St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Jesus, 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.

 

The 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.

 

2. After 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 reading.

 

3. Finally, 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. Andrew