Have you ever approached a hushed group and were certain they were talking about you?
It's an uncomfortable feeling to catch people murmuring about what you did, said, or didn't do. It breeds division and exclusion. In today's Gospel, Jesus invites us to just the opposite.
The reading opens with the crowds "murmuring" their doubts about Jesus after he has proclaimed himself the Bread of Life. "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph ? how can he say 'I have come down from heaven'?" In his response, Jesus brings up the Israelites and the manna God brought them in the desert. If you turn back to the story in Exodus, you'll see another similar word: murmuring. As the going got tough, the Israelites doubted Moses and God's plan to protect and care for them as a chosen people. Here, Jesus proposes a difficult theological concept. Jesus himself is "the living bread" and "flesh for the life of the world."
This is not an exclusive concept. "Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me." Why? Because "the Father who sent me draw[s] him." The next time you're at Mass, take a few moments to watch the communion line. Young and old, families and singles, diverse races and cultures and stories ? we are all drawn to the Eucharistic table. Catholic doctrine may require faith, but it is a faith possible for anyone who seeks truth. Christianity does not hide behind locked doors in an exclusive clubhouse, whispering behind the backs of nonbelievers. Jesus compels us to share the love of God the Father for his children, that we one day be joined with Him and "live forever."
Questions of the Week
Within the larger narrative of today's reading, the prophet Elijah has been fleeing for his life from Queen Jezebel after defeating the false prophets of the god, Baal. In desperation and exhaustion, Elijah prays for death. The Lord responds by sending an angel to strengthen Elijah. How does prayer strengthen you in your spiritual journey?
Paul presents a series of ethical imperatives for the Ephesian Christians to live by. How well does your faith community live to these standards?
Jesus is not deterred by the Jews murmuring against him as he continues to speak of himself as "living bread." Why do you think some of the Jews found this idea so threatening?
Live the Liturgy—Inspiration for the Week
Life can be confusing, and the demands and challenges of everyday life can easily cloud our vision. We can become tired. Because of all of the energy needed to manage our day-to-day routines, our spiritual lives can get neglected. Anger, apathy, bitterness, and competition readily distort our relationships with one another and with God. We are asked to imitate God and to put love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and gentleness over all things. We need to develop a strong life of prayer in order to bring balance to our lives and to realize who we really are.
August 19, 2018
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In this Sunday's Gospel, the conflict escalates in the Bread of Life Discourse. Confusion is mounting in the crowd. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Their minds were thinking literally, not mystically. Jesus doesn't seem to help, however, and only drives his point home with more emphasis. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you." Jesus would later institute the Eucharist at the Last Supper. There he would definitively establish the sacramental reality in which bread and wine become substantially his own Body and Blood. We celebrate this sacrament in the Mass.
Perhaps we do not always understand what we receive. "My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." What is the essence of food and drink? Food nourishes our bodies, providing essential calories for our survival. Water is used throughout the body to cushion joints, regulate body temperature, and protect sensitive tissues like the brain. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive the spiritual equivalent of these essential elements. Like water, the Eucharist strengthens the sanctifying grace moving through us. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." The Eucharist connects us intimately to Jesus and confirms our union with him. That is why we abstain from the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin. It would be a contradiction and deep disrespect to these words of Jesus. To receive the Body and Blood of Jesus is not a right but a gift we receive with deep humility.
As we receive the Bread of Life, grace strengthens our love, separates us from sin -- even wiping away venial sins -- unifies us with the universal Church, and helps commit us to humble service. Together we are nourished for our mission in the world!
LIVE THE LITURGY
"Show me what is physically different between a host that is consecrated and one that is not." These are words that can be heard on the lips of anyone struggling with faith. Perhaps, they are heard on yours. Physical tests will reveal no difference. The difference is seen through faith. In one sense, it is simple. Either we believe that the risen Christ is present -- soul and divinity -- or we do not. The fruits of faith are the proof. In the Eucharist, God enters into the very depths of who we are. However, it is our choice whether we ignore what He does or act fully upon it. The Eucharist can change us. When people see that we are different, they in turn will themselves believe.
Questions for The Week
First Reading The Jewish sage of Proverbs uses domestic images to invite believers to participate in divine wisdom. What do you find attractive about obtaining wisdom?
Second Reading Paul defines wisdom to the Ephesians as understanding "what is the will of the Lord." What do you understand as the will of the Lord?
Gospel Reading The Bread of Life Discourse reaches its zenith in Jesus saying, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you." How is this assertion central to our Catholic belief in the Eucharist?