the Eucharist was the mysterium, the mystery, the mystical.  God, our Heavenly Father, watches us eat.  I am sure His heart is also warmed by our taking in the food He gives us.  I am also sure He is saddened when we refuse to eat, or take just a few morsels of the Great Meal He has prepared.  For the food He offers us is the very Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus the Christ.  When we eat His Body and Drink His Blood, we receive the strength we need to grow and do the work set aside for us in life, His work.   When we refuse to eat, and only sometimes come to Church to receive His food, the Lord must feel like the parents who are upset that there children are refusing to take the nourishment that they have paid for with the money earned.  The Lord also paid for the food He gives us.  He paid for that food with His life.  How must He feel when we refuse to eat?

There are some people who reduce this sacrament to a meal of fellowship. There are some people who equate the sacrament of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church with meals of fellowship in some non Catholic churches. These actions are not the same.  For us, the Eucharist is Jesus Christ. The Sacrament we receive is so much more than a sharing of fellowship.  It is total union with Christ, whom we take within ourselves in sacramental form. Some people simplify this mystery into a reception of Blessed Bread. The bread is not just blessed. It is Jesus.  The Eucharist is Jesus dying for us, sacrificing himself for us, and calling us to perform the same sacrifice for others.

Our reflections on the sixth chapter of John are meant for us to come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the gift that we routinely receive every time we come to communion. Children need to eat, and they need to eat well. We are the children of God. We need to take the food our Heavenly Father provides so we can grow. Wisdom has set the banquet and calls to us: “Come, eat my food and drink my wine.”  May we eat well so that we can have the strength to do the work of the Kingdom.

God Bless,
Father Peter