20 SUNDAY B August 19 - Homilies


20 SUNDAY – Aug 19 - Homilies

 Introduction to the Celebration

'Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.' These words of Jesus from today's gospel set the tone of our celebration today. We who share this meal share in the life of Jesus. And as he says: 'As I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.'
This is not some magic formula, rather it is the mystery that our sharing here is not simply joining us to one another in the way that every common meal unites those who participate in it, but that in our sharing here we are caught up into the life of God. We are caught up into the life of the Father, who has sent his Son among us as our source of life and wisdom, and who has sent his Spirit into our hearts.

 


Sean Goan

Let us understand


We begin here, where we left off last week, with further misunderstanding of Jesus by the crowds. Clearly Jesus is not speaking of cannibalism and so he takes the image further by talking of his flesh and blood. Partaking in his flesh and blood means believing in him and in his life-giving death. Through their faith they are in communion with him and that communion is expressed through the Eucharist. The believer comes to live in him and draws life from him just as Jesus himself drew life from the Father. Everything here must be viewed from the perspective of Jesus' death on the cross. Through the Eucharist we come to live by the same self sacrificing love that brought Jesus to Calvary. It is striking that in John's account of the last supper there is no reference to Eucharist but rather a depiction of Jesus washing the disciples' feet. John shows us the Eucharist in action and this is a reminder that the union with Jesus offered through Holy Communion cannot be thought of in some purely personal, devotional way. Jesus gives himself to us so that we can give ourselves to others.


Reflection

Even though the first reading today may be two and an half thousand years old, the call to seek wisdom and reject foolishness has a very contemporary ring to it. Human nature does not change but we are slow to learn from experience. Today, life itself on this wonderful planet is threatened by our folly and a refusal to recognize that our actions have consequences. Instead of feasting ourselves at the sustainable banquet at Wisdom's house, we prefer to go blindly on gorging ourselves and ignoring the fact that God has called us to a responsible stewardship of his creation. Our celebration of the Eucharist should be a weekly reminder to us that we are all called to a life-giving relationship with God, with one another and with the planet we share.



 Michel DeVerteuil

Textual comments

This is the fourth passage from John 6 that the Church invites us to meditate on at this time of the year, and the third in which Jesus gives the people a teaching based on their experience of the miraculous feeding.

Some themes are repeated in all these passages, and yet each passage has its own dominant theme running through it. In the two previous passages Jesus presented himself to the people as "bread come down from heaven". In this one, he pushes the metaphor further: he gives them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink.

You may find the metaphor strange, but you should try to enter into it, so that it becomes part of your prayer. Remember that in Bible meditation it is not sufficient to get the meaning of a passage; you must get into the words themselves and grow to love them so that you feel moved to repeat them many times.


The metaphor has its origins in "flesh and blood", the biblical expression that means the reality of a human being, with a special stress on his or her weakness or limitations. For example, when in Matthew 16 Peter made his act of faith, it did not come from "flesh and blood", but as a gift from God. So, too, St Paul warned the Ephesians that their struggle was not merely against "flesh and blood", but against heavenly forces.


When Jesus says that he gives his flesh to eat and his blood to drink, he is saying three things. The first is that he gives himself totally to others; every part of his being is at their service. It is the same as saying "This is my body given for you."


Secondly, he is inviting people to deep union with himself, to "have his spirit coursing through their souls so that they can know the passion of his love for every one", as we sing in the hymn "To be the Body of the Lord."


Thirdly, he wants them to unite their weakness and their sufferings with his so that they can experience his strength and his courage. As he would say to them at the Last Supper, "In the world you will have trouble, but be brave, I have conquered the world." When we eat his flesh and drink his blood, our own flesh and blood are ennobled. St Paul says it in 2 Corinthians: 'We carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus too may always be seen in our body."


The passage is therefore a meditation on Jesus as teacher, leader and guide. In all three roles he does not stand outside of people, he wants to share their lives and to have them share his.
Now this tells us something about God. Whereas we tend to imagine God in heaven looking down on us but not getting involved in the movement of our history, Jesus shows God entering into flesh and blood with us.


But the passage also tells us about human relationships. In your meditation remember with gratitude people who have been Jesus for you - a parent, a spiritual guide, a friend, a national leader. Naturally you will feel the passage calling you to grow in your own relationships.

