Vol.4 No.48 DoM Gospel Reflection
19th Sunday Ordinary Time/ August 9, 2015
John 6: 41-51
By Jeanne Sanderford.
The greatest treasure in the Catholic Church is, without question, the Holy Eucharist, the real presence of God in the sacred host.
The Catholic Church teaches that at the Consecration of the Mass, the bread and wine truly become the body and the blood of Jesus Christ. The bread and wine cease to exist, though the appearance and properties of bread and wine remain. This change is known as transubstantiation.
The saints throughout the ages have repeatedly recommended daily Mass and Holy Communion or Holy Eucharist. Saint Bernard said:
“One merits more by devoutly assisting at Mass than by distributing all his goods to the poor and traveling all over the world on pilgrimage.”
Another saint, St. Thomas Moore, was reproached by his friends for going to receive Holy Communion so often. They objected that his piety occupied too much time that should be devoted to other duties. The saint answered:
“Your reasons for wanting me to stay away from Holy Communion are exactly the ones which cause me to go so often. I have temptations many times a day. By daily Communion, I get the strength to overcome them. I have much important business to handle and I need light and wisdom. It is for these reasons that I go.”
In the book, Story of the Soul, we are told that St. Theresa of the Child Jesus received faithfully Holy Communion as often as her confessor permitted. She stated:
“It is not to remain in a golden ciborium that He comes down each day from heaven, but to find another heaven, the heaven of our soul, in which He takes delight.”
I thought of dear Father Maher when I read this quote. He will always be remembered for reminding his congregants Sunday after Sunday that, “God is truly in love with you.” I get goose bumps when I hear these words. How hard is that to imagine when we know we have sinned and disappointed Our Lord, yet He is still in love with us! He takes delight in coming to us, according to St. Theresa.
In addition to the benefits these saints and many others have derived from their reception of Holy Communion, there is still a greater reward, a promise given by Jesus Himself in today’s gospel.
In the sixth chapter of John, after the feeding of the 5,000, Our Lord referred to Himself as “the bread that has come down from heaven” and He promised eternal life for those who partake of Him. (John 6: 50-51) Our Lord has repeatedly told us in Scriptures and pleads with us to receive Him in this sacrament of love.
Some of Jesus’ listeners objected to His claim to be, “the bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:41) because they knew his earthly family. They challenged Him because they knew his mother and father, Mary and Joseph. They were thinking in earthly terms, not the physical bread that gives earthly life, but the spiritual bread that gives heavenly life that Jesus spoke of often.
Jesus regarded this as murmuring. The Greek word He used was gongyzo which means rebellious grumbling as was used to describe the Israelites against the Lord and Moses in the wilderness. In effect,
Jesus was saying that their hearts were as hard as those who murmured in the desert.
The listeners were urged to heed the Father’s call and come to the Son, Jesus. Thus by believing in Jesus and receiving Him, one is called to the eternal life that is offered. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draw Him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)
We conclude that if we come to Jesus, it is because the Father drew us, which none of us deserves. The condition after the fall of Adam is such that man cannot prepare himself by his own strength and good works to faith. He must have the drawing of the Father. Man has responsibility for his own soul. He can choose to answer God’s call.
Jesus speaks of the Father as working to bring people to the faith in Him. He instructs them to yield to this work of God and so receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Him. God loves all of us and wants us to choose to be with Him in eternity, but we have free will to decide.
Jesus reiterates the connection between receiving Him in faith and receiving the gift of eternal life:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. All people have access to God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus and we receive this gift through faith in Him.” (John 6:47)
John continues the theme of bread, the bread that came down from heaven in the next few verses. Jesus specified that this bread from heaven that gives eternal life is His flesh. He gives his flesh for the life of the world in his act of love and obedience to the cross. Once Jesus is crucified and resurrected, Jesus’ flesh becomes the source of eternal life for us. It is the flesh of Jesus that people must eat.
Again, the listeners began quarreling as this information was appalling. How can this man give us his flesh to eat? This was hard to take for many of them and some went back and no longer went with Him.
Both those Jews and those disciples who left and who had accepted everything up to this point, would have probably remained with Jesus if He had said He was speaking only symbolically. However, Jesus did not change His mind. In John 6, we have an extended promise of what would be instituted at the Last Supper.
What a gift Jesus has given us in His body and blood. In it, we experience thankfulness in knowing that everything we have, including our coming to Jesus is a gift!
We experience humbleness. We accept that we did not provide the impulse that brought us to Christ. God did. He drew us to Him.
We experience hopefulness for the conversion of those we love. We know that when God calls the dead, they rise and when God draws His sheep, they come.
We also experience closeness. We have an intimate union with Jesus who said, “He who eats My body and drinks My blood, abides in Me and I in him.” How much closer can we be to Him?
According to St. John Chrysostom, receiving Jesus in Holy Eucharist commits us to the poor. Our eyes are opened to those who need our help.
Reception of the Eucharist also increases the grace we received at Baptism. This enables us to resist temptation more often.
Our charity is strengthened. This living charity wipes away venial sins and preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share in the life of Christ, the more difficult it is to break away from Him by mortal sin.
In one of his homilies, Pope Francis said he will ask the Holy Spirit to deepen his faith that the Eucharist is the center of his life. He will embrace the teaching that nothing else has as much importance as true devotion to the Eucharist.
A few Sunday’s ago, Father Jim at St. Philip Neri Church, told the congregation a story about his sister and brother, both living out of town. Father was going there to visit them because his sister has been sick. She told Father by phone that she hoped his plane would not be late because the brother probably would not wait at the airport for him. Father said to her, “You mean if the airplane is an hour late, he would not wait for me?”
“No, said his sister. He’s crotchety in his old age.” (66)
Father responded to her, “Tell him to go to Mass and Communion every day! If you go to daily Mass, there’s no way you can be crotchety,” he advised.
I don’t know about you, but the people I know who go to daily Mass and Holy Communion would not be considered “crotchety!” I think Father Jim is right. For the most part, daily communicants follow God’s command to love Him and love others. They seem to be at peace and trust in God’s goodness and mercy. They have their priorities in order. They obviously want spiritual nourishment in this life and eternal happiness in the world to come.
As Debra told us a few weeks ago, we should try to attend Mass and Holy Communion at least once a week other than our Sunday obligation. I believe it will make a positive difference in our lives. For some, the more you go, the more often you want to go to be spiritually fed. As Catholics, Father Shields reminded us last week, “Our life centers on the altar.”
In conclusion, we pray.
Jesus, You are the living bread that sustains us in this life. May we always hunger for the bread that comes from heaven and find in it the nourishment we need to love and serve you. May we live in joy and peace with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit now and in eternity. Amen.