One-page Synopsis of OT XX [B] (Aug 19) Homily on Jn 6:51-58
Introduction: Today’s readings stress the fact that the Holy Eucharist, the perfect fulfillment of the symbol of the manna in the Old Testament, is the Food that gives us life forever. In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus declared that the bread he gives is his Flesh. This Sunday, Jesus asserts that to eat this bread is to have eternal life.
Scripture lessons: In today’s first reading, taken from the Book of Proverbs, Lady Wisdom, representing God, offers wisdom and understanding in the form of a rich banquet to all those who are willing to heed her invitation. The early Christians often identified Jesus as the Wisdom of God. They regarded the Eucharist as Wisdom’s banquet, where they shared in the Divine Wisdom now Incarnate in Jesus. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34), thanks God for His providential care and His close association with His people and invites all to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” In the second reading, Paul advises the Gentile Christians to show their gratitude to God for calling them, along with the Jews, to Christianity, and for giving them a share in Christ’s life. They will be able to receive this life by avoiding their former foolish ways, like getting drunk on wine. Instead they are to be Spirit-filled with their talk edifying, always trying to discern and do the will of God. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus asserts that eating the living bread, himself, allows us to participate in his life and to grow here and now in our eternal life with God. Jesus emphasizes the eternal-life dimensions of eating his body and drinking his blood – that those who have Faith in Jesus and do so have already stepped into Heaven in this life, sharing in God’s own life and therefore in eternal life. Our participation in the Eucharist also concretizes and energizes our relationship with Christ and with one another. When we share in the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus himself comes to dwell within us. This communion with the Lord makes us one body, brings us eternal life, and sends us forth to be Christ’s body for the life of the world.
Life messages: # 1: We need to allow our body to be broken and our blood to be shed for others as Jesus did. That is why, at the end of the Mass, we are sent out to announce the Gospel of the Lord by our humble service and exemplary lives, radiating Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of service all around us. Let us say with Jesus, “This is my Body, which will be given up for you” and “This is the Chalice of My Blood … which will poured out for you“and live out these words by living for others.
#2: We need to keep the hunger and thirst for God alive in our hearts: Every human being is blessed with an insatiable longing for God. We want God as our Father to hold us gently in His arms, keeping us safe throughout the dangers we face. But often we use substitutes as an escape from that need: fast living, fast food, fast cars, needless luxuries, unrestricted sexual fulfillment. We demand the right to do whatever we want to do whenever we want. But let us remember the truth that unless we keep the hunger for God strong in our hearts, we will eventually realize the emptiness of our lives without Him.
O. T. XX (B) (August 19) Prv 9:1-6, Eph 5:15-20, Jn 6: 51-58
Anecdotes: # 1: Touching the body of Christ! St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), had a rule that when a newcomer arrived to join her Order, the Missionaries of Charity, the very next day the newcomer had to go to the Home of the Dying. One day a girl came from outside India to join the Order. Mother Teresa said to her: “You saw with what love and care the priest touched Jesus in the Host during Mass. Now go to the Home for the Dying and do the same, because it is the same Jesus you will find there in the broken bodies of our poor.” Three hours later the newcomer came back and, with a big smile, said to her, “Mother, I have been touching the body of Christ for three hours.” “How? What did you do?” Mother Teresa asked her. “When I arrived there,” she replied, “they brought in a man who had fallen into a drain and been there for some time. He was covered with dirt and had several wounds. I washed him and cleaned his wounds. As I did so I knew I was touching the body of Christ.” To be able to make this kind of connection we need the help of the Lord himself. It is above all in the Eucharist that he gives us this help.
# 2: Cannibalism in the Andes: In October 1972, a plane carrying 46 passengers, a Uruguayan rugby team and their families and supporters, to an exhibition game in Chile crashed in the Andes. Nando Parrado, one of the survivors, tells the story of their 72-day struggle against freezing weather and dangerous avalanches in the book, Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home [Nando Parrado and Vince Rause (New York: Random House –Three Rivers Press, 2006]. The author’s mother and sister were among those killed in the crash. High in the Andes, with a fractured skull, eating the raw flesh of his deceased teammates and friends, Parrado calmly pondered the cruelties of fate, the power of the natural world and the possibility of his continued existence: “I would live from moment to moment and from breath to breath, until I had used up all the life I had,” he wrote. The 16 survivors had nothing to eat except the flesh of their dead teammates. After two months, Nando, an ordinary young man – a rugby player – with no disposition for leadership or heroism, led an expedition of the remaining three of the survivors up the treacherous slopes of a snow-capped mountain and across forty-five miles of frozen wilderness in an attempt to find help. The party was finally rescued by helicopter crews. It was difficult for them to decide that eating human flesh was all right, even in those extreme circumstances! Hence, it is not surprising that Jesus’ listeners protested against his invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood as described in today’s Gospel. (http://www.viven.com.uy/571/eng/default.asp)
3: Food pyramids: New standards for diet were proposed recently. A new food pyramid was developed as a guide for healthy eating. It includes a base of bread, cereals, rice and pasta. The next level up the pyramid is vegetables and fruit. A still smaller next level is milk, yogurt, cheese, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and nuts. The smallest group at the top is fats, oils and sweets. We can propose a food pyramid for those who want a healthy spiritual life. You may want to develop your own, but it might include a base of feeding on the Word of God in the Eucharist and by study and meditation on the Scriptures. Upon that base one is nourished by Christian fellowship. The pyramid should include servings of regular worship. To that a daily use of prayer and devotions could be added. On top of those elements should be time for Christian service to meet the needs of others.