Finally, a good meditation on this passage will help you to appreciate the Eucharist. It will show you why Jesus chose to be present in the Church under the form of bread and wine.
It is not possible to meditate on a passage such as this one all together: take one section at a time and enter into it, letting it speak to your experience. I suggest dividing the passage as follows:

- Verses 51 and 52: the people are questioning the very possibility of someone giving himself totally, as Jesus claims to do. Their response is cynical, but is it not typical of the way many would respond today?

- Verse 52 invites us to think of people who have no life in them, and to go to the root cause - they have never experienced, or perhaps have never let themselves experience, the kind of selfless love that Jesus gives.


- Verse 54 introduces the theme we have met several times in the chapter; deep relationship with God in Jesus lifts us up beyond the limitations of time and history.
- In verse 55 we remember that there is false food and drink and to recognise them we can look at what relationship with Jesus does to us.


- Verse 56 teaches us the effect of love, the love of Jesus, as well as of all those who love selflessly.
- In verse 57 we see another effect of selfless love. Here, as frequently in St John's gospel, Jesus' relationship with his followers is similar to his relationship with his Father - "as the Father has sent me so I am sending you"; "as the Father loves me so I have loved you."
- In verse 58 we see again the theme of the newness of Jesus' teaching.

Thomas O'Loughlin

Homily Notes


1.     
When I wander around a supermarket I can buy any food I fancy, from anywhere in the world, at any time in the year. While it might be hard to buy a Christmas Cake in July, virtually anything else I fancy — and can afford — is available all the time. I can choose a menu every day based on what I want, what I like, or what the latest television cooking sensation decrees is what stylish people eat. It could be a wintry day in January, yet I might want a salad and can find all that I need to make it: seasons no longer count, and I might have exotic flavours — all fresh — from three continents. We are less than a generation from when we marvelled that one could get'new' potatoes all year round, yet in this world of maximum consumer choice we simply cannot grasp the full significance of Jesus describing himself as the bread of life.

2.     
For most of human history — and history begins with the settled agricultural life of Mesopotamia — the key to life is a ready access to storable carbohydrates: grain which can be turned into bread weeks, months or even years after the harvest. The regularity of the grain harvest was at core of settled, urban life; and it was at the centre of religion in that temples were, inter alia, at the centre of urban life in that they were grain stores. So running right through the history of civilisation and / or religion is the issue of having enough grain and avoiding being without it. Grain meant bread, bread meant life; its absence meant famine and death. It is in this context we have to hear the old adage: 'Bread is the staff of life.'

3.     
This dependence on bread was not some obscure item of economic knowledge: everyone understood it and felt it. The fear of having no bread caused riots, made kings look foolish, made clergy look ineffective, and obtaining grain stood behind a whole range of exertions. One has only to think of the riots over food at the time of the French Revolution or the fear of famine that stalked Irish memories after the famine of 1847. Food and survival are linked in a way we cannot, thankfully, understand.



Larry Gillick, S.J.(Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality)

 A PONDERING

Attitudes are formed by how important personal questions are answered.

Last week’s “Pondering” centered on how our actions reflect our attitudes. Now, just how are those attitudes formed? The mind is processing at every moment all kinds of stimuli, many of which do not touch our consciousness. There would be just too many. For example, your left big toe is constantly firing data, but until you stub it in the dark you are not aware of what it is constantly saying.

Activities form asking, or questions, “What is that noise?” Askings promote answers. Our minds are answering at all times what the askings provoke. Even now your mind might be asking, “What is he saying?” Good question! Over time how we experience “noises” and how we listen to our answers which these “noises” make, will result in our personal attitude. We could have a suspicious or timorous way of responding to “noises”. Things happened to such persons which “things” (actions) forced questions to be asked such as “Is this good for me or dangerous?” Little by little patterns of answering form what we can call “attitude”. What Jesus did in His life was to do and say “things” which invited His listeners and watchers to ask and answer, as we are seeing these August-weekends in John’s Gospel. All who heard and watched did not arrive at the same answers. We are still watching and listening, asking and answering.

 REFLECTION

 The Book of Proverbs, or the wise sayings of King Solomon, son of King David, begins the section of Hebrew Scripture known as Wisdom Literature. They are a compilation of thoughts expressed in a more memorable manner to guide the lives of the faithful. The first six verses of the first Chapter describe the reasons for keeping these aphorisms alive. Basically, they are for instruction, leading to awareness and discernment. They do not necessarily follow a predictable pattern. They call the reader to stop, look into their meaning and reflect on their deeper meaning for their being lived.

