Readings – 1 Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51
Theme: God Feeds Us: (“The Bread I will give for the life of the World is my Flesh”)
Today we conclude our homily series on “God feeds us”. Last two Sundays we saw how God cares for us both physically and spiritually. Physically, He feeds us with material bread and provides for all our needs. Spiritually he feeds us with his Word and the Most Holy Eucharist-his Body and Blood. He said “I am the living Bread that came down from heaven, anyone who eats of this bread will never be hungry and anyone who drinks of this cup will never be thirsty.” The crowd were so excited to find someone who would feed them without any charge and they asked Jesus to give them that bread so that they will never be hungry again. Jesus told them, “The bread I will give for the live of the world is my flesh”. On hearing that the people began to complain and question. How can this man give us his flesh/body to eat? Who does he claim to be? Is he not the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter? Are we carnivorous animals? It was hard for them to accept. They did not believe in him because it seemed illogical and Jesus looked too ordinary or common to them.
Now at the heart of this discourse is the question of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The church believes that after the prayer of consecration – the epiclesis, by the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. We call it “Transubstantiation” which means – while keeping its appearance or substance, the bread and wine are miraculously changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus becomes Really Present in the bread and wine in his humanity and divinity. As Deacon Larry explained last week, it is not a symbolic presence or signification or representation. It is Jesus’s Real Presence – Body and Soul. Because of that we adore him, we praise him, reverence him, and we worship him in the Blessed Sacrament. When you enter any church, you see the red lamp/light indicating that Jesus is really present in the tabernacle.
Over the centuries, Catholics for the most part believed in this mystery, but today that belief is fizzling out. A survey by Pew Research Center in 2019 reveals that most self-described Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. According to the survey, nearly seven -in-ten Catholics (69%) say the bread and the wine used in communion “are mere symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that “the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” The survey also finds that belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is most common among older Catholics. The young folks especially those below 61 years old believe it is just a symbol. (Show the pew survey research statistics).
What could be the cause of this disbelief? I think, just like the people at the time of Jesus, perhaps they are focusing only on the material – bread and wine. It looks too common and ordinary and they wonder how can this be Jesus? This type of doubt and crisis of faith occasioned some Eucharistic miracles in the past. For example – at Lanciano in 8th century: a Basilian monk, who had doubted the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, was celebrating mass, and at the consecration, he saw that the Host had changed to human flesh. The wine had changed into blood. The priest admitted his former doubts to the stunned parishioners.
Another miracle happened at Bolsena in Orvieto Italy in 1263, a visiting priest stopped in Bolsena to celebrate Mass at St. Christina’s church. He had begun to doubt that the Eucharist was really the Body and Blood of Christ; however, the priest was shocked when the host began to bleed right after the prayer of consecration. Unable to hid this fact, he interrupted the Mass and went to nearby Orvieto, where Pope Urban IV was in residence. After a thorough investigation the Pope ordered that the miraculous host and the linen altar cloth (Corporal) stained with blood be brought to Orvieto and placed on display. It is still on display today for pilgrims to see. (I visited both places in 2017).
On a personal level, during Mass, some people have told me they saw Jesus when I raised the Host and Wine. One of them happened in Nigeria during a retreat with Seminarians at Claretian Institute of Philosophy. A young seminarian after reading a book by Fredrick Niche “God is dead”, was experiencing a crisis of faith. He came to Mass but was not paying attention. To his greatest surprise, during consecration when I lifted the Host, he saw Jesus and when I lifted the chalice, he saw Blood dripping. That mystical experience transformed his life. He was never the same again. Another was a parishioner when I was in East Chezzetcook, who went to Women of Grace conference in Halifax. During Eucharistic adoration, she saw Jesus. She came back transformed and began to go for adoration in the parish every Thursday. There are so many other Eucharistic miracles in the recent times (just google it, you will find many). The question is, why is Jesus permitting these miracles? Why is he in the Eucharist? I think it is because he loves us, he wants to be with us and he wants to be the food that sustains us through our journey to eternal life. We heard in the first reading how Elijah was at the point of death, so tired, but God send an angel to give him bread to sustain him on his journey. That’s how God sent Jesus to give us the bread of life that sustains us for our journey to eternal life. He said, “Anyone who eats my body and drinks my blood, dwells in me and I in them.” “Anyone who eats my body/blood will live forever. Do you want to live forever? Then eat the Body and Blood of Christ.
Do you believe that Jesus is truly present in the Host and Wine? Do you believe that he is the one you receive when you receive the Eucharist? Are you conscious of the fact that you are coming to encounter Jesus when you come to Mass? How do you prepare for him? How do you welcome him in your heart/home? Do you treat him as a person, a friend or thing? Think of how you welcome a love one, is that how you welcome Jesus in the Eucharist?
You may have heard about the controversies going on in the United States among the Catholic Bishops regarding whether president Joe Biden should be allowed to receive the Eucharist or not. Some say that because he is pro-choice (supports abortion) which is against the church’s teaching and the values of Jesus, he should not. Some others say that Jesus’ love is inclusive, he will never discriminate against anyone who comes to him. What do you think? Should any one who oppose the values of Jesus and the teachings of the Church receive the Eucharist or not? This is a complicated topic and the debate is ongoing. You can read more about it on our website.
Confused? Here’s what really happened at the USCCB meeting everyone is talking about – Our Sunday Visitor
I agree that the love of Jesus is inclusive and he came for sinners, he was a friend to sinners and he ate with them and even called some of them to be his disciples. However, Jesus did not leave them to continue in their sin. The encounter and communion they had with Jesus transformed their lives and made them holy. Their lives became consistent with the teachings of Christ. I believe that is the essence of the Eucharist. We acknowledge that we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. The reception of the Eucharist is meant to transform our lives and lead us closer to God, helping us to keep the teachings of Christ and the church. Just as Jesus sacrificed his body and blood to feed us, all those who genuinely receive him in the Holy Communion are invited to sacrifice their own lives to feed others. We are called to become what we eat and to continue the mission of Christ in the world. That is what he meant when He said, “do this in memory of me.” The Eucharist is not a mere ritual, symbol or representation, it is really Jesus Christ. So, when we approach the altar to receive the Eucharist, let us approach him with love, reverence, gratitude and desire to grow in relationship with him as a friend. Let us devote some time to welcome him into our heart in silence, adore him, share with him our joys, sorrows, struggles and plans. Be aware of his Presence with you not just in the Church but everywhere you go and at each moment. This week, read the article on our website and reflect on this mystery – how can I become more like Christ? Visit the Blessed Sacrament – There is adoration Wednesdays and Thursdays. Its peaceful and soothing! May God help us to appreciate the gift of himself in the Eucharist and to reciprocate his love for us. Amen!
- Don’t Just Receive: Unite Your Heart in the Sacrifice of the Mass (click here)