Introduction: Today’s readings stress the fact that the Holy Eucharist, the perfect fulfillment of the symbol of the manna of the Old Testament, is the Food that gives us life forever. In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus declared that the Bread he gives is his Flesh. This Sunday, Jesus asserts that to eat this Bread is to have eternal life. The first and second readings encourage us to turn aside from those things that do not nourish and sustain us and turn towards the Divine source: “be filled with the Spirit.” In today’s first reading, taken from the Book of Proverbs, Lady Wisdom, representing God, offers wisdom and understanding in the form of a rich banquet to all those who are willing to heed her invitation. The early Christians often identified Jesus as the Wisdom of God. They regarded the Eucharist as Wisdom’s banquet, where they shared in the Divine Wisdom now present in Jesus. In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34), we thank God for His providential care and His close association with His people which invites and enables us to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” In the second reading, Paul advises the Gentile Christians to show their gratitude to God for calling them, along with the Jews, to Christianity, and for giving them a share in Christ’s life. They will be able to receive this life by avoiding their former foolish ways, like getting drunk on wine. Instead they are to be Spirit-filled with their talk edifying, always trying to discern and do the will of God. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus asserts that eating the living bread, himself, allows us to participate in his divine life and to grow here and now in our eternal life with God. Jesus emphasizes the eternal-life dimensions of eating his body and drinking his blood. “Eternal life” is complete and lasting happiness, satisfying our deepest longings and realizing all our dreams. We begin to experience this happiness in this world and enter it completely and forever in Heaven. This means that those who have Faith in Jesus have already stepped into Heaven in this life, sharing in God’s own life and therefore in eternal life. In the case of the Eucharist, once we start eating and drinking Jesus’ body and blood, we’re there. Our participation in the Eucharist also concretizes and energizes our relationship with Christ and with one another.
First reading, Proverbs 9:1-6: In Old Testament times, most people believed that Heaven and Hell existed within this present life rather than in the future. According to Proverbs, Heaven exists in the quest for Divine wisdom, that is, the quest to discover Yahweh’s presence in everything and everyone. Those who discover how God operates in this world will live fulfilled and happy lives. In chapter nine from which today’s first reading is taken, Wisdom is depicted as a gracious hostess inviting the people to a fine banquet. “Wisdom” becomes the symbolic image of the search for God’s will. As this reading suggests, Faith opens up the fonts of wisdom to nourish us. “Wisdom spreads out a banquet to which we all are invited. The meat and wine that she offers is insight and understanding, and we would be fools to turn down her invitation. Jesus, too, spreads a banquet before us. He offers us himself, his flesh for the life of the world. If we turn down his invitation, we would be more than fools. We would be rejecting life itself.” (www.americamagazine.org). The reading invites us to this excellent banquet: the banquet depicted in today’s Gospel, John 6:51-58. When we partake of the Flesh and Blood of Christ, we are filled with true wisdom. Here, wisdom means knowing the will of God in our lives, knowing the real values in life and knowing how to live life as God means us to live. In their hymns and creeds, early Christians often identified Jesus as the Wisdom of God. The Bread of Life discourse in John indicates that the Eucharist is Wisdom’s banquet, where we share in the Divine Wisdom Incarnate in Jesus.
Second Reading, Ephesians 5:15-20: In the earlier chapters of his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul reveals God’s secret plan. It is to extend the call of the Chosen People to the Gentiles, too. Hence, in today’s selection, Paul advises the Gentile Christians to show their gratitude to God by avoiding their former foolish ways, like “getting drunk on wine.” Instead, they have “to be filled with the Spirit, understand the will of the Lord and address one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual singing, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” Paul encourages the community in Ephesus “to discern the will of the Lord.” The authentic follower of Jesus gives “thanks always and for everything.” Paul believes that no one can be a faithful follower of God without actively trying to discover God’s will for him or her. The apostle believes that we can discover God’s will wherever we may be.
Exegesis: The background: Although the traditional and accepted view of today’s selection from the Bread of Life discourse is that the passage represents a literal event in the life of Jesus, there are some Bible scholars who suggest that this passage is simply a theological reflection on the Eucharist, written for the early Christians. Among the four Gospels, only John’s Gospel fails to mention the Eucharistic institution at the Last Supper. Instead he dedicates five chapters (13-17) to reporting Jesus’ discourse, a dialogue between Jesus and his critics, on that theme. Today’s selection, the fourth of five excerpts from this discourse (read on successive Sundays), shows the shocked reaction of some people to Jesus’ blunt statement that the Life-giving bread which he is going to give them is his own Body and Blood. “Sadly, chapter 6 is the source of considerable division and difference of opinion among experts in the Gospel of John, and their interpretations often fall according to denominational lines, with Catholics largely holding to a “sacramentalist” understanding, which is generally denied by many Protestant (especially evangelical) commentators. However, whether or not they agree with the Catholic view of this verse, many exegetes (including non-Catholics) certainly see in this chapter the influence of the early Church’s practice of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper; Culpepper is one of many who speak of “clear Eucharistic overtones.” (Dr. Watson).
