YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
TOPIC: BEING ONE WITH JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Jn 6:51-58
Message # 176: “Jesus in the Eucharist”
1.The Marian Message
a. In this message, the Blessed Mother mentions important points about the Eucharist. First, it is the real presence of Jesus: “with his body, his blood, his souls and his divinity” (letter c). Second, the Eucharist is “the summit of all your prayer, which should be a prayer of adoration, of thanksgiving, of praise and of propitiation” (letter e). Third, the Eucharist is “the center of all liturgical action” where Jesus continues to perform his priestly action in the Eucharistic mystery (letter f). And finally, the Eucharist is “the center of your ecclesial gatherings, because the Church is his temple” (letter g). He resides in the Church, indeed, in the center of the people gathered in his name.
b. As of now, all these truths about the Eucharist are not yet fully fulfilled. When these are fulfilled, that is now the triumph of Jesus Christ in the world, which coincides with the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (letter b). In the meantime, the Blessed Mother laments the fact that the Eucharist is not being adored and revered enough by the people. Even in Churches, in the house of God, there is so much emptiness, indifference and neglect surrounding the tabernacle (letter h).
c. The Blessed Mother is more saddened by the hurt inflicted on the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus through the increase of doubts, denials and sacrileges: “The Church is deeply wounded by the multiplication of sacrilegious communions! The time has come when your heavenly Mother says: enough!” (letter m).
d. She appeals to all her children to “become again perfect adorers and fervent ministers of Jesus in the Eucharist” (letter i). This they will do by: 1) bringing people to Jesus in the Eucharist, “by adoration, by communion and by a greater love” (letter f); 2) helping “everyone to approach the Eucharistic Jesus in a worthy manner” (letter k) – this is by being aware of sin, going to frequent confession and staying in the state of grace when receiving Holy Communion.
2. The Sunday Gospel
a. This is the fourth in the series of the Bread of Life Discourse by Jesus in the Gospel of John. In this section of the discourse, Jesus has already shifted from the spiritual sense of “I am the Bread of Life” to the more direct reference to his own body and blood: “the bread that I will give is my flesh.” The listeners of Jesus, referred to by John as the Jews, expressed their strong reactions to this statement. From admiration and adulation, they turned to surprise and incredulity. And then they began to doubt the words of Jesus, and gradually they got angry: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (v. 52). They were offended because they think Jesus is trying to degrade them by telling them to eat human flesh, thereby making them cannibals. It is a very legitimate concern for those who have no faith. But for his followers who have faith, these words of Jesus are true. Through the eyes of faith, the bread is the flesh of Jesus, the true food, and the wine is his blood, the true drink.
b. The flesh of Jesus is true food; his blood is true drink. Hence, it is not possible to have life without the Eucharist: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” The flesh and blood of Jesus give us not only spiritual nourishment, but eternal life and resurrection: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day” (v. 54).
c. The sacrament of the Eucharist is the efficacious vehicle for us to achieve complete unity with Jesus, and through Jesus, unity also with the Father: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (v. 56). There is nothing more intimate than eating. When we eat food, its components are broken down (metabolism) and the food becomes part of us. The food becomes me. The food and I become one. This is similar with the Eucharist, though in a reverse way. When we eat the flesh of Jesus in Holy Communion, Jesus is not lost or consumed by us. Rather, he becomes one with us, and we become part of Jesus. We become one with Jesus. That is perfect unity with him. Points for Reflection:
a. Do we believe the words of Jesus? We will readily say “yes”. But look at how many people behave in relation to the Eucharist. They are more interested in attending parties and fiestas in order to eat lechon, seafood and ice cream, than in going to Mass and receive Communion. Many others do not feel the need to go to Confession because they are not interested to receive Communion anyway. But we have the contrary reaction when a famous movie star will say: “Use this shampoo; it will make your hair glow” or “Drink this juice; it will make your skin smooth like mine.” We take their words hook, line and sinker. We do not ask any more questions. But if Jesus says: “This is my Body; eat it”, we invariably ask: “How will that happen? Is it true?”
b. Pope Benedict shivers with horror at seeing whole congregations going to Communion. It is true that those who go to Mass are encouraged to receive Holy Communion. But the danger is that people think that they have not actively participated if they were not able to receive Communion. So, even if still in the state of sin, such as couples living together without the sacrament of Matrimony, they receive Communion.
The Pope wrote:
“Occasionally, one has the feeling that ‘communion’ is regarded as part of the ritual – that it goes on automatically and is simply an expression of the community’s identity. We need to regain a much stronger awareness that the Eucharist does not lose all its meaning where people do not communicate (that is, do not receive Communion). By going to Communion without ‘discernment’ (1Cor 11:29), we fail to reach the heights of what is taking place in Communion; we reduce the Lord’s gift to the level of everyday ordinariness and manipulation. The Eucharist is not a ritual meal; it is the shared prayer of the Church, in which the Lord prays together with us and gives us himself. Therefore, it remains something great and precious, it remains a true gift, even when we cannot communicate. If we understood this better and, hence, has a more correct view of the Eucharist itself, many pastoral problems – the position of the divorced and remarried in the Church, for instance – would cease to be such a problem.” (“Feast of Faith”, pp. 151-152).
