YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”(John 6:51)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Having shared with me the story of her medical history, Helen stands as a continual reminder both of the sacrifice of Jesus and the life-giving mission to which we are all called as his faithful followers.
Some years back, before retirement, our paths crossed regularly in the hospital lobby as, making my way past her station at the information desk while heading toward the pastoral care department office, I’d find her waiting seemingly just for me. Behind the glass enclosed counter Helen would toss me a loud morning greeting with a cheery smile, setting the standard for all other human encounters to follow during the day. So tuned in to my schedule was she that, on the occasion of the rare day when I stayed home, she called around the hospital looking for me, checking to see if I was alright. While I did much appreciate her solicitude, frequently did I remind Helen that the mother God gave me was quite mother enough.
On a particular Monday morning, Helen and I met on a hospital elevator as she was preparing to meet with her doctor. Expressing concern for her health, she told me that it had been discovered some years back that she had a blood disorder that required regular monitoring. “Yeah, I have to go to my doctor every two months to see if I have too much iron in my blood, and if I do, they take a pint out of me, just like they do with regular blood donors. Then I’m okay again.” Her last words coinciding with the opening of the elevator door, off she went to consult her doctor, but we promised to continue the conversation at our next information desk rendezvous. Sure enough, several days later her first words to me picked up right where we left off when the elevator doors eclipsed our conversation. “After I met you on Monday, I saw my doctor, and he determined there was too much iron in my blood, so he drained off a pint. Left me feeling real tired for awhile, but I’m used to it. Hey, it’s what you have to put up with when you have this condition, that’s all.”
Admiring her spunk and positive attitude, her tone turned more serious and her voice now less a broadcast to all in the lobby as she continued, “You know, I only found out I have this condition when my brother died. He was killed in an accident, and when they did the autopsy they discovered that he had this disease. Since it’s a hereditary thing, they advised testing for the rest of the family, and sure enough, I had it and so did one of my sisters. My poor brother never did feel very good, always tired and out-of-sorts, just like me before I was diagnosed. We just never thought much of it at the time. Now, though, since I’m being treated, I feel better than I have for most of my younger life.”
Just then the phone at the information desk rang, calling Helen’s attention away from our conversation. Before speaking into the receiver now in her hand, she tossed me a knowing look and the exclamation point to her story: “My brother had to die in order for me to get better.” Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”(John 6:51) This bread of which we so often partake, is it our sustenance and our hope when mortal life seems beyond our ability to bear? This bread of which we so often partake, dare we entrust our lives to its promise? This bread of which we so often partake, do we really believe it will carry us home?