Sunday, August 30, 2015

Our Father

"Don't touch the plates. They're hot."
Readings for Sunday, August 30 / 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8
Psalm 15
James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Anyone who has recently seen me without my Mass vestments on can usually tell that my vestments have been in need of a little attention. Buttons have been missing the cloth covering, a few seams were torn here and there, a tear on one has been held together by safety pins for months, they’re a little too short, and admittedly no longer black but more of a dark gray. I’ve known this for a while. It actually began about a year ago when I went home and my mom told me it was time to start looking at getting new cassocks. I said ‘ok’ and continued on with life as normal. Next time I went home, the same exchange. Over the course of several months it happened more often than not when I would go home and it began to bother me a bit. Each time it was said I received it less as a critique of my clothing and more a critique of me; that there was something wrong with me. After months of the ‘you need new cassocks’ and ‘ok’ exchange mom finally just told me we were going to the store to look at the selection and so we went. I was already a bit worked up that day from other things and the cassock-critiques had worn pretty hard on me. Mom was looking at the rack of cassocks, all of which I didn’t like for some particular reason, and I was about 15 feet away looking at candlesticks. Her good friend joined us at the store and the two of them were talking and mom mentioned my cassock and she didn’t like how rough they were looking, this with me in earshot. In a moment of frustration I lost it and said something to the effect of ‘Well I guess I should consider it an act of charity that I don’t get to go home much these days, that way you don’t have to see me in it.’ As soon as the words came out my mouth I could feel things change. It hurt her and I knew it.

Very few words were exchanged after that. We rode silently to lunch and sat quietly at the table, each of us paying attention to other things around us rather than talking to each other. After lunch she dropped me off and I came back to the rectory. I was still upset and she was too. After a couple of days stewing things over I called her and apologized for what I had said and done and we experienced reconciliation and healing. I mention healing specifically because there was a wound that was inflicted, not to skin and bone, but to a relationship.

In the readings for today we hear a good bit about commandments, the law of God and the traditions of men. The commandments are good and holy things, but the problem is that most of us are never really sorry for breaking rules. I remember only one time in my life when I apologized to a rule for breaking it and that was in driver’s ed. Our teacher, Mrs. Paige, had a policy that any time we broke one of the rules of the road that we had to get out an apologize to the sign indicating the broken rule. I broke the speed limit (go figure!) and had to apologize to the sign for my infraction. After giving it a hug for good measure – I was and still am a bit weird – I hopped back in the car and off we went. I wasn’t really sorry for the rule being broken though. In fact most of the time I’ve felt sorrow for breaking rules it was more honestly sorrow that I had been caught.

That’s understandable when it comes to things like traffic laws and such. The problem is that we often and easily apply this laissez faire approach to commandments to the relationship that we’re invited to have with God our Father.

When we treat sins like mere rules and laws, we turn God our Father into the God our Master – a divine rule maker who we don’t have to care about personally but for whom we must ‘stay in line.’ To do this is to miss one of the greatest gifts that we have been given by God, namely, adoption in His Son. We are the Father’s adopted sons and daughters and He loves us as His own children. But that doesn’t mean He lets us simply do whatever we please. God never commands us to do or not do things ‘just because.’ There is always a purpose and reason. When my mom and I were sitting quietly in the restaurant, the waiter brought out our plates and told to us ‘Don’t touch the plates. They’re hot.’ I wasn’t upset that I couldn’t touch my plate. I appreciated that our waiter saved me the trouble of getting burned trying to reposition things. In the same way a father tells their child ‘don’t touch that’ to numerous things – open flames, open ovens, ant beds, etc. – all in the name of love. He does it not to restrict freedom but to preserve the child from pain. And the commandments of God? The exact same. I could go around committing all sorts of sins and reaping the rewards of physical, spiritual, and emotional pain and suffering and learn not to do those things eventually. Or I can simply listen to the Word of the Lord saying ‘my son, don’t do that, it’s not good for you’ and trust the Father who is showing His concern.

Last weekend we were faced with the call of Joshua to ‘decide today whom you will serve.’ Let us choose today once more not to serve a master of laws, but instead to embrace our Father. As we pray that prayer given so many years ago, may our hearts well up today with the joy of indeed being children of God and help us always to seek deeper union with our Father.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Invitation (John 6 - Part 5)

Readings for Sunday, August 23 / 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18
Psalm 34
Ephesians 5:21-32
John 6:60-69

“Wives should be subordinate to their husbands.”