[“Two dimensions of Jewish worship provide the context of today’s Gospel, the fourth part of the ‘bread of life’ discourse in John 6. When an animal was sacrificed on the temple altar, part of the meat was given to worshipers for a feast with family and friends, at which God was honored as the unseen “Guest.” It was even believed by some that God entered into the flesh of the sacrificed animal, so that when people rose from the feast they believed they were literally “God-filled.” In Jewish thought, blood was considered the vessel in which life was contained: as blood drained away from a body so did its life. The Jews, therefore, considered blood sacred, as belonging to God alone. In animal sacrifices, blood was ritually drained from the carcass and solemnly “sprinkled” upon the altar and the worshipers by the priest as a sign of being touched directly by the “life” of God. With this understanding, then, John summarizes his theology of the Eucharist, the new Passover banquet (remember that John’s Last Supper account will center around the “mandatum,” the theology of servanthood, rather than the blessing and breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup). To feast on Jesus the “bread” is to “feast” on the very life of God — to consume the Eucharist is to be consumed by God. In inviting us “to feed on his flesh and drink of my blood,” Jesus invites us to embrace the life of his Father: the life that finds joy in humble servanthood to others; the life that is centered in unconditional, total, sacrificial love; the life that seeks fulfillment not in the standards of this world but in the treasures of the next.”] (Connections).
Life-giving Bread from Heaven: “I, myself, am the living Bread come down from Heaven.” “Come down from Heaven” refers to the Incarnation and announces Jesus’ Divine origins; without the Son’s becoming a human being there would be neither Sacrament nor Salvation. Eating this Bread results in profound at-oneness with the Divine: the Son-become-man. The reference to the future, “I will give,” points to Jesus’ sacrificial death and to his “Flesh,” which was to be offered on Calvary and shared at every Eucharistic celebration. Jesus reminds his listeners that this was not the first time in the history of salvation that God had provided his people with food. The people knew about the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness. They now must realize how that experience differed from Jesus’ feeding his followers with the Holy Eucharist.
A shocking statement: “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you,” Jesus insists. That we cannot have everlasting life unless we eat Jesus’ Body and drink his Blood was a shocking message to the listeners. Indeed, Jewish law prohibited the eating of human flesh, and blood of any kind was considered to be the actual life of a living being. Drinking of blood, consequently, was prohibited in Judaism and in early Christianity (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:10, 12, 14; cf. Acts 15:29). Some of Israel’s Old Testament neighbors apparently drank blood as a religious act, believing that if they drank the blood of an animal they took into themselves the strength and vitality of that creature because blood was life, and life was blood. Seeking life from the blood of an animal was idolatrous for Israelites because life comes from God alone. In addition, for the Jews, blood itself was a spiritual contaminant, and coming in contact with blood immediately rendered one ritually unclean. That was why a woman was considered to be ritually unclean for forty days after she gave birth to a child. We recently saw in the Gospel (OT 13 [B],) how a woman with a chronic hemorrhage of blood dared not approach Jesus openly. In the story of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite on their way to the Temple would not contaminate themselves by contact with the injured man because he was bleeding. To this day, observant Jews will eat only Kosher meat from which the blood has been fully drained. “To say ‘Amen’ is to vigorously state one’s belief in something or someone, to vouch for their reliability or certainty.” (Dr. Watson).
The Bread of Life from Heaven is the Body of Christ: The Bread of Life, or the Holy Eucharist, is the Sacramental Body of Christ. Theologians recognize four elements in this “Body of Christ.” 1) The physical body is the physical body of Christ, which was born in Bethlehem and died on Calvary. 2) The risen body is the transformed and glorified body of Jesus (I Cor 15: 35-49) in which Jesus appeared to his disciples. 3) The Mystical Body is the Church which is the continuation of Jesus Christ on earth. Each baptized believer is an integral part (member), of the Mystical Body of Christ. 4) The Sacramental Body is related to and distinct from the above-mentioned bodies of Christ. During the Holy Mass, Jesus takes the bread and wine which we offer on the altar, offers it to God his Father and declares: “This is no longer your body, it is My Body; this is no longer your life’s blood, it is My Blood.” The Eucharist is, thus, Jesus’ sacrificing himself, dying for us, and calling us to perform the same sacrifice for others. The Eucharist is the eternal sacrifice of Jesus providing life to those who eat his Body and drink his Blood. Thus, the Holy Mass is the Sacramental act which transforms our lives into the Divine Life. In each Mass, Jesus transforms us into other Christs – ritually, sacramentally and existentially – thus keeping his promise: “I will be with you till the end of the world.”
