August 26, 2018
Deacon Bill Hough
Over the last several weeks we have been reading the sixth chapter of John which began with the feeding of the five thousand, followed by Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse. In this chapter, Jesus tells us in order have eternal life with Him, we must eat His flesh and drink His blood.
Today we come the end of this chapter and His disciples must to choose to believe and follow Him or choose to walk away. Many do choose to return to their former way of life. But then we hear one of Peter’s great professions of faith, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced you are the Holy One of God”.
Throughout these weeks, Father Jacobi has stressed that if we truly believe in these words of Jesus which He emphasized at the Last Supper, “This is my body, this is my blood” then we will come to Church each Sunday with an attitude of thanksgiving and reverence.
As Catholics, we believe that by these words of institution spoken by the priest, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ – we call this transubstantiation. Not all Christians believe this – some believe in consubstantiation – that Jesus is present in some way for a short period of time. Others only see communion as a symbol. However, Jesus Himself told us that this truly becomes His Body and Blood and that we need this Body and Blood to have life within us.
I encourage you to really listen to the words that are spoken today – not just the readings, but the whole Mass. Justin Martyr, one of the Fathers of the Church who lived in the second century wrote about the worship service of the early Church. He describes the breaking of the bread and the epiclesis where the Holy Spirit is asked to come down during the consecration of the bread and wine. He talks about praying the psalms and reading from Scripture followed by exhortation – the homily.
Whenever I’m at a wedding or funeral Mass, I am always more aware of what’s being said because I know there can be a lot of non-Catholics attending the Mass. I try to listen through their ears and wonder what they are thinking when the priest says, “Do this in memory of me – This is my Body, this is my Blood”.
We can rejoice that we are still being fed by the same Word and Eucharist that fed the Church from the very beginning. We celebrate as Jesus commanded us. If we truly believe this, Christ tells us we will have eternal life with Him.
A gentleman came up to me one time and had a serious question, “If we are working to get to heaven, then shouldn’t we want to die?” My first reaction was to say, “Well, we all want to go to heaven, but God probably has something He wants us to do while we are here on earth”. He went away thinking that was a reasonable answer.
Now, though, after reflecting on these Gospel passages of John, I want to change my answer. We may have to die to go to heaven, but we don’t have to die to taste eternal life in the Eucharist and in our relationship with Christ. Jesus provides that for us here and now if we let Him.
We can have a lot of gods in our life – obsession with money or power, prejudice, hatred, and (sometimes my favorite) holding grudges. Satan is very good at feeding us with these desires. However, they don’t satisfy our spiritual hunger.
Only the Good Shepherd has what we need to be truly satisfied. He is the Bread of Life who wants to radically change our life with His Word and with His Body and Blood.
We read that the Apostles believed and received Him by faith.
Others “murmured” and walked away. They could not listen to these “hard sayings”.
Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life”.
He gives us the same choice today – to believe or not.
To whom shall we go?