I laughed a bit to myself as I was praying with the readings this week, as having this feather-ruffling reading from St. Paul alongside the conclusion of the 5-week series on John 6 makes for a easy ‘out’ for all the priests who ‘would love to address St. Paul’s words’ but ‘really need to focus on this last week about the Eucharist’. But my thought is why not do both?

The words of St. Paul that we just heard a moment ago are incredibly beautiful and powerful message to husbands and wives. It should be the joy of two hearts to hear them on their wedding day, and yet how rarely they are heard. Why? Because our culture doesn’t understand them. When the world today hears the words “wives should be subordinate to their husbands” walls immediately go up against them on account of their supposed misogynistic viewpoint that presumes that St. Paul has as his goal the suppression of women, particularly in their marital relationships. But let’s look at it for a moment. If you look at the meaning of the word ‘subordinate’ that is used here the Latin root translates as ‘put under’ or ‘to plunge into’. St. Paul is inviting wives to places themselves under the care of their husbands as to the Lord, with complete trust. But why place themselves under their husband? Why not alongside? To understand we simply look to the call of St. Paul to husbands in regards to their wives: ‘love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her.’ What is interesting here is that the call of a women is to place herself under the direction or order of her husband, while the call of a husband is to be able to lay down his life in service of his bride, as Christ did for the Church, to make her beauty and holy. That doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all to me! Recognizing the beauty of it is easy; living it is not. To live this mutual submission to one another requires an immense amount of trust. Trust on the part of the wife that her husband will not abuse the role of husband and become an oppressor. And trust on the part of the husband that his self-gift will be received by his wife for her own good and not simply disregarded. It’s all about trust.

And this is exactly where the Lord brings us with this last of the five weeks’ reflections on John 6. In recent weeks Jesus has said and done some really incredible things. We saw his authority-claiming actions of climbing the mountain, sitting, and performing the miracle of feeding 5000+ people with a few loaves and fish. He spoke to us of manna & quail that failed to satisfy and a True Bread that would satisfy not only a small nation but the entire world. He took it a step further and announced that the True Bread would be His very own flesh and by eating it we could attain heavenly life. And then He capped it all off by saying that it was not only His flesh that we would have to eat, repulsive enough an idea as it was, but that we would also have to drink His blood to have that heavenly life. After hearing this litany of absurd claims, we could easily place in this context the command of Joshua to the Israelites: Decide today whom you will serve!

Again, we know the difficulty of accepting so many of the things that the Lord has spoken to us because they are outside of our understanding, contradict so much of what seems common sense, and makes a claim that is absolutely incredibly. Really, after hearing this speech you have to believe either Jesus is the real deal and He can give everything He says OR He’s a raving lunatic who needs to be cast aside and ignored as one who has no grasp on reality. Many of his disciples, we hear, left that day. His disciples. Not just the people who followed Him to get some food, but the disciples who had been walking with Him for days, weeks, maybe months by this point. It was too much for them to take; they couldn’t trust in the words He spoke. What I find fascinating is that Jesus doesn’t go groveling, trying to get them to come back to Him. He simply turns to the disciples and says, ‘Do you also want to leave?’

I love Peter’s response because it’s honest. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the worlds of eternal life.” Notice that he doesn’t say ‘No, Lord, I don’t want to leave.’ You can almost read the confusion in his response. It’s as if he is saying ‘Lord, I don’t understand what you mean entirely and I don’t know how you’re going to make it happen, and it causes me discomfort to hear it, but I’m going to trust you and keep going. You have the words of eternal life. I’m gonna trust you.’ I may be interpreting it wrongly, but it sounds as if Peter doesn’t completely understand everything himself just yet but that he’s willing to keep on the journey.

And the invitation is extended to us the same. Can we every fully understand the Eucharist? No. Will we ever really be able to wrap our minds around the mystical words that Jesus says and the miraculous things that He does? No. Are we ever going to reach a point when the Eucharist doesn’t require of us a radical act of faith? I don’t think so. Because that’s the whole point. Jesus invites every human person to an encounter with Him, particularly in the Eucharist. The question is whether we are able to trust Him enough to believe and follow despite our lack of understanding?

