Thursday, August 20, 2015

Homily, The Path to Communion

XX Sunday of Ordinary Time
San José Catholic Church
August, 16, 2015
Austin, TX

If last Sunday, the Jewish crowds murmured because Jesus said “I am the bread of life,” today they are besides themselves because Jesus said that this bread is His flesh! “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they quarreled amongst themselves (Jn 6: 53). And if this weren’t enough, Jesus upped the ante: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn 6:54). Jesus, therefore, makes two very bold claims today, that the bread of life is His flesh, and that one must eat this flesh in order to have eternal life. 

Now, we have been talking about this bread a lot lately, the past few weeks. We may very well ask ourselves what is the big deal about this bread, and why does Jesus identify Himself with it? The bread goes back to the book of Exodus and the story of the manna the Lord God gave to the Hebrews in the desert. Not long after their great escape from Egypt across the Red Sea, the Hebrews began to cross the vast desert which laid before them. Because there is nothing in the desert for anyone let alone a whole nation of people, the Hebrews complained to Moses that they were dying of hunger. God quickly responded giving them bread. Each day in the morning, this stuff descended upon the desert ground like dew, “a fine, flake-like thing, fine as hoarfrost on the ground” (Ex 16:14). Not knowing what it was, they called is manna, which means in Hebrew “what is it.” While this stuff, this “what is it,” kept the grumbling stomaches of the Hebrews quiet, the Lord meant it as a sign, an image of what was to come, what He would give through His Son Jesus Christ. Consider just how similar this manna is to the Eucharistic host. In another place, they describe the manna as white flakes (Cf. Ex 16:31). Even more, the manna descended like dewfall in the morning. In one of the Eucharistic prayers, the priest extends his hands extended over the gifts of bread and wine and says a prayer invoking the Holy Spirit to come down upon these gifts as dewfall! The same dew! Yet now it is not merely a symbol of the reality to come. This drew brings bread unlike they ate in the desert, who ate and then died. This is the reality itself, what we’ve been waiting for, the bread of life that one will eat and never die.  

Yet if there remains any doubt, listen to what St. Paul says to the Corinthians: “I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers…all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1Cor 10:1-4). Brothers and sisters, we know what this manna is. What know what this “what is it” is. It is the body and blood of Christ. Just as the Hebrews ate and drank in the Spirit, now we eat and drink the reality, the true body and blood of Christ. St. Paul makes clear that as Moses struck the rock gushing forth water, the soldier struck Christ on the cross spilling forth water and blood. It is this same Christ whom we eat and the same blood that fills our chalice. 

But Jesus did not stop here. He continued to say, as I mentioned at the outset, that this bread is necessary for eternal life, and that he who does not eat does not have life within him. This requirement comes from the story of the Passover of Israel. Before their escape from Egypt as the last of the 10 plagues God inflicted on the Egyptian people, God set forth to take the life of each firstborn. In order that this might pass over one’s family, the Lord said to sacrifice a lamb, putting its blood on the door frame (Cf. Ex 12:6-7). This way, death would simply pass over the house and they would live. Therefore, it was absolutely necessary to live! Yet, do we see the similarity of the lamb and Jesus? The lamb was to be without defect, that is to say without sin and Jesus is the only man without sin. What is more, John the Baptist said in the same Gospel of John: “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). Does the priest not say these same words each time we celebrate the Eucharist: “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those called to the supper of the Lamb”? Jesus is our passover lamb that we sacrifice that death might passover our house and we might live. Does the blood we drink not wet the frame of the door to our body, our lips, such that death might passover us? 

Come, therefore, come to the banquet of the lamb. Come to the table of the Lord. Today in our first reading, Lady Wisdom invites us today to Her table already prepared with the bread and wine of everlasting life, which we know to be the very body and blood of Jesus!

But be careful. Wisdom invites those who are simple and childlike. Meaning, she invites us to grow or to mature such that we might eat from her table. Indeed, we need to become wise in order to eat at this table. We know this already. We know that there are sometimes a few obstacles to receiving communion. There are difficult or irregular situations, states of mortal sin, which do not allow us to receive communion. Y’all know this well already. We give out many blessing during communion. But this is not enough. We must actively take up the path to communion. As Jesus says, this is not only His body and blood, but one must eat it to have eternal life. He who does not eat, does not have life within them. We must, therefore, always remember that we are invited to the table and take up the path to communion, the path to wisdom. Speak with the priests, deacons, sisters. Together identify this path. There are practical steps one can take to receiving communion. And we must take them. This path to receiving fully may be long. But the invitation of Christ to follow Him along this path is there. The invitation of Wisdom today is the invitation of Christ to come and to follow this path to communion. And we need to take this path if we want to live. Take up the path to communion.  


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