The deeper meaning: In spite of the Jewish antipathy to eating human flesh and blood, “eating Jesus’ Flesh and drinking his Blood” became a common liturgical activity for Christians around the time of John’s Gospel. The second century martyr, St. Ignatius of Antioch, said, “For food I want the Bread of God, which is the Flesh of Jesus Christ and for drink I want His Blood, which is incorruptible love.” It was at the Last Supper that Jesus linked his Flesh with the bread he blessed, broke and shared with his disciples. Likewise, he linked his Blood with the cup of wine he blessed, offered, and passed around, Blood that was the pledge of an unbreakable bond between Jesus and his people. “This is my Body (my Flesh)… This is My Blood… which will be poured out for you.” The Bread that we eat in the Eucharist is the Body of the Risen Lord; the Wine that we drink in the Eucharist is the Blood of the Risen Lord. When Jesus spoke of his Flesh and Blood as the Food and Drink of eternal life, he was offering himself to the multitude (and so to us), as the real Source of Life. To eat the Flesh of Jesus and to drink his Blood is to become totally identified with Christ’s very Person, with his deepest thoughts, with his vision of life, with his values, and with his mission to build the Kingdom of God. In other words, Jesus is here calling us to follow him, to be with him, and to share totally and unconditionally his mission and destiny. Thus, the Eucharist is more than a memorial of Jesus’ death (see 1 Cor 11:23-25). Rather, it is the continuation of Jesus’ life after his Resurrection (Luke 24:13-35).
Heaven on earth theology: “Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” “Eternal life” is complete and lasting happiness satisfying our deepest longings and realizing all our dreams. But Jesus’ audience was content with the “bread” they already possessed: the Mosaic Law. Their ancestors ate this “heavenly bread” but “died nonetheless.” Jesus is as essential for our resurrected existence as food and drink are for our earthly life. Remember what Jesus told Martha after her brother Lazarus died? “I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in me, even if he die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Heaven doesn’t begin after death. It already exists for those who believe in Jesus. Jesus warns us that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood we “do not have Life within you” and so will not live in joy with him forever. But when we begin to eat and drink Jesus’ Body and Blood, we are already receiving his eternal life, and we are already in Heaven. No wonder that unless we eat this Food and drink from this Cup we will not have Divine life within us!
The teaching of the Fathers of the Church was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s Body and Blood” (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, p. 440). Ignatius of Antioch declares, “I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ.” Irenaeus of Lyons asks, “If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?” (Against Heresies 4:33–32 [A.D. 189]). Clement of Alexandria reminds us, “’Eat my flesh,’ [Jesus] says, ‘and drink my blood.’ The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children” (The Instructor of Children 1:6:43:3 [A.D. 191]). St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 4th century, teaches, “The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the invocation of the holy and adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ” (Catechetical Lectures 19:7 [A.D. 350]). Theodore of Mopsuestia (AD 350-428), states flatly, “When [Christ] gave the bread he did not say, ‘This is the symbol of my body,’ but, ‘This is my body’).” (Commentary on Matthew 26:26
What does the Church’s Tradition (Magisterium, or official teaching authority) say? There are literally dozens of official Catholic documents on the many aspects of the Eucharist, including statements of Church councils, individual Popes, and bishops’ conferences. Among these, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (issued under Pope St. John Paul II, 1995) is a particularly helpful source of basic information on the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.
The Protestant Deviation (from E-Priest): This is one of the main distinctions between the different branches of Christianity. Catholic Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians have maintained the ancient Faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But during the Protestant Reformation, which took place in northern Europe in the fifteen and sixteen hundred, the different Protestant groups stopped believing in the Real Presence. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, John Knox and some other reformers started their own churches, breaking away from the Catholic Church. It was during this period that the many different Protestant denominations began to appear: Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists… The Puritans who arrived on the shores of Massachusetts in the 1600s, the ones Americans call “the pilgrims,” were a spinoff of these reformed churches. All of these new Christian groups continued to celebrate some kind of communion service in their Sunday worship, at least once or twice a year. But none of them believed firmly and clearly that Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. They all taught that Jesus was only speaking symbolically when he said, as we heard in today’s Gospel, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” But if Jesus had been speaking of a mere symbol, and not a real sacrament, would he have referred to eating and drinking his flesh and blood seven times? Would he have made such an effort to explain that his flesh is “real food” and his blood “real drink” (verse 55)? Would he have used two different verbs to make sure he was understood: “phago” (verses 50 and 51), which means to consume a meal, and then, after his listeners expressed shock and doubt, “trago” (verses 53-58), which means to gnaw, crunch, or chew, as when we eat raw vegetables, or when cattle graze on grass?
Life messages: # 1: We need to allow our body to be broken and our blood shed for others as Jesus did: When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion we accept a great challenge. We accept the triumphs and the tragedies, the joys and the pains necessary to build up the Kingdom of God wherever we have been called to serve. That is why, at the end of the Mass, we are sent out to announce the Gospel of the Lord (Form 2), through the witness of our humble service and exemplary lives, radiating Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of service all around us. As we walk away from the altar we may perhaps hear Jesus saying: “This is my Body, which will be given up for you” and “This is the Chalice of my Blood … which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”. What a power we would be for our world around us if each one of us could say that and mean it! That is why, at the end of the Mass, we are sent out with, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”(Form 3), through our lives.