Decide today whom you will serve? As for me an my house, we will serve the Lord.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Blood (John 6 - Part 4)

Spreading Blood on the Doorposts
Readings for Sunday, August 16/ 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 34
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

Have y’all noticed how many of my homilies begin with ‘when I was in seminary’? It was a very formative time! Anywho…

When I was in seminary J we had an interesting outing one day as we drew near to our ordination as priests. We went to one of the funeral homes in New Orleans and they showed us the rooms where they prepared bodies and also the crematory where they would do the cremations. It was really fascinating to see the ‘behind the scene’ view but what intrigued me most was that as we were going around they showed us one special room and told us that it was specifically for the Jewish community because they had certain ways that they would wash and care for the body of the individual, particularly in the preservation of the blood, as opposed to it simply being consumed as would that of other individuals. I didn’t expect it but it made perfect sense because, for the Jewish people, the blood is of great importance. Do you remember the scene from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ when the Lord had just been scourged? Recall how Our Lady went out with a cloth and began to soak up all the blood on the ground and to clean the area. It’s because of the importance of blood.

Blood is of such importance that we go all the way into the 4th chapter of Genesis before we hear about it for the first time. Here it is the blood of Abel that cries out from the ground after Cain had slain him. Interesting that it’s not the flesh, not the body; it’s the blood. The second time ‘blood’ is spoken of is in the following verse when Cain is told that he has Abel’s blood on his hands. And the third time comes in chapter 9 of Genesis in the story of Noah. As Noah proceed from the Ark after the flood, the Lord says to him: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Blood is life.

The prohibition of eating flesh with blood meat obviously that there were not rare steaks in the Old Testament and this ultimately comes down to the reality that to consume the blood of a creature was to have it’s life in you and thus to be joined with it.

We see the use of blood all throughout the Old Testament in the lives and worship of the Jewish people. The sacrifices of bulls, goats, birds, and the like were all vicarious sacrifices. They were essentially saying that on account of my sins I deserve to die, but this animal is able to die in my place, to pay its life rather than mine. We see this in the use of blood over the doorways at Passover to save people from death and to guarantee life. This idea was brought in as well in the worship in the tabernacle and later in the Temple. At different times that altar, horns of the altar, the people, and the sanctuary were sprinkled with blood, as sign of being cleansed from sin by the life of an animal being poured out. Too, we can see that the Mercy Seat – the dwelling place of God in the Holy of Holies – was sprinkled each year on the Day of Atonement. First-hand accounts from the time of Jesus recount how on the days in preparation for Passover nearly 250,000 lambs were slain to fulfill the command of God to eat of the lamb. So much blood was shed that they say the priests in the sanctuary waded through it up almost to their knees and they had drains in the floor for it to pour out and flow down the mountainside – a river of blood pouring from the side of the Temple and joined at the bottom to a river of fresh water, the blood and water flowing side by side as they merged. You can see the imagery tied to the even of the Cross.

So we can see that blood ultimately comes to have four emphases: it saved or protected people as in the Passover, it washes away sin and guilt by the vicarious gift of the animal, it joined the person to the creature if the blood was consumed, and the consumption of the blood gave the life of that creature to the one partaking of the blood.

All of this is the background that colored Jewish life each day and all throughout the year. They always had to look at their meats to discern ‘does it have any blood in it?’ Always the search for blood. And now we get into the Gospel.

Last week we left of with, and this week we begin with, the Lord telling the people “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” This strange saying confuses his hearers and they all begin to wonder to themselves and to speak aloud their confusion: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus, recognizing their confusion, responds and tell them that it was all symbolic, that it was just an analogy, that He didn’t mean it literally. Right? No. What’s interesting is that Jesus knows the confusion in the hearts and minds of the crowd before Him and has the opportunity to tell everyone that the bread He was talking about was just a spiritual reality, a symbolic joining of ourselves to Himself, an analogy of faith. But He does the exact opposite – He intensifies His words.

