the Bread of Life -Homily August 16, 2015
We have been reading for a few
weekends already the Sermon of the bread of life. After the multiplication of
the bread and after the storm has been calmed for the Apostles, Jesus is trying
to convince the Jewish people, little by little, that he is the bread of life.
He had first attracted them with an astonishing miracle, with a great meal: he had
made them happy first. He then tried to lead them from the food of the earth to
the food of heaven, and to the necessity of trusting his word and believing in
him, in order to really have life. Things between Jesus and his listeners were
already a little tense last week, and this week they will not get any better.
1. The Gospel
begins with the last words of last Sunday’s Gospel: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this
bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the
world is my flesh.”
people then disputed among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his
flesh to eat?” It was already difficult for them to have faith in him, to
welcome his word, and now he is asking that they should believe in something
astonishing, and even scary: Jesus is talking about eating his very flesh. This
is too much for the people and for many Christians nowadays: How can this man
give us his true body to eat?
Jesus could have clarified things. It
was the perfect moment to say: “No, no, please don’t get me wrong! I am not
talking about really eating my flesh…
I mean to eat it spiritually, to have
faith in my word…” or something like that, something like those foolish things
that you may find even in “Catholic” books. Jesus neither changes nor qualifies
his words, because he knows perfectly what he means, and he wants this to be
clear to them. When they question: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
his immediate answer is the following: “Very
truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his
blood, you have no life in you.” If it was scary to speak about eating
human flesh, it is even more scary now: drinking his
blood! And so that no doubt remains that he is really speaking about a meal, he
adds: “for my flesh is true food and my blood
is true drink.”
these words, many people will leave. Everybody had seen the astonishing miracle
of the bread, but miracles alone do not produce faith, and when the words of
Jesus were difficult to understand, they left. The apostles did not understand
either, but they stayed. And one day, when Jesus was at supper with them, they
understood. They understood “how this man could give them his flesh to eat”: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it: this
is my body.” It was clear in one instant, that the one who had the power to
calm the storm, to raise the dead, and to change water into wine, had also the
power to change wine into his blood, and bread into his flesh, to give us life
and happiness, now and forever.
And I cannot make a point of this
today, but let me remind you of two things about false reasons against the
miracle of the Eucharist. First, it all depends on the power of God: The God
who created the world can make a piece of bread his body if he wants. Second,
it all depends on the word of God: Jesus said “This is my body.” When the one who knows everything and who can do
all things says something, it is the end of the discussion: there is no reason
to doubt. And if other reasons come to your mind, or you want to explore the
doctrine of the Eucharistic conversion of the bread into the Body of Christ,
you have to study the Summa of St.
Thomas. Which is not long, but it requires some previous training. A long story
short, St. Thomas analyzes every possible reason that someone may have to doubt
about the Eucharistic presence, and shows that there are no reasons but excuses.
And to make it even shorter: after so many geniuses and holy people who
believed in the Eucharist, and so many Eucharistic miracles documented by
scientists, who are we to doubt? But no more of this today. Back to the Gospel
Jesus explains the effects of this “strange” meal, (maybe still trying to
convince the people to have faith in him): “Whoever
eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up on
the last day.” The effect is life, life now and then, eternal life for the
soul and even for the body on the last day. Jesus loves our body too, Jesus
considers the body he as God has created good, and for this reason he promises
immortality to those who eat his flesh. Immediately after saying that he will
raise up our bodies on the last day, he adds as a reason: “for my flesh is true food.” I think he means this: “the bodies that
have received my own body in this life, will share the glory of my own body in
the other life. Because if you and I are one body, it is necessary that we
share everything, not only eternal life in spirit but also in the flesh.”
When we receive communion, the body of
Jesus and our bodies are one. What a great dignity the one for the human body,
which is the temple of God! And how much abuse of the human body, how much
profanation of the temple of God, what lack of appreciation of this dignity!
Sins of impurity, the body shown and considered as an object of use, the way
people hurt and kill, the way we hurt ourselves with addictions… Is it not the
body of Christ we offend?
That is why Jesus finishes this
paragraph saying: “Whoever eats my flesh
and drinks my blood abides in me and I in them.”
You abide in me: that is why you have life, because if you are in me, my Father
will love you, and we will come to you and make our home with you. You will
have true and happy life because you will always love and be loved. Life is love.
And I abide in you: watch your words, watch your feelings, watch
your thoughts and your actions. I abide in you, you are always in my presence, try
to please me in all you do, because I am your friend.
May our Communions help us always to
grow in our friendship with Jesus. May we enjoy his
presence in our heart, and let us always be concerned about treating well the Divine
Guest of our souls, Jesus, the Son of Mary. Let us treat him well not because
we are afraid of him, but because he is our Friend. –Fr.