Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time, (B), Sunday, August 12th, 2018:
By Father Scott Karnik:
Jesus’s central teaching about Eucharist in today’s gospel is in verse 51: “I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; and the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”(Jn 6:51). If Jesus is speaking symbolically, He can stop right at “If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever;…” If Jesus is using this as a metaphor, He can stop right there and there’s no misunderstanding. He is a symbol and if we eat this bread, meaning believe in His Word, we have eternal life and are saved. But Jesus today tells us what this bread of life is. It is His Own Flesh.
The Jews start to disagree with Jesus when He says He is the bread that came down from heaven. They say, “no, you’re not. You are Jesus, Son of Joseph and Mary, from Nazareth. You are a carpenter, just like your father. We know your brothers and sisters and cousins.” Jesus gets in trouble for identifying Himself as the Son of God. Jesus tells them to stop murmuring. Jesus repeats that He is the Bread of Life, come down from Heaven, and then He tells them what this Bread of Life is. It is His Own Flesh. Jesus has made this clear, from Sacred Scripture. Jesus Christ is the Eucharistic source of eternal life for all who eat and drink the flesh and blood of the heavenly and glorified Son of Man. Jesus is superior to the manna that the forefathers ate in the desert. Jesus is a superior Moses who gives this bread. So Point Number One is “…and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The second point is that this bread/flesh is more excellent than the manna that came from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert. That manna would spoil if the Israelites kept it over one day. One of the great Church Fathers, St. Ambrose, wrote that “the Flesh of Christ…is incorruptible so that whoever shall have piously consumed it will not experience corruption….The Body of the Giver [is] more excellent than the manna from heaven.” St. Ambrose continues: “You have read about the creation of the whole world: ‘He spoke and they were made; he gave a command and they were created’ (Ps 33:9). Therefore cannot the word of Christ, which was able to create out of nothing that which did not exist, change those things that do exist into that which they were not? To create new things is no lesser thing than to change natures.” God has the power to do this. We must have the faith to believe this. Jesus changes the nature of the elements into His Flesh and Blood. There is a real change in the very nature of the bread and wine that is so profound that it becomes the “Body that comes from the Virgin” and “that was crucified and buried.” Jesus’s grace is stronger than nature. This change into His Flesh and Blood is real. Jesus’s grace is stronger than our natures, so He can change us too.
The third point is that we must consume Jesus Christ’s Flesh and Blood in Eucharist, the Bread of Life to be changed by Him, into copies of Him. Jesus appeared to a nun in the early 1920’s. Her name was Sister Josefa Menendez. She is now a saint. Jesus told her “For under the species of Bread and Wine the real presence of God lies concealed. Under this veil, I am there whole and entire,…It is thus that one consecrated to Jesus Christ by the vow of virginity must be hidden under a veil of modesty and simplicity, so that under the appearances of her humanity, a purity like that of the angels may be concealed.” We see Bread. We taste Wine. But we consume Jesus Christ. Jesus enters us. He changes us and people see Him through us. Now we get into St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. The author lists virtues to replace vices within us. Forgiveness is prominent since God has forgiven us in Jesus Christ. The author asks his readers to imitate God. Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood changes our sinful natures. But this is not a snap conversion. It requires continual renewal. We must put on the new self. Jesus will be seen by others through the virtues we put on, that we accept, imitate, and practice. That means coming to confession, Holy Mass, and offering ourselves to Jesus, who offers Himself to us in Eucharist. “The dwelling place of our hearts is a temple sacred to the Lord.” That comes from a letter by St. Barnabas. St. Clare wrote to another nun that “…you may adorn yourself, mind and body, with an enveloping garment of every virtue, and thus find yourself attired in flowers and gowns befitting the daughter and most chaste bride of the king on high.” A great priest, St. Cajetan, wrote that “He has offered Himself to be our food….To us has been given the opportunity to receive Christ, son of the Virgin Mary, and we refuse him. Woe to that man who does not care enough to receive him….Ask her (the Blessed Virgin Mary) to give you her Son, who in the blessed sacrament of the altar is truly the food of your soul. Readily will she give him to you, still more readily will he come to you, giving you the strength to make your way fearlessly through this dark wood. In it large numbers of our enemies lie in wait, but they cannot reach us if they see us relying on such powerful help. Then St. Cajetan concludes with this: “Nor, my child, must you receive Jesus Christ simply as a means to further your own plans; I want you to surrender to him, that he may welcome you and, as your divine Savior, do to you and in you whatever he wills. This is what I want, this is what I beg of you, this, as far as I can, is what I compel you to do.”
Jesus changes us when we receive Him wholeheartedly in Eucharist. “For hidden and annihilated there (in Eucharist) is the greatness and power of God”(Jesus Christ speaking to St. Josefa Menendez).
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