Wisdom is personified in our First Reading for today’s liturgy. Wisdom has set a table and invites the “simple” and those lacking “understanding” to “turn in here”. The “wine” and “food” are the wise sayings, the spirit of the relationship with God which will result in deeper understanding and liveliness.

The “food”and the “wine” are meant to resist the normal manners by which the foolish feed themselves. The verses immediately following our reading nourish the invited guests to the “table of Wisdom” so are urged not to mock those who mock us. Rather rebuke the wise and they will grow wiser. These sayings are meant for those who find the natural inclinations flowing from vengeance, greed, and other base energies, unsatisfying. The “table” is set for those who want to eat more of the goodness of life. They reverse the reader and turn her or his mind towards heartful rather than headful luncheons.

The Second Reading continues this theme in two long sentences. There is a wisdom found in Jesus which, if digested, will produce a resistance to the “wine” of selfishness and its effects in foolish living. Rather, the “cup” which Jesus offers renders a peaceful interior which brings life to the full.

In today’s Gospel, we hear the continuation of John’s account of Jesus’ trying to explain to his Jewish kinsmen that he is more than they know. He is more than the bread which fed their ancestors in the desert. He continues to make “I am” statements about his true identity and his listeners continue their struggling with this new concept.

Jesus, who set the table with six loaves and two fish in order to feed thousands, now sets the table of faith containing a new wine. He invites the “simple” to turn in and eat. He is inviting those who lack understanding to slide their knees under his board and drink more deeply. “Where our feeble senses fail” to convince our hungry minds, Jesus invites us to not be impatient and judge the meal by the first course or even the table setting.

Jesus’ listeners see his flesh and know there is real blood keeping the flesh alive. This is the first course; it is what they see. Jesus is inviting them to wait for the next servings, but they keep clinging to their plates and demanding second helpings, more of the same, keeping everything on the sense level.

The Jews here are hungry for wisdom; they are people of good hearts and minds. They resist their being fooled. They continue to shake their heads as Jesus continues nodding his, insisting that he can give them eternal life through their taking him interiorly, as one does when eating. As long as they argue and grumble, their mouths are filled with that which they are serving; they demand immediate proof and understanding.

With Jesus, everything is an invitation to “come and see.” The murmurers have followed Jesus across the lake after seeing the miraculous distribution. He is urging them into the sacred desert of belief where their ancestors grew deeper in their trust of the One God. They keep tripping over their “feeble senses” and their limited abilities to eat.



 Prayer Reflection

Lord, we remember with gratitude the day when we realized for the first time
that following Jesus meant eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
Up to then it was a matter of believing abstract truths -
that Jesus was truly God and truly man,
that there are three persons in God and seven sacraments.
That kind of faith was not a source of life for us.
Then one day we knew that we had to lay down our lives
- caring for a wayward child,
- working for reconciliation in the workplace and being attacked
by both workers and employers;
- forgiving someone who had hurt us deeply.
At that moment we knew that Jesus on the cross was present within us,
and the strange thing was that we felt an inner strength and freedom,
and we were certain that no matter how low we fell he would raise us up.

Lord, self-centredness has become like a first principle of living today.
People will argue with one another that it is not even possible
for us to give our flesh to be eaten,
and yet there can be no life in the world without selfless giving,
not in nature, not in families, not in any society.

Lord, we pray for those who are mourning for a loved one.
Remind them that Jesus gave them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink
and he will raise them up on the last day.

"I should like to set down here my own belief. In so far as I am willing to be made an instrument of God's peace, in that far have I already entered into eternal life." Alan Paton

Lord, we thank you for those who eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus
and therefore already have eternal life.

"We need the eyes of deep faith to see Christ in the broken bodies and dirty clothes under which the most beautiful one among the sons of men hides." Mother Teresa

Lord, help us to receive Jesus
when he comes to us in flesh and blood.

Lord, you give us food and drink so that we might live more freely and creatively.
Yet we nourish ourselves with many things that are not life-giving at all,
but rather clutter up our lives and keep us in bondage.
We pray that your Christ may be Jesus today,
giving the world real food and drink.