#2: We need to keep the hunger and thirst for God alive in our hearts: Every human being is blessed with an insatiable longing for God. We want God as our Father to hold us gently in His arms, keeping us safe throughout the dangers we face. But often we use substitutes as an escape from that need: fast living, fast food, fast cars, needless luxuries, unrestricted sexual fulfillment. We demand the right to do whatever we want to do whenever we want. But unless we keep the hunger for God strong in our hearts, we will eventually realize the emptiness of our lives without God.
THE JOKE OF THE WEEK: # 1: Life-giving bread in Heaven’s buffet: This 85-year-old couple, having been married almost 60 years, had died in a car crash. They had been in good health for the last ten years, mainly due to their interest in healthful food and exercise.
When they reached the Pearly Gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion, which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen, a master bath suite and a Jacuzzi. As they “ooohed and aaahed,” the old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost.
“It’s free,” Peter replied, “this is Heaven.”
Next they went to see the championship golf course that their Heavenly home backed up to. St. Peter told them they would have golfing privileges every day.
The old man asked, “What are the greens fees?”
Peter’s reply, “This is Heaven; you play for free.”
Next they went to the clubhouse and saw a lavish buffet laid out for them.
“How much does it cost to eat?” asked the old man.
“Don’t you understand yet? This is Heaven! It’s free!” Peter replied.
“Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods?” the old man asked timidly. Peter smiled and said, “That’s the best part…you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick. This is Heaven.”
The old man looked angrily at his wife and said, “You and your bran muffins! I could have been here ten years ago!” (L/18)
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
- Catechism explained: https://bellarmineforum.org/bf_catechism/the-catechism-explained/catechism-explained-table-of-contents/
- New American Bible for ready reference on your Desktop http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/
3) Bible pronunciation guide: http://netministries.org/Bbasics/bwords.htm
4) Bible Pronunciation Web Site: http://www.briannelsonconsulting.com/bible/pronunciation.html
15- Additional anecdotes: 1) “I AM the Bread of Life.” Take the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It is generally agreed that there was a man named Arthur in Britain who was a war hero some 1500 years ago. He waged a successful campaign against Saxon settlers. That’s about all that can be said with any certainty. Was he a king? Probably not. The Round Table? Unclear whether it existed. Might have. But there was no sword in the stone, no Merlin the magician, and no Holy Grail. These were all legends that developed around a great war hero. We all understand legends. We have many in our own culture. The problem with this view is it is nearly impossible to go into the Bible and separate the man, the message, and miracles. Look at it this way. At the very core of Jesus’ teachings is the message that he is Divine. If you remove this from his message you remove much of his teaching. In the Gospel of John alone you have the eight “I Am” sayings. Jesus said of himself: “I AM the Bread of Life.” “I AM the Light of the World.” “Before Abraham was, I AM.” “I AM the Door.” “I AM the Good Shepherd.” “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” “I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life.” “I AM the True Vine.” These eight sayings have one conclusion, that Jesus is God. His claim of Deity is not the fictitious work of a writer. The list of choices is that Jesus is a liar, lunatic, legend, or Lord. No. He is not a liar, a lunatic, or a legend. He is Lord and we can rely on his promises.
2) Value of Wisdom (anecdote on the First reading): Automaker Henry Ford asked electrical genius Charlie Steinmetz to build the generators for his factory. One day the generators ground to a halt, and the repairmen couldn’t find the problem. So Ford called Steinmetz, who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then threw the switch. The generators whirred to life–but Ford got a bill for $10,000 from Steinmetz. Flabbergasted, the rather tightfisted carmaker inquired why the bill was so high. Steinmetz’s reply: For tinkering with the generators, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9,990. Ford paid the bill. [Today in the Word, MBI (April, 1990), p. 27.] L-15
3) Garlic bread with spaghetti: A new study by the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation has found that serving garlic bread with spaghetti helps families get along better. In the experiment, those families who smelled and ate garlic bread not only cut down on the number of negative interactions between family members by nearly a quarter and positive interactions actually increased by 7.4 percent. The ones most likely affected by the garlic bread were older males, especially fathers, as the aroma of the bread induced nostalgic feelings in them. The study concluded: “Serving garlic bread at dinner enhanced the quality of family interactions. This has potential application in promoting and maintaining shared family experiences, thus stabilizing the family unit. It also may have utility as an adjunct to family therapy.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus claims that he is the true Bread from Heaven, which will make us members of the heavenly family for all eternity.
