Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday, August 5th, 2018:
God’s power works through His Son, Jesus Christ. In St. John’s Gospel, Chapter Six, Jesus tells us that He works through Eucharist. This is a miraculous act on Jesus’s part and His Father’s. Last week, Jesus miraculously multiplied the five barley loaves to feed five-thousand-men. Last week’s Gospel reading is a perfect scriptural reference to the Holy Mass. Read that. The parallels are obvious. The people want to make Jesus a king. Jesus avoids them and returns to Capernaum. They follow and catch up to Him there. That’s where today’s gospel picks up. Jesus speaks bluntly. He says they’re looking for Him for another free meal. Jesus tells them to seek the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of Man” and says He will give the bread that gives eternal life. Jesus says the Father, God, has set His seal on Him. The Jews know exactly what Jesus is saying. So they ask what they can do to accomplish the works to God. Jesus says their work is to believe in the one God the Father has sent-the Son of Man-Jesus Himself. They ask for a sign because their ancestors ate manna in the desert during the Exodus. They quote the Old Testament, Psalm 78:24. Jesus differentiates Himself from that. Jesus tells them that His Father, God, gives the true bread from heaven. That bread comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Jesus identifies Himself with this bread. He says I AM the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
Notice Jesus says I AM (the bread of life). I AM is the name God gives to Moses when He asks God to identify Himself. Jesus identifies Himself as the superior Moses. Jesus will give a superior, supernatural bread, Himself, His Body, His Blood, in Eucharist. The change will be miraculous, just like the multiplication of the loaves, just like the transformation that will occur here at Holy Mass. Notice that these people come to Jesus. Jesus decides to feed them. Then they follow Him to Capernaum. The parallel is that we come to Jesus here in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to receive Him, the Bread of (eternal) life. Jesus will give us Himself, His own Body and Blood, in the sacrament of Eucharist, to help us in our spiritual journey to the Promised Land of Heaven. We receive eternal life from Jesus, in Eucharist. This is not a magic potion by which we consume Him and do nothing more. Jesus in the Eucharist unites us to Him and brings us into Him. Jesus in the Eucharist helps us to put away the old self of yours/my former way of life and enables us to put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth. Jesus in Eucharist, His Body and His Blood, unifies. St. Paul writes that members of the Ephesian Church must not live like the pagan Gentiles. You learned Christ by being taught in Him by someone who teaches in Christ. It is in that unified spiritual dynamic that people learn spiritual truths.
Jesus comes to us in a liturgical service, Holy Mass. St. Clement of Rome writes to the Corinthians that the offering of gifts is the equivalent of calling the Eucharistic liturgy a sacrifice, a blameless and worthy offering. St. Ignatius of Antioch tells his church members to accept the invitation of the Father, who will feed the one who accepts the invitation, with the Bread of God, a direct reference to John 6:32-33 where Jesus says “It is not Moses who gave you Bread from Heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Ignatius then identifies “Bread of God” with the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself, Jesus the “Son of David.” This is a teaching of the Christian community. It is the identity between the crucified and risen Body of Jesus and the Eucharistic Body that is the foundation of the unity of the Church. Ignatius tells his church to “Be careful to observe one Eucharist; for there is only one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup of union with His Blood, one altar of sacrifice, as there is one bishop with the presbyters and my fellow-servants, the deacons.” Jesus unifies. Jesus brings together.
It is important to remember that: the Eucharist is Jesus Himself, it is sacrifice, thanksgiving, the cause of unity of the Church, spiritual medicine, a promise of Resurrection, and a model for Christians to imitate.
That is what Jesus tells the Jews in the gospel and St. Paul reminds his church members of. As the gospel proceeds, there will be more. Jesus will shock the Jews by saying that this Bread of Life, Himself, is His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink. There are strong reactions to Jesus’s teaching. Today, Jesus identifies Himself as the Bread of Life, superior manna to the one their ancestors received in the desert.
February 12, 2017
October 23, 2016
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