Lord, we thank you for the people who have touched our lives;
when we read the story of Jesus we see them living in him,
and when we remember their stories, we see Jesus living in them.
Truly they have eaten his flesh and drunk his blood.

Lord, we talk too much when we pray. Teach us to remain silent,
so that we become conscious of Jesus present within us
and the life he draws from you may well up in us too.

Lord, we think today of those who see their spouses destroying themselves
with bitterness, envy or false pride.
With anguish in their hearts, they say to them, as Jesus said to his followers,
"Unless you allow yourself to receive selfless love,
you will not have life within you."

Lord, we pray for the people of South Africa, Ireland, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia.
For generations their ancestors ate the bread of suspicion, fear and hatred, and they are dead.
We thank you that you are raising up new leaders in those countries,
and they, like Jesus, are offering their people a different kind of nourishment,
based on reconciliation and sharing, bread come down from heaven,
so that they can eat it and live.


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ILLUSTRATIONS:

1)      Your words and your life:

Years ago, Harry Emerson Fosdick, then at the height of his influence as minister of the Riverside Church, New York City, was making a tour of Palestine and other countries of the Near and Middle East. He was invited to give an address at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, where the student body comprised citizens of many countries and representatives from sixteen different religions. What could one say that would be relevant or of interest to so mixed and varied a group? This is how Fosdick began: "I do not ask anyone here to change his religion; but I do ask all of you to face up to this question: What is your religion doing to your character?"

This was a call to consider one of the great issues of human belief: religion and life, Christianity and character, word and spirit. Emerson once said, "What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear a word you say." Jesus' discourse in this whole sixth chapter of the Gospel of John had two foci - spirit and life. "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." By this he meant that those who appropriated his spirit, i.e., fed upon him as the bread of life, would find, thereby, a fulfillment and satisfaction no other means could give.

The traditions of the world of his time, of course, had a different emphasis...

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 2)      Have you ever been assaulted by a smell?

 Walking down the street, creeping out of a vent in the sidewalk; strolling along the mid-way of a carnival or fair, wafting its way from a kiosk - sometimes an odor will "hit you" and almost send you reeling. Sometimes that odor will even thrust your psyche back into another time and place.

Maybe it's the sweet smell of caramel apples.

Maybe it's the pungent punch of garlic and onion.

Maybe it's moldy and murky smell of a basement.

Maybe it's the seaweedy smell of the beach.

Whatever the odor, it is officious - meaning, it is "large and in charge." It teleports you back to a particular place and a particular time. Each of us has memory smells. Our sense of smell is the physical sense most associated with memory. Smells, more than sounds, more than sights, more than touches, transport our minds and bodies back in time to an imprinted memory. Garlic brings you back to your grandmother's kitchen. A wet woolen smell brings you back to the locker room-or to the terror of the day you fell in a frozen pond and almost drowned. Rising yeast smells like every Sunday dinner. Gasoline chokes you with memories of a car crash. Nothing evokes strong emotions, strong memories, strong longings, like the sense of smell. It is a powerful communicator to our inner being.

In the days of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, burnt offerings were the norm - small birds, little lambs, calves, great grains - all were sacrificed and burned. Burnt sacrifice was offered to appease God's righteous anger over the sins and transgressions the people of Israel had committed...

3)      Life-giving bread in heavens 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 oat brans and whole wheat! I could  have  been here ten years ago!”

4)      Cannibalism in the Andes:

In October, 1972, a plane  carrying an 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.    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  survivors had nothing to eat except  the flesh of their  dead  teammates.   After two  months, Nando, an ordinary young man  with no disposition for leadership or heroism, led an  expedition of 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 todays gospel.

5)      Touching the body of Christ!

Mother Teresa of Calcutta 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.

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6)      Abiding with Christ

 Eat this Bread and you will live, he promises. But even more than that, eat this Bread and I will abide with you, and you will abide with me. I like that word abide. I have pictures again: look, can you see them? They are images of home, of dwelling, of staying with, of living in and with, of trusting and being there. To abide is to know that no matter what comes our way, we will not be deserted nor left to face whatever the matter is on our own. Christ comes to live within us, to take up residence in our spirits, and promises not to leave.

