YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: DECIDE TODAY!
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
An old lady decided to have a pet for a companion. So she went to a pet store and bought a parrot. But, much to her disappointment, the parrot was speechless. So after a week, the woman goes back to the pet store and buys it a mirror. Not a word from the parrot. The next week, she brings home a little ladder. But the bird remained silent. So, the lady bought a swing from the pet store, but still nothing was heard from the parrot. A week later, she saw the parrot on the floor of the cage, dying. She noticed it was trying to say something. So, moving closer, she heard the last words of the bird in a whisper: “Don’t they have any food at the pet store?”
The old lady gave the parrot everything, except food. This is what happens to so many people nowadays. We have all the material things this world offers, but nothing for our spiritual life. The Scriptures say: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4:4). Unfortunately, many people choose to ignore these words. As a result, they continue existing, but have long ago ceased living.
Peter said the words every person must come to realize: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life” (Jn. 6:68). Jesus has come, not only to save us but also to give us fullness of life: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). This is what we have seen in the Gospel during these five Sundays in a row. It all started when Jesus was teaching and he saw that the people were hungry. So he fed them by multiplying the five loaves of bread and two fish. From there, he began his teaching about himself: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Believe in me, and you will never hunger and thirst anymore.” But he went on further and talked more directly: “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” And finally he said: “My flesh is true food. Eat it. My blood is true drink. Drink it. Then you will remain in me and I in you. You will have eternal life.”
Jesus did not just give us material food; he gave us food from heaven. Jesus did not just give us bread; he has become bread for us so that we can be one with him and have life in its fullness. Peter and the rest of the apostles realized this. Though they did not fully comprehend the words of Jesus like the rest of his listeners, they were, however, convinced that Jesus is saying the truth: “We have come to believe that you are the Holy One of God.” After all, the truth remains the truth, whether we understand it or not.
In the first reading, Joshua told the people: “Choose today whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15). So, this Sunday, we have to make a decision. We are presented with two choices. The first is that of the unbelieving crowd, including many of his disciples. They decided to turn away from Jesus and go back to their old ways. The reason is simply because they could not understand the words of Jesus: “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” So, they left Jesus and began to shop around for somebody else whose teaching they will find more acceptable and understandable.
But is it possible to understand everything in this world? Is it necessary to understand everything first in order to believe? What most people do not realize is that faith, though not against reason, goes beyond reason. Reason is limited when it is a matter of faith. Although a reasoned faith is desirable, reason invariably falls short of faith. Indeed, faith begins where reason ends.
The second choice being presented to us is that of Peter and the rest of the apostles. For them, there is no other choice except Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Jesus is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” And in the Eucharist, we just don’t listen to his words; we just don’t look at his body and blood. In the Eucharist, we receive the Word made flesh; we eat his body and drink his blood. And we are convinced, according to the words of the Eternal Word, that he will grant us eternal life. Saint Teresa of Kolkata said: “Holy Communion is the intimate union of Jesus and our soul and body. If we want to have life and have it more abundantly, we must live on the flesh of our Lord.” Hence, St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina advised, “Never neglect to satiate yourself with the food of the angels.”
The choice is ours to make. We can turn away from Jesus like the unbelieving disciples, or we can stick with Jesus all the way like the apostles. And should we decide to take the second choice, let us make sure that we persevere in our commitment to the Lord. In this regard, we need to constantly deepen our devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist.
First, we are encouraged to receive Holy Communion, not only on Sundays, but also on ordinary days. St Francis de Sales said: "Only two kinds of people need frequent Communion – the not-so-good that they might become better, and the good that they might stay that way.”
And second, after Communion, we ought to avoid the temptation to rush out, but to stay with the Lord in silent adoration and worship. Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “Receiving the Eucharist means adoring the One Whom we receive. Precisely in this way and only in this way do we become one with Him.” In the Apostolic Exhortation, “Mediator Dei”, Pope Pius XII reminds us of the obligation to offer thanksgiving prayers after the Mass: “When the Mass, which is subject to special rules of the liturgy, is over, the person who has received Holy Communion is not thereby freed from his duty of thanksgiving; rather, it is most becoming that, when the Mass is finished, the person who has received the Eucharist should recollect himself, and in intimate union with the divine Master hold loving and fruitful converse with Him (no. 123.)
As we journey in this life, let us bring Jesus with us as our Food, our Viaticum, constantly nourishing and strengthening us until we attain the fullness of life in our eternal home. Amen!
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs, Susano Road Camarin, Caloocan City