Precious Blood of the Child Jesus
“Amen, amen, I say to you,” the double amen emphasizing that what follows was of great importance, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

Drink His Blood!? Four times in a row He says to drink His Blood?! I’d imagine one of two scenarios happened at this point: either you could have heard a pin drop with the shocked silence of the crowd or a great uproar of blasphemy charges would have been hurled at the Lord. Either way the reasoning is the same. God, from the days of Noah, prohibited the consumption of blood in the animals and yet here this Jesus, the so-called Son of God, is saying that they were not only to drink His blood but indeed they must in order to have life! Does He realize what He’s saying? The blood has power to wash away sin and guilt, to preserve those on whom it rests from the angel of death and to bring life, it joins one to the creatures whose blood was shed and gives the life of that creature to the one who consumed it! And that is exactly the point.  

It is right not to consume the blood of an animal that would lower one’s dignity, but with the entrance into history of the God-Man Jesus Christ, the consumption of His Blood does not lower us but raises us up to a higher state. It gives us eternal life, where once only temporal life was attainable. It saves us from sin and joins us to Christ – He remains in us and we in Him. It’s all in the power of the Blood of Jesus and it is that same blood, that true drink, which we have the joy of being able to receive each time we come to Mass.

So I conclude this week with the question for reflection: How do we reverence the Eucharist?

If the Lord’s Body and Blood are true food and true drink which we receive here, how do we show that? What about our spirit, body and thoughts here at Mass shows our reverence and love for the Eucharist? What in our lives outside of these walls continues to speak to us and to others and He is here? How do we reverence this gift of His life-giving Blood?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Journey (John 6 - Part 3)

Readings for Sunday, August 9/ 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time:
1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
John 6:41-51

Earlier this weekend I had the joy of going to New Orleans to celebrate the wedding of two friends of mine at the seminary where I spent four years preparing for the joy that is priestly life and service. In the short day that I was there, I was immediately faced with one of the parts I liked least about New Orleans: the potholes. The only time I wasn’t bouncing around, it seemed, was when I was stopped. The constant sway and thump of the car as I went along kept me conscious that I was moving somewhere. I began to think about the many ways that other means of transportation give us similar experiences. Turbulence on planes, swaying on trains, and the movement of boats that if endured long enough makes you feel like you’re still on it well after you’re sitting at home on the couch. The point is that all of those things provide a sensible awareness of movement. One of the great tragedies of our day is the truth that while we are on a journey, moving toward our final end, it easily happens that we are completely unaware of that movement. For instance, are you conscious of the fact that right now we’re moving at a high velocity as the Earth orbits the Sun? In the same way, the spiritual life is one in which we are called to be aware of our movement or bear serious consequences otherwise.

Last week we continued the reflections on John 6 as we discuss the necessity of food. This week we pick up with food once more, as the Scripture shows us that the food is necessary for a purpose, for a journey. Once again the Church gives us a back story in the first reading to help frame the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel, and this week it is Elijah the prophet. What is interesting to me is that the reading we just heard, when joined to the passages immediately before and after it, is much the same as the story of the Israelites’ and their journey we heard the last two weeks.

Immediately prior to the passage we heard was the story of Elijah and the 400 prophets of Baal. The Israelites had begun to turn away from God and worship false gods, of which Baal was one of the more notable. Elijah challenged the 400 prophets to a test: to set two altars up on the mountain and see whose god would show up. The 400 prophets of Baal did their chants, dances, and invocations and nothing happened. Elijah poured water on his altar, invoked the God of Israel, and the whole things was consumed by fire from heaven. Having shown that the God of Israel was Lord, he took the 400 prophets and had them killed, symbolically turning away from false gods and toward the Lord. It was a story of conversion of the people, much like that of the Israelites’ being set free from slavery in Egypt. And just as the freedom from slavery led the Israelites into the desert, so too Elijah fled to the desert. That’s where we pick up the story today. He goes a days journey and lies down. He is awoken to eat and drink, which he does. Then it happens again, with the angel adding to it a deep insight for him and for us both: he must eat in order to have strength for the journey. The food was the necessary starting point for the journey that Elijah would make 40 days through the desert and the 40 days wasn’t just happenstance. The Israelites wandered 40 years, Elijah 40 days, Jesus was in the desert 40 days, Lent for us is 40 days. I think you get the gist. The story is simply replayed anew. And so the forty days journey leads Elijah to Mount Horeb, and this is where the story ends today. But we know the rest of the story without having to even have it read because we know what happens when we climb a mountain, right? We encounter God. And the same with Elijah. He climbs Horeb and there sees great fire, a powerful earthquake but then came a still quiet whisper and he knew it was the Lord passing by and he covered his face and bowed down in prayer. The Israelites travelled 40 years to go up (think mountain!) to the Promised Land. Elijah went 40 days to the mountain to meet God. And us? We’re on a journey too and it’s a journey not just to a land provided by God or an encounter with God that lasts only for a moment. We are on a journey to the heart of the Father through that of the Son by the grace of the Holy Spirit that we culminate in us being part of their embrace for all eternity in the reality that call ‘Heaven’.

