Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), Sunday, August 19th, 2018:
Fr. Scott Karnik
Jesus’s words in the first verse of today’s gospel are the same as the last verse in last Sunday’s gospel: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is MY FLESH for the life of the world.” It causes the Jews much consternation. They know exactly what Jesus is saying. They understand Him perfectly. And yet, Jesus will continue His argument.
First Jesus says “Amen, amen,…” “Amen” means “so be it.” Jesus knows that they know exactly what He is saying and He will stand by it.
Second, Jesus amplifies his argument by saying “…unless you EAT THE FLESH of the Son of Man and DRINK HIS BLOOD, YOU DO NOT HAVE LIFE WITHIN YOU.” Refusing to eat Jesus’s flesh and to drink His Blood has an effect-a lack of life within. Jesus says that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” It is Jesus’s Body and Blood which is life-giving. He says “For my flesh is TRUE FOOD, and my blood is TRUE DRINK. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” No symbol can do this. It is only Jesus’s Body and Blood that accomplishes this. Notice that Jesus says “I am the LIVING BREAD that came down from heaven;…” Bread is an inanimate object. But Jesus inserts His very Life into it. How? He does it at the sacrifice of Holy Mass. Jesus died on the Cross once and for all for our sins. It is His glorified and resurrected Body and Blood that we receive in Eucharist and consume. It is His Body and Blood after His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven that we eat and drink. That is where the eternal life is located. We receive His glorified and resurrected Body and Blood here at Holy Mass in the sacrament of Eucharist, which He gave to us at the Last Supper. You have to come here to receive Him. You cannot get this watching a sunrise or sunset on a lake, or sitting on a mountain top, or in a forest.
Third, Jesus is clearly talking about something other than simply faith nourishment. In this gospel the verb “believe” disappears. It is replaced by “flesh,” “blood,” “eat,” and “drink.” Jesus shifts radically the vocabulary. The verb “eat” is repeated six times in today’s gospel. Jesus says it five times and the Jews say it once. Jesus also says “feeds on me” once. Jesus is clearly referring now to a sacramental nourishment for our souls that gives us the eternal life that Jesus Christ now has. It will be activated on the last day. Jesus’s description grows and becomes more explicit, not less. In verse 54, the best translation of the Greek verb is to “gnaw” or to “chew.”
Fourth, Jesus is doing something incredible, miraculous, and supernatural here. Jesus says “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” St. Therese the Little Flower referred to her First Communion as a fusion with Jesus Christ, not a meeting with Him. To fuse means “to unite by or as if by melting together”; “blend,” “integrate.” That’s what verse 57 refers to. Jesus gives us His eternal life, which He received when God the Father raised Him up on Easter Sunday. Jesus says “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” Jesus in this verse, verse 58 refers to the flow of eternal life from the Father to the Son. That same flow of life extends from Jesus Christ’s glorified, risen Body and Blood to us who eat His glorified, supernatural flesh and drink His glorified, supernatural Blood. His Body and Blood in Eucharist is readily available to everyone who believes His words about this.
This is incredibly shocking to the Jews but Jesus stands by it. One more thing: you have to come here to receive Jesus’s Body and Blood in Eucharist, to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Pope John Paul II wrote “The sacrifice of the Cross is so decisive for the future of man that Christ did not carry it out and did not return to the Father until He had left us the means to take part in it as if we had been present. Christ’s offering on the Cross-which is the real Bread of Life broken-is the first value that must be communicated and shared. The Mass and the Cross are but one and the same sacrifice….By making the Body and Blood of Christ really present under the species of bread and wine, it makes-simultaneously-the Sacrifice of the Cross actual and accessible to our generation, this Sacrifice which remains, in its uniqueness, the turning point of the history of salvation, the essential link between time and eternity.” That is from Pope John Paul’s Message to the Eucharistic Congress at Lourdes.” The closest we come to heaven is right here at Holy Mass, when Jesus comes down at the words of consecration and changes the bread and wine into His Body and Blood. This is also something we must do to receive Jesus’s eternal life.
Jesus sticks to His argument, He amplifies it to the Jews, He goes deeper than faith nourishment, and He gives us eternal life by this holy and supernatural act. He does this only here, at the Sacrifice of the Mass. This can change our lives. This can strengthen our repentance and our personal love for Jesus Christ and His Father. Indeed, this is what it is meant to do, to give us eternal life.
February 12, 2017
October 23, 2016
October 2, 2016