Over the years I have witnessed many scenes of this abiding presence played out in the lives of persons I have known. None are more powerful, more moving, more meaningful than the images which walk across my mind of faithful spouses who care for each other to the very end. Let me draw them for you. There is one now, walking his wife, a victim of Alzheimer's disease, down the streets in front of the nursing home. She in a wheelchair, not knowing a thing. He pushing her faithfully day after day. Their love of more than 60 years abides in his heart. Here is another: the picture of a woman standing beside the bed of her husband, holding a hand, offering a calm, reassuring voice to this one who has only moments before been thrown into convulsions. "I will not leave you." Finally, here is the unspoken presence of a Loving Friend who calms my own grieving spirit in the dark hospital room where my father lays dying. "Those who eat my flesh? abide in me, and I in them (John 6:56, NRSV)."

In a world of fast food chains in every village, of drive-through windows, of buffet lines and all-you-can-eat salad bars, we are today offered a different food, the Bread of Life. It is food for a hungry soul. It is eternal food which, when you eat it, satisfies the craving of your heart and opens your eyes to see that all else is imitation and second rate.


Larry M. Goodpaster, Like a Breath of Fresh Air, CSS Publishing Company

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7)      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.

 Traditional

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8)      Bread Is Not a Mere Commodity

 The theologian John Macquarrie relates that the Scottish churchman, George Macleod, used to watch grain ships from Canada and the United States bringing their cargoes of wheat into Liverpool harbor, and he reflected that the wheat has the potentiality of becoming the body of Christ. This is the point at which sacramental theology spills over into the market place. Bread is not a mere commodity; things are not mere bits of matter. We can learn something of this from natural theology, but we learn it above all from Jesus Christ, the bread of God which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

John Macquarrie, A Guide to the Sacraments, p,156

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 9)      The Truth

There is an Irish saying, "the person who speaks the truth should have one foot in the stirrup." He should be ready to ride off at once. People do not like the truth, especially when it challenges their attitudes; and the reaction is often to try to destroy the evidence of the truth or the one who witnesses to it.

Father Gerry Pierse, The Dangerous Memory of Jesus


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10)  Dining with God

When Seymour passed away, God greeted him at the Pearly Gates. "Thou be hungry, Seymour?" said God.

"I could eat," Seymour 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, Seymour glanced down into Hell and saw the inhabitants devouring huge steaks, lobsters, pheasants, pastries, and fine wines. Curious, but deeply trusting, Seymour remained quiet.

The next day God again invited Seymour for another meal. Again, it was tuna and rye bread. Once again looking down, Seymour could see the denizens of Hell enjoying caviar, champagne, lamb, truffles, and chocolates. Still Seymour said nothing.

The following day, mealtime arrived and God opened another can of tuna. Seymour could contain himself no longer. Meekly, he said: "God, I am grateful to be in heaven with you as a reward for the pious, obedient life I led. 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, Seymour. For just two people does it pay to cook?"

Donel McClellan, The Imaginary God
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 11)  Meeting God

Barbara Brokhoff says in her book, Faith Alive, "The Happy Hour for the Christian should be the hour of worship on Sunday morning, but how do you honestly feel when you are awakened by the alarm on the Lord's Day and you realize it is another "Church Day"? Can you hardly wait for the service time to roll around or do you roll over in bed, moan and groan and cover your head, and wish that once, once again maybe once more like last Sunday the one before, you would, or could sleep in and forget the whole boring, time consuming thing?? Is the thought of worship agony or ecstasy? I think we are coming to meet God--not just anybody, but God!! Shouldn't the delightful suspense of worship make our breath short and our hearts beat faster?"

Barbara Brokhoff, Faith Alive, quoted by Tim Zingale, Wisdom = Being in Christ
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 12)  Bread from Home

I'm reminded of a true story of a soldier who was severely wounded. When he was out of surgery, the doctors said that there was a good chance for recovery, except that the soldier wouldn't eat anything. The nurses and nuns tried everything, but he refused all food-drinking only water and juice.

One of his buddies knew why the soldier wouldn't eat-he was homesick. So, his friend, since the hospital wasn't too far from the soldier's home, offered to bring the young man's father to visit him. The commanding officer approved and the friend went to the parents' home. As the father was about to leave for the hospital, the mother wrapped up a loaf of fresh bread for her son.

Well, the patient was very happy to see his father but he still wouldn't eat-that is, until the father said; "Son, this bread was made by your mother, especially for you". The boy brightened and began to eat.