As I said at the beginning, the problem so often is that we forget we’re on a journey at all but rather think that this is the main portion of our lives and we spend our time not looking anywhere else but being caught up in the things of this world, the stuff of our daily lives. And when we forget that we’re on a journey, we don’t worry about stocking up on the food.

Put more practically: why do we have to come to Mass? You’ve surely heard the question from someone else, maybe even thought it or said it yourself. I know I have. “Father, I don’t understand why I have to go to Mass. I can pray anywhere since God’s everywhere.” Gardens and farm fields, deer stands and duck blinds, prayer spots and little chapels in a home. All of these are places we can pray and should pray. Our life should be a continuous conversation with God that finds us in all sorts of places offering prayer. But my question in the midst of all of them is this: where’s the food? We have to have food for the journey to heaven and Jesus makes it clear that He’s coming to provide it. Where’s the food?

Coming to Mass is about glorifying God first and foremost for everything He’s done for us and for everything He is in Himself. He deserves it simply for that. But why do we come? What makes Mass different than any other experience of prayer, regardless of the space? The Eucharist. Here and here alone are we nourished with the Bread of Life that opens for us the gates of Heaven. It’s for us to respond to the promptings of the angels that surround us and actually partake of it, to rise once more and be strengthened for the journey.

In conclusion I have one basic question: how often do we contemplate Heaven? Heaven is eternal and if we though about it, this life is but the first letter of a single book in an entirely library full in comparison to eternity. How are we setting out minds on the place that awaits us? How are we storing up treasure that never fades? How often to do we contemplate Heaven?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Papal Intentions for August 2015

Prayer for the Pope

V. Let us pray for Francis, our Pope.
R. May the Lord preserve him, give him life, 
and make him blessed upon the earth, 
and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.
Our Father... Hail Mary...
O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Francis, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. 
Through Christ our Lord. 

Papal Intentions for August 2015

Universal Intention: That volunteers may give themselves generously to the service of the needy.

Mission Intention: That setting aside our very selves we may learn to be neighbors to those who find themselves on the margins of human life and society.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Food (John 6 - Part 2)

Good, but not the Bread of Heaven
Readings for Sunday, August 2/18th Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Psalm 78
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
John 6:24-35

We continue this week with the second installment of the five-week reading of John 6. If you remember, last week we heard the back-story with the feeding of the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. It was prefaced by the story of a similar miracle worked at the words of the prophet Elisha, but the difference between the two was the ‘something new’ that Christ was working and we found it in that key phrase of St. John: The Jewish feast of Passover was near. We saw how the feast sets the stage for what is to follow, namely a call to partake of a special food, embark on a journey, witness the shedding of blood, and make a decision that has life and death consequences. And so we pick up today in the place where Louisianans almost always start: food.

Our body needs food. When we don’t get it or don’t get enough of it, our body lets us know. When I was in college and had just come back to the Church I was zealous in my desire to do great things for the Lord and so when Lent came around I resolved to embark upon an intense fast from food. One day I was sitting in my Latin class working on an exam and my stomach began the ‘hungry gurgle’ and proceed to make this loud, awkward sound for a solid minute. Not exaggerating. My classmates looked at me with the obvious question in their eyes “What is going on with this guy?” I was hungry and my stomach let me, and everyone around me, know it.

