21st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Jn 6:53, 10-69) “With the Eucharist in Dark Days” PDF Version
Homily for the 21st Sunday of OT, Year B (2018): Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Jn 6:53, 60-69
As Our Lord concluded His teaching in Capernaum on the coming gift of the Most Holy Eucharist into the world, He and His People would relive and bring to fulfillment one final chapter from their ancient history. And it was a difficult and painful event for them to confront and relive.
As his life was coming to an end, the great leader Joshua reminded His people of all that God had done for them: He gave them a Law of true justice and freedom to make them a Holy People, a means to offer prayer and sacrifice to worship God in holiness and truth, and gave them the Promised Land to make them into a formidable and God fearing nation, one which was supposed to inspire other nations to leave behind their false gods and come to know and love the God of Israel.
Everything was prepared for the People to prosper and Joshua asked them to make a choice. It was to be a free choice, not made under compulsion, but with lasting consequences: Would they trust God and be faithful to Him for generations to come or would they now abandon Him after He gave them so much? Israel rightly said they would serve God and seek to become a Holy Nation. They choose wisely yet within a generation they turned their backs on God, squandered His blessings, worshipping false idols and watching in horror as their enemies pillaged their kingdom, while realizing they had brought this destruction upon themselves.
Yet time and again there appeared among the People a small remnant who sought to be faithful to God, who sought forgiven for themselves and those who did not see the need to seek forgiveness. Because of their humble and contrite spirits, God would time and again rescue them and commend them for not abandoning Him in the darkest hours.
Jesus offered the People of His day a chance to succeed where their ancestors had failed in the time of Joshua by giving them the same opportunity to make a free choice in regards to His teaching on the Eucharist: Either they would believe His words, with their graphic and unsettling description of the Bread which comes down from heaven as being True Flesh and Blood and not mere symbols of His presence, meaning they have to take His words literally and not figures of speech or they could walk away, forsaking the gift of receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood and the communion it brings with Him and His Church, and in doing so make their choice to no longer walk with Jesus.
We can only imagine how this moment must of caused great pain for Christ. He was willing to give His People everything in the gift of the Eucharist, to pour out His entire being into bread and wine, totally transforming them into His very self and providing the greatest gift humanity has ever received from God. He was willing to give of Himself those who He loved, knowing many would abandon Him in His darkest hour and subsequent dark hours in the coming centuries, and yet many decided they would rather not receive this greatest of gifts and instead live life without Eucharistic Communion in Christ.
Our Lord would not compromise on His teaching regarding the Bread of Life. He did not call people back saying they had simply misunderstood Him and that He was not really asking them to receive His flesh and blood but only some symbol of His presence. Likewise the Church has not compromised on this teaching either, though there have been many times over the past 2000 years that theologians and entire movements of Christians have said they wish to follow Jesus but cannot accept what He and His Church taught about the Eucharist and that Catholics should change what we believe to make this teaching easier to accept.
Our Lord will not change His teachings nor will He compel His Church to change either for He knows that without the Eucharist and the rich tradition of devotions, celebrations, poetic hymns and theological writings that speak of the glory of the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Church will lose its greatest gift in restoring faith to God’s people when it is shaken by the dark bonds of sin. How can we endure dark days that surround our Church and not abandon Jesus when He needs us most if the Eucharist is not there to sustain us.
I have been inspired and left with both hope in my heart and a painful pit in my stomach as I have read blog posts and comments on social media regarding Catholics reactions to the most recent revelations of past sexual abuse against children, teens and adults by clergy. People are rightly angry, disgusted and left feeling betrayed by what they read. Many feel unsure how they can remain in the Church when too many have been guilty of vile and satanic crimes. Yet many have expressed their willingness to remain with the Church, and among the reasons why is because to leave would be to no longer have the Eucharist in their lives.
Tragically, in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, those Christians who went on to form their own Christian communities lost the gift of the Eucharist when they both rejected the teaching that it was truly the Body and Blood of Christ and by removing the sacrament of Holy Orders from their communities. Sadly, without ordained priests, the Eucharist could not longer be among them, leaving the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as the sole guardians of the Bread of Life that was given long ago to the 12 Apostles, the first priests, at the Last Supper.
I continue to be inspired when I learn how many Catholics are willing to remain with the Church as she confronts coming dark days and continues to have to make reparation and reform for the sins of those who were suppose to bring people closer to God, not cripple their faith and bring scandal to the world.
Thus it will be in the Eucharist that Our Church will overcome this present crisis we face. It will be in the Eucharist that reform and greater accountability can be achieved. It will be in the Eucharist that we will learn to trust more fully in the love of Christ and know that in the Heavenly Manna we have our necessary food for the journey, inspiring us to never give up and continue to believe that God will not fail in drowning out the evil of the world in an abundance of Good.