I think that you can guess where I'm going with that story. You and I are that boy. We are the ones who have been wounded in the battle of life. We are the ones who've been wounded by sin, by trials and pains, by loss and by our forgetfulness of God.

We lose our taste for the food that will strengthen our souls. Holy Communion gives us life, spiritual life, God's life. It gives us spiritual healing and spiritual strength. There was nothing 'magic' about the mother's bread unless, that is, one feels that 'love' is magic--which, of course, it is.

Author unknown
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 13)  The Communion of Empty Hands

There's a beautiful incident recorded by Thomas Pettepiece, a Methodist pastor, who was a political prisoner, a prisoner of conscience. Pettepiece writes of his first Easter Sunday spent in prison. He was among 10,000 prisoners. Most of the men had lost everything: their homes, their jobs, their furniture, their contact with their families. It was Easter Sunday, and they wanted to celebrate Communion. But, they had no cup for Communion. They had no wine for Communion. They didn't even have water for Communion. Nor did they have any bread for the Sacrament.

So, they practiced the Communion of Empty Hands. "This meal in which we take part," Pettepeice said, "reminds us of the imprisonment, the torture, the death and final victory of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The bread is the body which he gave for humanity. The fact that we have none represents very well the lack of bread in the hunger of so many millions of human beings. The wine, which we don't have today, is his blood, and represents our dream of a united humanity, of a just society, without difference of race or class."

Then Pettepiece, the pastor, held out his empty hand to the next person on his right, and passed on the imaginary loaf. Each one took a piece and passed it on. Then he said, "Take, eat, this is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And together they ate the imaginary bread, trying to imagine tasting it.

After a moment they passed around the non-existent chalice, each imagining he was drinking from it. "Take, drink, this is the blood of Christ which was shed for you ... Let us give thanks, sure that Christ is here with us, strengthening us."

They gave thanks to God and then stood up and embraced each other. And a while later, one of the non-Christian prisoners came up to them and said, "You people have something special, which I would like to have." And the father of a girl who had died came up to Pettepiece and said, "Pastor, this was a real experience. I believe that today I discovered what faith is ..." (from Visions of a World Hungry, quoted in A Guide To Prayer, Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, editors, The Upper Room, p. 143).

Alex Gondola, Jr., Come As You Are, CSS Publishing Company.

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14)  Togetherness in the Eucharist

 Bread suggests togetherness, care and love, hopes and dreams, fun and adventure.

Let's say some new friends invite you to their house for a meal. When you are a guest in their home, they are sharing their intimacy with you. They are sharing with you some of the privacy of that place where they live every day, eat every day, love every day, work on their problems, argue from time to time, sleep and depart for work and pleasure and return for rest, every day.

After graciously receiving you, they show you around their home in which they take deep pride. Then you go to the dining room for the meal. You find the table set with care, the food exceptionally delicious, and the conversation flows easily. Simply put, it becomes a lovely evening and you leave feeling full in every way. You enjoy bread from the kitchen, but much more. You enjoy the bread of being graciously received, the bread of informed and lively conversation, and the bread of being in beautiful surroundings..

Magnify that thousands of times and you begin to have a glimmer of what the church perceives the Holy Eucharist to be. In the Eucharist Jesus and "Bread of Life" are one. In the Eucharist bread and wine are the elements that nurture faith in God.

Charles R. Leary, Mission Ready!, CSS Publishing Company

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 15)  Andrew Greeley:

 Background:

 One must not take this passage as a description of an actual dialogue between Jesus and some of those who followed him. Rather it doubtless refers to a difficulty in St. John’s community over the Eucharist and the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, a difficulty which has plagued the Church through it’s history, mostly because have tried to reduce mystery to prose, to explain the inexplicable.

 The Eucharist demands faith at every time and place, but less faith in the how then in the fact of the presence of Jesus.

 As the first reading suggests faith opens up the fonts of wisdom and feeds us with it.

 Fr. Greeley's Last Book:

  Story:

 A young college student went to the Newman chaplain and said, I believe in God and in life after death and in resurrection and in the church, but I cannot accept that Jesus is really present, body and blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist.

  I’m sorry, but I just can't.

 The priest thought this was like swallowing the grizzly bear and straining at the gnat.