The key, I said, to the whole story is the event of Passover. In our first reading we get a glimpse of life after the Passover. The Israelites ate the lamb and special foods as prescribed by the Lord and they survived just as they had been promised. And now they set out from Egypt, passed through the Red Sea and have begun to wander in the desert on the way to the Promised Land. But the problem is the hungry gurgle. Their stomachs begin to rumble and then their mouths begin to grumble to one another. Pretty soon the whole people is ready to return to slavery simply in order to have their bellies full once more!

The Lord hears the cry of His people, as He always does, and commits Himself to providing for them bread in the morning and flesh in the evening. Evening comes that first day and upon the camp descends a flock of quail enough to feed everyone. This is miraculous in itself because there were over 600,000 men, not counting women and children in this great exodus of the Israelites. That’s A LOT of quail! And then in the morning they wake up and walk outside of their tents and ask ‘Manna?’ The word ‘Manna’ literally means ‘what is it’ and so this stuff scattered far and wide was not something they were familiar with at all, even having travelled the desert for a while. Moses comes to them to explain that it is the Bread of Heaven, as promised by God Himself.

This Bread of Heaven was also miraculous. It was such that those who could only gather a little and those who gathered a lot were both perfectly supplied, none were left wanting. It was required that the Manna be gathered only enough for that day. In some cases the people tried to increase the amount gathered to last them two days so they could take a break and not work; the manna spoiled overnight every time except on one specific night: that of Sabbath. Only on Friday were they Israelites able to gather a double portion and have it keep for the next day without souring and this was at the Lord’s command so that they could keep holy the Sabbath and not be consumed with work. What’s more, this miraculous bread appeared every day for 40 years while the people were on the journey to the Promised Land and it stopped on the exact day that they cross over into it and not a soul has seen the Manna fall since that day. The Bread of Heaven nourished them all along the journey and was among the most powerful reminders of the power and providence of God for His people. 

This is the back-story this week for the words of Jesus. Keep in mind the 5000 had just been fed and Jesus went off with the disciples to another place. In the passage we just heard the crowd has tracked Him down and His response gets us into the really meat of His teaching on the Eucharist. The people gather around Him and He tells that they are seeking Him not because they saw signs – not because they had encountered God or experienced His power – but because their stomachs were full and it’s time to eat once more. He points out that they were driven by a less noble reason, much like their ancient ancestors who were tempted to return to slavery just to get food once more. Recognizing that they have come with empty stomachs He tells them to strive for the food that endures to eternal life. Jesus obviously knows because nobody is going to tell you to strive for something and shrug their shoulders when you ask them about where to find it. Jesus is drawing them into the dialogue to pull from them the desire to attain this food that endures to eternal life. And so they ask. They recall how their ancestors ate Manna in the desert and boldly look at Jesus and question Him: “What can you do?”

It was not Moses who gave you the bread of Heaven; my Father gives you the true bread of Heaven. The bread of God is that which comes down from Heaven and gives life to the whole world.

With this Jesus powerfully drives home the point that it was not Moses, but His Father who provided the bread. But even more powerfully He states that it was not the TRUE bread of Heaven. It was simply a foreshadowing, a symbol of the reality that the Father would eventually send not just to feed ONE nation but to feed ALL the nations. And what is this true bread of Heaven? What is this ultimate reality that the Father sent to give life to the whole world? Where can one partake of this true Bread?

I AM the Bread of Life.”

‘Jesus Himself is the Bread of Life? How can this be? How are we to eat of Him and receive eternal life?’ the Jews immediately questioned in their hearts. We already know the teaching that is come and yet with what joy we pause to contemplate the wonder of such a claim!

The readings both challenge us this weekend with one basic question: why are we here? Why do we come to Mass? Do we come to come to encounter the Living God once more or is it that we get some spiritual feeling out it? Maybe we just like the music or the sermon or the community? What draws us here?

Today is the feast of St. Peter Julian Eymard, a priest of the 1800’s who had a fiery love for the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. I wanted to end here with a quote from the last sermon he ever preached: 
We believe in the love of God for us. To believe in love is everything. It is not enough to believe in the truth. We must believe in love, and love is Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That is the faith that makes Our Lord loved. Ask for this pure and simple faith in the Eucharist. Men will teach you; but only Jesus will give you the grace to believe in Him. Come and receive Communion in order to have the strength of faith, not merely the satisfaction, the feeling of faith. You have the Eucharist, what more do you want?