4) Alarming statistics of physical and spiritual hunger: According to the Assistant Director General of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, about one-half billion of the over four billion people who live on earth are at the brink of starvation daily. Some 200 million children become mentally handicapped or blind due to a lack of nutritious food, and another 10 million succumb to other hunger-related illness. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately one-third of the world’s population is underfed and one-third is hungry. Four million people die each year of starvation and 70% of children under six are undernourished. Equally alarming are the statistics which estimate that approximately three billion members of the human family suffer from chronic spiritual hunger and/or malnutrition. These hunger pangs must also be recognized, as this hunger can be just as lethal as its physical counterpart. In recognition of this fact, the Church puts the gathered assembly in touch each week with the food that will satisfy its hungers. Each week the community is fed with the Bread of Life, in both word and sacrament; nourished by this essential food, every believer receives the strength needed for continuing to live a committed life. (Celebration)
5) “Jesus Loves Me,” In one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books there is a story told by a doctor. It is about a five-year-old girl named Mary who had suffered a stroke that left half of her body paralyzed. Even more tragically, she had been hospitalized for treatment of a brain tumor, and had recently lost her father and mother. She was being examined in an MRI machine. The imaging sequence at that time required the patient to remain perfectly still for about five minutes–a demanding task for a five-year-old. About two minutes into the first sequence, the doctor and the technician noticed on the video monitor that Mary’s mouth was moving. They even heard a muted voice over the intercom. They halted the exam and gently reminded Mary not to talk. She smiled and promised not to talk. They repeated the sequence with the same result. Her lips were still moving. The technologist, a bit gruffly, said, “Mary, you were talking again, and that causes blurry pictures.” Mary’s smile remained as she replied, “I wasn’t talking. I was singing. You said no talking.” “What were you singing?” someone asked. “Jesus Loves Me,” came the barely audible reply. “I always sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ when I’m happy.” Everyone in the room was speechless. “Happy? How could this little girl be happy?” The technologist and the doctor had to leave the room to regain their composure as tears began to fall. (5) Mary was happy because she knew Jesus loved her. [James C Brown, M.D. A Fifth Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul (pp. 46-47), Copyright Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, 1998, E-zine: Chicken Soup for the Soul http://www.soupserver.com/
6) Simple answers to tough questions: A man came to a priest and wanted to make fun of his Faith, so he asked, “How can bread and wine turn into the Body and Blood of Christ?” The Priest answered, “No problem. You yourself change food into your body and blood, so why can’t Christ do the same?” But the man did not give up. He asked, “But how can the entire body of Christ be in such a small host?” “In the same way that the vast landscape before you can fit into your little eye.” But he still persisted, “How can the same Christ be present in all your Churches at the same time?” The priest then took a mirror and let the man look into it, then let the mirror fall to the ground and break and said to the skeptic. “There is only one of you and yet you can find your face reflected in each piece of that broken mirror at the same time.”
7) Dining with God: When St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), passed away, God greeted him at the Pearly Gates. “You must be hungry, Teresa?” said God. “I could eat,” Mother Teresa replied. So God opened a can of tuna and reached for a chunk of rye bread and they shared it. While eating this humble meal, Mother glanced down into Hell and saw the inhabitants devouring huge steaks, lobsters, pheasants, pastries, and fine wines. Curious, but deeply trusting, Mother Teresa remained quiet. The next day God again invited Teresa for another meal. Again, it was tuna and rye bread. Once again looking down, Mother could see the denizens of Hell enjoying caviar, champagne, lamb, truffles, and chocolates. Still she said nothing. The following day, mealtime arrived and God opened another can of tuna. Mother Teresa could contain herself no longer. Meekly, she said: “God, I am grateful to be in Heaven with you as a reward for the pious, obedient life I led, seeing You in the poorest of the poor and the discarded and serving You. But here in Heaven all I get to eat is tuna and a piece of rye bread and in the Other Place they eat like emperors and kings! Forgive me, O God, but I just don’t understand.” God sighed: “Let’s be honest, Teresa. For just two people does it pay to cook?”
8) Bill of Rights: Several years ago a couple of reporters conducted an experiment on the streets of Miami, Florida. They printed up a copy of the Bill of Rights in the form of a petition, put it on a clipboard, and then stopped people on the sidewalk and asked them to sign it. As you know, the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution are the Bill of Rights, and they were adopted and put into effect in December of 1791. The reporters were surprised at people’s reaction when asked to add their names to the so-called petition. Most people glanced at the document, shook their heads, and walked on by without signing. Several people became angry with the reporters and accused them of being radical enemies of the American way of life. In fact, the experiment ended when the reporters found themselves surrounded by a dozen or so passers-by who were shaking their fists at them and calling them subversive Communists who ought to be thrown in jail. What the experiment demonstrated is what we already know. Many citizens of the United States pay lip service to their country and its heritage. They claim to be loyal and patriotic in every way. They say they are proud to belong to a country as great as ours. And yet at the same time they haven’t the vaguest notion what the United States Constitution actually says, and they consider the Bill of Rights to be a radical, anti-American document. In other words, these people claim citizenship, but they have not internalized the basic meaning of being a citizen. They claim the privilege, but they will not eat and drink the ethos of United States of America. The same sort of thing is described in today’s Gospel. Jesus says, I am the living Bread that came down from Heaven. . . Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no Life in you.
9) Vultures and humming birds: There are two birds that fly over our nation’s deserts: One is the hummingbird and the other is the vulture. The vultures find the rotting meat of the desert, because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for. We all do. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians (today’s second reading), Paul outlines proper behavior for good living. In our short passage, he admonishes his readers to be careful how they live. He is brief and to the point. Three things we must do: Be wise, be sober, and be thankful. It’s a short list but if we can orient our daily lives around these three—be wise, be sober, be thankful—we will transform not only our lives but also the lives of our family, friends, Church, and neighbors.