 Resurrection, he said, is a humungous miracle. Real Presence is kind of ordinary in comparison. I don’t believe I really eat Jesus, the young man said. It’s just bread that’s all. You don’t eat Jesus, the priest replied, knowing that he had one of those kids who somehow or the other had run into an old fashioned teacher, one that still thought it was a sacrilege for anyone but a priest to touch the sacred host. The poor kid was really worried about how the doctrine of the real presence exposed Jesus to desecration if even a tiny piece was somehow lost. The priest went through a lot of theological explanations which did not satisfy the young man. I just have to understand how he works it out, the lad pleaded.

 Have you figured out how God created the universe from nothing in the snap of a finger, the priest asked.

 Of course not the young man replied. Then his voice faded off. Oh, I get it, he said softly. I’m not supposed to understand everything.



 16)  Unhappily few of the lines that follow are original. The majority belong to those writers known as Author Unknown. Where possible, I have identified the artist. He was conceived and born contrary to all biological law. He grew up to be a very bothersome man. He told the truth and it cost Him His life.

He could have avoided assassination by going fishing in Galilee for the weekend. He was often seen talking and laughing after His death. He remains forever a question mark with which people are never quite finished. Non-believers forever worry lest they might be wrong.

The Church He founded is discussed daily on the first pages of the major newspapers of the world.

What might He have accomplished had He lived to 50?

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17)  As a babe, He terrified a king. As a youngster, He puzzled scholars. As a man, He intimidated a Roman governor. To borrow from GK Chesterton, He was constantly in hot water. He did not seem to mind. He felt it would keep Him clean.

He had no training in psychiatry. Yet, He has cured more minds and spirits than anyone else in history. Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon established mighty empires by force. He began His with love and service. Theirs have disappeared. His remains. Statesmen have legislated on their turn. Artists and philosophers have reigned for a short period.

Some have said they were more popular than He. But their names are written in the sand. His is spoken with frequency by one billion followers.

Each week millions assemble to salute Him in the Eucharist. He spoke that last night to a small band of illiterate men as though the memorial ceremony would continue down through the centuries. History has proved Him correct.

 He calls us to Liturgy both to remember Him and worship Him. The first food consumed on the moon was bread and wine consumed in His name.

Those who discover they cannot believe in Him live with sorrow. Those who believe but lack the courage to resemble Him survive with regret.

 Though centuries separate us from Him, He is more vital than we. We will not even be memories in the next generation, but He will flourish.

He no longer stands in the dock. He has nothing to prove. He has survived the test of time. It is we who are on trial in our reaction to Him.

Unlike countless peoples who impacted society by jumping in front of it and going with the flow, He got in front of the parade to take it in the opposite direction.

He presides over the world like a Colossus. After almost a century in USSR gulags, He walks openly in Moscow, Kiev, and St Petersburg. No one seems surprised.

No historian can portray humanity honestly without giving Him, in HG Wells' words, the foremost place.

Millions utter His name upon rising. Other millions shout it throughout the day in anger or pain. For still other millions, it is the last name they whisper before they die and the first they expect to speak when they awaken in His presence.

Robert Griffin says He is the hero you could never invent. Angels rush to Him. Devils flee from Him.

He not only pushed the envelope. He broke through it.

In a poor man's apparel, He pursues us always.

To borrow Tennessee William's language, He is the long delayed but always expected something we live for.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said His name is not so much written into the history of the world as plowed.

Harry Emerson Fosdick says He changed BC into AD.

Albert Nolan suggests He has no interest in people theorizing about Him but rather reproducing Him in their lives.

Time magazine suggests that in His lifetime, He had no equal. It is the same today. It is not He who needs us. It is we who need Him.
 

 18)   Unaware of the Free Meal on Board:

 There is a story of a very poor family who emigrated to the USA from Europe many years ago on an old fashioned ocean liner. Coming from an obscure country there was no one on board that could speak their language. They were down below the water-line in steerage. Having no experience of a sea voyage they brought enough hard bread and cheese to last the journey. One meal time the youngest son was missing after a while he came back after having eaten in the large dining room upstairs. The family were shocked but he assured them that another young boy whom he had met had explained to him in sign language that the meals were included in the price of the ticket.

The world is full of people like them totally unaware of the incredible Banquet of Life that God spreads for them each day in the Eucharist.

 Jesus says: I am the Bread of Life, whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.