Saturday, October 17, 2009

21st Sunday of Ordinary time

This is the second part of a two part holy I preached at St Michael's on the Eucharist this summer.

For the last 3 weekends there has been a common theme in all of the Gospel readings. Three weeks ago, on August 2nd we hear Jesus declare “I am the bread of life whoever comes to me will never hunger and however believes in me will never thirst”. A week later, we see Jesus telling the crowds “I am the bread who 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”. Last week we found Him in a synagogue in Capernaum saying “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 world.” And also “Amen, Amen I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you do not have life within you!” So… I hope you see a pattern here…
All these passages from the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John repeat again and again our need to eat the bread of life which is Jesus flesh and his blood, 14 times in just 24 verses. What is missing from the English translation is the urgency of Jesus voice every time he makes this declaration. I which I could show you the Greek version of the Gospel so you see what I’m talking about. The first few times we hear Jesus talking about eating the bread of life St John uses the Greek word “phago”; which In English means means the action of eating a meal. But as the Gospel progresses and Jesus continues to repeat this point St John switches from “phago” to “trogo” which not only means to eat but to literary gnaw, or to rip food with your teeth.
No wander today’s Gospel records some of the followers of Jesus saying “This teaching is to hard…who can accept it?! How can it be that this man will give us his own flesh to eat and his own blood to drink?” I’m sure some of them thought “Is he out if his mind? Does he really mean what he is saying? “ Many had trouble accepting this teaching to the point that, the Gospel say, many went back to their old way of life because of these words!
My brothers and sisters, throughout the centuries many have had a lot of trouble accepting this teaching. Many have tried to soften the words of Jesus. They have tried to say that Jesus was speaking symbolically, that he was somehow speaking about His spiritual body (whatever that means) and not His real body. But the reality is that when you read this passage with the eyes of the apostle John… there is no way around it… Jesus is talking about eating His real flesh and drinking His real blood. The question is: what are we to do with this idea? I think the safest thing we can do is to follow Jesus advice from the same chapter of John. “The work of God is that you believe in the one The Father has sent”.
Now you will agree with me when I say that, human beings have the habit of wanting to understand something before they can believe in this something. This works fine when we are talking about politics or science but when we talk about Jesus we are talking about the living God. He challenges us; he demands from us that we believe before we can understand! In today’s Gospel when he says that “ it is the spirit that gives life but the flesh is useless” he is telling us that our senses, those things we use to gather information so that we can understand before we allow ourselves to believe are useless, when we are talking about the bread of live. Only our faith can bring us to an understanding of its meaning.
There is a clear example of this in today’s Gospel; when Jesus asks the disciples if they too are going to abandon Him, and Peter answers “Whom can we go? You have words of eternal life!” He did not say “You have the bread that gives of eternal life” “Or you are the bread of eternal life” but “you have WORDS of eternal life”. He is telling Jesus “listen I have no idea how you are going to give us your flesh and blood but, one thing I know: you always speak the truth… You will find a way!” Of course we know that he fulfilled these words during the last supper, when he turned the bread and the wine into his body and blood… but he went further… He gave the apostles the power to repeat this miracle and to this day, in every mass we witness the transformation of bread and wine, simple elements, the work of human hands, into the most precious substance in the universe!!! The true body and true blood of Jesus Christ our lord!
My brothers and sisters…This is our faith…This is the faith of the church…When we come to the altar and the minister says “the body of Christ” and we answer “Amen” we are making a public declaration that we believe in the reality that Our Lord Jesus has given the Church the power to transform the bread and wine into His own body, blood soul and divinity and that we believe that this IS the true body of Christ. And this faith does not come from a cryptic reading of the Gospel, or from hundreds of years of theological argumentation and refinement. It comes right from the words of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John. We might not be able to explain it, and we will never be able to understand it. But it does not matter, because like Peter, we know that Jesus always speaks the truth. “Blessed be Jesus in the most holy Sacrifice of the Altar” AMEN.