10) “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.” An astronomer says to a priest. “Father, you priests and preachers always make the Bible and being a Christian unnecessarily complicated with all your Biblical exegesis and theological and ecclesiastical doctrines. Humbug. It’s all very simple. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. That’s all you need to know and all you need to do.” Well, the priest thought for a second and then answered. “You know, I’m glad you raised that issue. I’ve been thinking about astronomy and astronomers with all your theories about an expanding universe and black holes and myriad galaxies. We don’t need all that scientific mumbo jumbo. Astronomy is actually quite simple and can be summed up in a few words. “Twinkle, twinkle, little star. How I wonder what you are.” John chapter six is Jesus’ simple explanation of a Mystery of God sharing His Presence and Life with human beings.
11) Madonna and Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta): Someone has said that our model for living today is more like Madonna, the “material girl,” than it is like Mother Teresa. Have we somehow confused our wants with our needs? So, we may be hungry – not hungry for food, but hungry in another way. In one of her books, Mother Teresa writes: “The spiritual poverty of the Western world is much greater than the physical poverty of [Third World] people. You in the West have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness. They feel unwanted and unloved … These people are not hungry in a physical sense, but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don’t know what it is. What they are missing really is a living relationship with God.” (Life in the Spirit, Harper and Row Publishers, pp. 13-14).
12) St. Tarsicius on the Ropes, martyr for the Holy Eucharist: Throughout Church history, this truth of our faith has turned normal, mediocre sinners into courageous saints, as in the case of St Tarsicius. • St. Tarsicius died on the Appian Way in Rome in the year 257, a victim of the bloodiest wave of persecutions yet to crash upon the growing Church. • Vicious rumors at the time falsely accused Christians of cannibalism (they said the Holy Eucharist was the flesh of murdered infants) and other gruesome practices, tagging believers as the Empire’s archenemies, punishable with torture and death. • The faithful had to gather in secret for Mass and Holy Communion. • The prisons bulged with Christians awaiting trial and death. • Isolated, threatened with torture, and dazed by the steady stream of grisly martyrdoms, many of these prisoners lost courage and renounced their Faith to save their lives. • So the local pastors started sending deacons and acolytes on the treacherous mission of bringing Holy Communion to strengthen the Christians in prison. The teenaged St. Tarsicius was one of them. • While on such an errand, a group of Roman soldiers stopped him. • They discovered what he was doing and demanded that he hand over the Holy Eucharist. • He refused, knowing that they only wanted to profane it. • The soldiers became violent; Tarsicius would not give in. • They began to hurl sticks at him; still he clutched the precious Body of the Lord. • They dug up the flagstones of the pavement and rained them down upon him, until he died. • When they grabbed his body to claim their prize, they found no sign of the Sacred Hosts he had been carrying; Tarsicius had fulfilled his mission. St. Tarsicius risked his life because he knew that his brothers and sisters needed food for their Christian souls or they would weaken in their fight to keep the Faith. Christ knows we can’t go it alone, and so he goes with us, through the Eucharist. (E-Priest).
13) In memory of Aunt Rebecca: When Sally’s mother died, her Aunt Rebecca took her under her wing and loved Sally as if she was her own daughter. Although Aunt Rebecca was a bit quirky and Sally’s father made fun of her, Aunt Rebecca was always doing something for somebody else. From the wonders of childhood through the trauma of adolescence and into the struggles of adulthood, Sally could always come to Aunt Rebecca for advice, help, support and unconditional love. Rebecca also taught her niece the traditions of their family: caring for people who need help, a special skill for growing violets, and, most delightful of all, Grandmother’s special caramel cake — a recipe that had been passed down from mother to daughter for generations. Then, one terrible summer, cancer claimed Rebecca’s life. Sally took her aunt’s death hard. In her grief, Sally became bitter and angry that God could take such a generous, loving woman. After the funeral, Sally undertook the task of cleaning out Rebecca’s house. She wanted something of Rebecca’s to keep. She found a pot of violets that Aunt Rebecca had trouble getting to bloom; perhaps Sally would have better luck. In the kitchen, Sally found a cake tin with the last piece of the last caramel cake that Aunt Rebecca had baked. She and her aunt were the only ones who knew how to make it; now the secret was Sally’s alone. With tears in her eyes, Sally savored every delicious morsel. As she swallowed the last crumb, Sally smiled, wiped her eyes, and resolved to take the secret recipe that had been passed on to her and share it with her own daughter. [Adapted from Pastoral Counseling: A Ministry of the Church by John Patton.] As Sally experienced her aunt’s love anew in her caramel cake, the Eucharist we celebrate at this table is much more than a re-enactment of the Last Supper event: in breaking, blessing and sharing this Bread with one another, the love of God comes alive for us in the Eucharist. (Fr. Kayala).
14) “O, Lord Give Me a Penny”: A man asked God, “What does a billion dollars mean to You who are all powerful?” “Hardly a penny.” God said. Then the man asked God, “And what are a thousand centuries to You?” God answered “Hardly a second!!” Thinking he had God backed into a corner, the man then said, “Then if that’s the case, O, Lord give me a penny!!” “Sure,” God replied, “in just a minute.” Wisdom isn’t outsmarting God; wisdom is living in and with God. Wisdom is being in Christ and surrounded by Christ. Wisdom is eating and drinking from the feast, which God has prepared for us. (Fr. Kayala).