c. The universal practice of the Church in giving Communion is on the tongue. Communion in the hand is an exception to this universal practice granted by indult to Canada, the United States, Mexico and the Philippines. Canada was the first to receive this indult, but only on an experimental basis. Then the U.S. followed suit. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines applied for it, but there is a need of a two-thirds vote of all the Bishops for the Holy See to approve the request. The Bishops attempted for four (4) times and failed to get the necessary votes. It was only on the fifth try that the two-thirds vote was achieved, and the Vatican granted to the Philippines the indult to give Communion in the hand on February 27, 1989. In short, communion in the hand is not the rule. The bishops of a country need to ask permission from the Holy See in order to implement this manner of receiving communion. (This is recorded in the Canon Law Digest of the Philippines, written by Fr. Florencio Testera, OP, published by UST Press. And also please refer to the article “Pope Prefers Communion on the Tongue”, at www.catholicnewsagency.com. )
d. There are people who insist that receiving Communion on the tongue seems unnatural and even disgusting. But look at how the mother feeds her child; look at how the caregivers give food to their patients. There is nothing strange or disgusting there. Rather, it is a very clear expression of intimacy and care. In the many apparitions of the Blessed Mother, notably that of Fatima and Medjugorje, the children received Communion from the angel and it was given to them direct on the tongue. The bread is so sacred that we are not worthy to touch it. It is no ordinary food that anybody can touch casually. And besides, giving it to the hand exposes the sacred host to sacrilege and abuses, as we have already experienced so many times. If we guard our money and possessions with our life, how much more seriously will we safeguard the eternal treasure of all, the Body of Christ, from all harm?
e. When Jesus said: “I am the vine,” He did not tell us to eat twigs. When he said: “I am the light of the world,” he did not tell us to eat light bulbs. But when he said: “I am the bread of life” and “The bread that I give is my flesh,” he told us “Eat this bread.” So when talking about himself as the bread, this is no longer a metaphor. Rather, he really is the true food and the true drink that will give us eternal life: “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” In other words, when Jesus is talking about the Eucharist, he meant his words to be taken and understood literally, not only figuratively or symbolically. This means that Jesus is really present in the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is his true Body that we eat; it is his true Blood that we drink. We should never believe those who say that the bread is only the symbol of the body of Jesus.
f. One of the four marks of the true Church is unity (one, holy, catholic and apostolic). There is only one Church for there is only one head, Jesus Christ. But as we now see it, the Church has undergone schisms and divisions: the Oriental Churches, the Protestants, and now the Born Again sects. And even within our parishes and communities, there are conflicts and divisions. This is something to think about. Jesus said: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (v. 56). We receive Communion; we eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus. It is expected that we remain in him, and he in us. If there is still disunity among us, we have to examine ourselves and the way we live the Eucharistic life. There must be nothing wrong with the Eucharist. But there can be something wrong with those who receive the Eucharist. Could it be that we are just wasting this sacred food because we are not putting into practice the ideals of the Gospel and the Eucharist? Disunity is a very clear indication of the absence of God and the presence of the enemy. We are challenged, therefore, to give witness to the Eucharistic Jesus through our unity, harmony and love for one another. Jesus reminds us: “By this shall all men know you as my disciples: your love for one another.”
g. The center of the Eucharistic celebration is no one else but Jesus Christ. He promised to give us himself as food and drink. And he invites us to participate in this divine banquet. That’s all there is to it. If we are looking for something more in the celebration other than what Jesus promised, we must be in the wrong place. Jesus did not say that the priest-celebrant would behave like a stand-up comedian or a concert star. He never said that the sound and music would be of the quality of Hollywood productions. Nor did he promise that the liturgy is to be choreographed Broadway-style; and the accommodation in the Church will be as comfortable as in a five-star hotel. Nothing of this sort was promised by Jesus. Nothing spectacular of this sort is expected of the Eucharistic celebration. Yet it is more than anybody can expect: it is Jesus himself who offers his own body and blood as our food and drink, not to entertain and amuse us, but to give us eternal life and salvation. Is there anything more spectacular and edifying than this?
4. Closing: Recite together this Prayer after Mass:
Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary after Holy Communion Most kind Mother, I consecrate to you my body, which has just been honored and sanctified by the presence of your divine Son, my soul which has conversed with Him, my heart which has loved Him. O dearest Mother, may the words which I uttered be made acceptable to Him through your intercession, and tell Him the things which I should have said but was not able to express. Beseech Him for your poor child. Receive and keep me in your heart; warn me, protect me, and guide me during this day, so that I may faithfully serve your divine Son, and please Him in all my thoughts, desires and actions. Amen.
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR THE B.E.C.
1. Bakit marami ang nagku-komunyon subalit kakaunti naman ang nagkukumpisal?
2. Alin ba ang mas mahirap paniwalaan: ang sinasabi ni Hesus tungkol sa Sakramento ng kanyang Katawan at Dugo, o ang mga sinasabi sa mga commercial at advertisement sa TV?
3. Kailangan pa bang may makita tayong kakaiba at kahanga-hanga sa pagdiriwang ng Misa upang lagi tayong maging interesadong magsimba?