8.19.18. Sun. wk 20 – O.T. – B
Proverbs 9: 1 – 6
Ephesians 5: 15 – 20
Gospel of John 6: 51 – 58
Jesus said to the crowds: “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.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “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. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 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. 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. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Stay Close To The Eucharist: The Bread of Life
“The Jews quarreled among themselves saying: ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’” (Jn.6:52) This question showed an incredible act of faith among those who were listening to †Jesus. A few verses later in this chapter 6 of John’s Gospel – we read: “As a result…many of His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him”. (Jn.6:66) They wondered how could †Jesus be food for them? How was this possible? Yet, many of them had seen Him work miracles – multiplying loaves and fish to feed 5,000 people. They saw Him cure the sick and raise the dead. Some of them saw †Jesus walking on the water. Still, they were scandalized by what †Jesus said: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood you do not have life within you”. (Jn.6:53) For life to be sustained food is essential. Starvation kills millions of people annually around the world. For the spiritual life to be sustained it, too, must be nourished.
In last week’s Gospel, †Jesus taught that His Word was the food that nourishes us. This week John turns more to the Eucharist. †Jesus is the new ‘Manna’. The manna in the desert only sustained the Israelite people physically and for a short period of time – but †Jesus is ‘The Bread of Life’ that sustains us into eternal life. This is the gift of the Eucharist – left to all believers by †Jesus. He has left this gift for all of us.
The last few weeks have been challenging for the Church; more allegations of sexual abuse of minors from around the world not just in our own country. This seems to dominate the news on television, radio, and on the internet. A Cardinal resigned from the College of Cardinals; bishops from one South American country submitted, en masse, resignations to Pope Francis, having been accused of not reporting allegations in the past. I remember, it must be a dozen years ago, when our diocese went through similar scrutiny and we had to deal with this same issue in San Diego. At that time – I received angry letters from two families in our parish. They were informing me that they were leaving the Catholic Church over the scandal. I continue to feel deeply distressed about these families; that they would walk away from ‘The Table of the Lord’; from the Eucharist.
Now there is no justification for the abuse of children or for protecting abusers. No justification for that at all. A report- from the National Center of Victims of Crimes – recently made it clear that the abuse of children is not a Church problem. It is a cultural problem – a societal problem.
Bishop Robert Barron wrote this week about the current revelations in Pennsylvania. While not offering excuses, he wrote that we should not forget the role of Satan in this. The evildoer wishes to destroy faith in †Jesus Christ and faith and confidence in the Church. The evildoer will prey upon human weakness and sin. We know Satan doesn’t care about children being molested because ‘there’s a bigger fish to fry” – that’s the destruction of faith in †Jesus Christ. That’s what the evildoer wants. He wants more people to walk away from †Jesus – just as they did at the time of †Jesus when many of His followers walked away because His sayings were too hard. I’m not blaming this whole abuse scandal on Satan – nor is Bishop Barron – because we have to cooperate with evil in order for Satan’s plans to work. But we cannot dismiss the fact that Satan rejoices in this situation. Too many of those who were abused as children have already walked away from the Church and the Eucharist – and I completely understand their feelings of betrayal by those priests. The Good News is that next month – we will have two young men entering the Church – they have chosen to become part of our Church despite all that is going on. So the Spirit is still deepening faith in people.
In today’s passage from the Book of Proverbs we heard: “Forsake foolishness that you may live”. (Prov.9:6) If the Eucharist is ‘The Bread of Life’ – let us not forsake this gift because of the sins of others. St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: “Watch carefully how you live; not as foolish persons but as wise ones, making the most of the opportunity because the days are evil”. (Eph.5:15) We must not allow the evildoer and the heinous sins of others to destroy our faith in †Jesus and in the Church – to keep us from the Eucharist. The grace of the Eucharist is far greater and far more powerful than any sin or any sinner. The grace that you will receive today, as you receive the Body and Blood of Christ – is greater than any sin you commit. The presence of God is here. The mysteries of the Christ are celebrated here on this altar.
A few verses later from our Gospel today – †Jesus said to the Twelve: “Do you want to leave me – too”? Many had abandoned †Jesus at this time because, they were scandalized by His teaching. “Do you want to leave me too”? (Jn.6:67) By His question – †Jesus was asking the Twelve if they will accept †Jesus or reject Him – accept or reject His Sacred Body and Blood. And Peter quickly exclaimed: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life”. (Jn.6:68)
I remember thirty-five years ago – right on this spot – I was ordained a priest. Some of you were here that day. I remember afterwards – feeling so great – I thought I had this protected bubble around me – that I would never feel another human weakness again. That didn’t last very long. Pray for priests – pray for us because we’re susceptible to sin and selfishness like anyone. Without the priest – there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist – there is no Church. Then – to whom shall we go for “The Bread of Life’ if there is no Church? Let the Mass – which is the gleaming cornerstone of our spiritual life – be an unshakeable part of your Christian life. Daily mass was the Blessing that saints cherished – so let us not miss out on ‘This Pearl of Great Price’ that the Lord has given to us. If we know the value of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – how much greater effort should we put forth to participate in the Mass. Let us join †Jesus in His Eucharistic action of redeeming the world – of redeeming His Church. Continue to pray for the Church, pray for the world – pray for victims of abuse and violence. Pray for the conversion of the abusers. And let us defeat the plan of the evildoer through love and mercy and compassion – through better protection of our young and the innocent.
At the dismissal of every mass – we are called to “go forth and serve the Lord”. And rather than abandoning the Church – and abandoning the gift of the Eucharist – let us be strengthened to proclaim the Good News – to become ‘The Bread of Life’ to a Broken World.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.