15) Food for the hungry extraterrestrial: Mark Link [Mission 2000 (Allen, TX: Tabor Press, 1993),] once noted that the movie E.T. contains two scenes that deal with food. In one scene the young hero of the film leaves some candy for E.T. to show him that he wants to be his friend. The other scene shows a starved E.T. raiding the refrigerator. Behind the warmth and humor of the scenes is a basic message: without food, we die, whether we call earth home or are extraterrestrial. What is true of bodily or physical life is also true of spiritual life. In today’s first reading, Wisdom hosts a feast that promises to impart life to both body and spirit. (Sanchez Files). (L/18)
16) This was all included with the tickets! There was once a family that had fallen on hard times when the family business failed, and they lost everything. The neighbors were very sympathetic, and the children were embarrassed because they had to move to a mobile home and sell their house and business premises. Some of the neighbors came to the parents to offer their help, and to find out how best they might be able to help. The father told them that the one thing he wanted more than anything in the world was to be able to take his wife and kids and move off to America where nobody would know them and try and start again. The neighbors worked on the fund-raising, and after a certain length of time they had sufficient money for tickets by boat from Cobh to New York. The family had never been away from home before, so they had no idea how to prepare for such a voyage. They bought bread and cheese and packed a few boxes with sandwiches. They gathered together in a single cabin in the boat with no desire to mix with others, in case of finding themselves embarrassed or out of their depths. On the first, second, third, fourth and fifth days they ate sandwiches. From then on, the sandwiches began to go bad. The cheese and the bread had blue-mould on them, and they began to smell. By now they were all in a bad way. They were sick, hungry and deeply discouraged. With a day or two to go before arriving in New York, one little lad begged his dad for a few pennies, so he could go up on the deck and buy a few sweets. The dad gave him the pennies and off he went. He didn’t return and after about half an hour, the father was forced to go up on deck to look for him. When he came up on the deck, he was totally amazed by what he saw. There were long tables surrounded by people and they were all eating a beautiful dinner. There in the midst of them was his son, with a plate of turkey, ham, potatoes, and vegetables in front of him, together with a large beaker of Coke. The father came up behind him and whispered, “Why did you do this? You know rightly, we cannot afford this.” The young lad’s eyes lit up as he replied: “Dad, we could have had this every day. This was all included with the tickets!”-When we enter heaven and look around… Jesus could say “I never mentioned sandwiches once in the whole gospel. I often spoke of being invited to the feast…” Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel Truth’ (Quoted by Fr. Botelho).
17) Giving up or going on! One day a partially deaf boy came home from school with a note from his teacher. He handed it to his mother. She opened it and slowly read it. The note suggested that her son was too dull to learn. He was holding back the whole class. It would be better for everybody if he would withdraw from school. When the boy’s mother finished reading the note, she felt awful. She also felt challenged. “My son, Tom, is not too dull to learn,” she said to herself. “I’ll teach him myself.” When Tom died many years later, the entire nation honored him in a remarkable way. At exactly 9:59 pm Eastern Standard Time, every home in the United States turned off its lights for one minute, as a tribute to the man who had invented those lights. Thomas Edison invented not only the electric light but also the movie projector and the record player. When he died, the boy who was ‘too dull to learn’ had over a thousand patents to his credit, thanks to his mother who never gave up! After proclaiming his controversial doctrine on the Bread of Life from Heaven, Jesus too never gave up even when he lost most of his followers. Mark Link, in ‘Journey ’(Quoted by Fr. Botelho).
18) Don’t doubt God’s Word: The night fell heavy in the heights of the mountains and the man could not see anything. All was black. Zero visibility, and the moon and the stars were covered by the clouds. As he was climbing only a few feet away from the top of the mountain, he slipped and fell in to the air, falling at great speed. He could only see black spots as he went down, and the terrible sensation of being sucked by gravity. He kept falling and in the moments of great fear, it came to his mind all the good and bad episodes of his life. He was thinking now about how close death was getting, when all of a sudden, he felt the rope tied to his waist pull him very hard. His body was hanging in the air. Only the rope was holding him and in that moment of stillness he had no other choice but to scream: “Help me God”. All of a sudden, a deep voice coming from the sky answered, “What do you want me to do?” “Save me God”. “Do you really think I can save you?” “Of course, I believe You can.” “Then cut the rope tied to your waist.” There was a moment of silence and the man decided to hold on to the rope with all his strength. The rescue team tells that the next day a climber was found dead and frozen, his body hanging from a rope, his hands holding tight to it, only one foot away from the ground. Lesson from the Story: And We? How attached are we to our rope? Will we let go??? Don’t ever doubt about the Words of God. We should never say that He has forgotten us or abandoned us.
Anonymous (Quoted by Fr. Botelho).
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 45) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org.Visit our website: http://frtonyshomilies.com/for previous Cycle B homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 196 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily. Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.