Saturday, August 11, 2012

Homily - 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

On September 17, our parish will begin its second year of the “That Man is You” program. I invite all men of this parish – and their sons, fathers, brothers, and friends – to join us on Saturday mornings for this initiative. This year’s goal is the transformation of marriage and family life for the men who participate. Through an examination of the Holy Family, the program will help men to grasp God's abiding presence within the home. I invite you to make this commitment to your family and God, by completing the registration card in the pew and placing it in the box in the Gathering Space. Turning to today’s readings, I am struck by Jesus’ focus and persistence in the Gospel. In the face of mocking, doubt and disbelief by those around him, he preservers. In his humanity, Jesus could have been caught up in his own anger, hurt, insecurity, or doubt by the rejection or lack of understanding of his message by so many, including family and friends. But, instead, because he has such an incredible, passionate, and divine love for us, he had this dogged determination to continue on. Jesus is not worried about what others might think, say or do to him – he is only concerned with the truth and spreading the message of God’s great love. And it is in Jesus Christ that we come to know this great love. It is Jesus who is from the Father and knows the Father’s love for us - this is the authority from which he speaks. And it is Jesus who loves us so much that he is willing to give himself completely to us. Jesus was not only willing to suffer and die for us, but even more he gives to us his entire being – body, blood, and soul – in the Eucharist! He holds nothing back. He gives himself to us completely and unconditionally – out of love! And it is Jesus who is inviting us to believe in him – in who he is, in what he taught, and what he did, and what he gives us now in the Eucharist. He is calling us to not only to believe in him, but to be in relationship with him. He is calling us to be in this intimate, physical, loving relationship with him – to be united with him literally by eating his body and drinking his blood. And while this may sound so odd today, as it did to the Jews who rejected this message when Jesus spoke it, we must seek to understand, trust and believe that Jesus is present in a real, true and substantial way, with his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist. For those who do believe and enter into this relationship, here is the great promise: eternal life. This is what Jesus means when he says in today’s Gospel: I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever. This promise continues for us today in the bread of the Eucharist. When we eat the bread and drink the wine of the Eucharist, we are nourished and strengthened to live in this relationship now and eternally with God. We are also strengthened to love others as St. Paul urges in today’s second reading – that all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling and malice are removed from us, so that we may be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven us in Christ. Just as the prophet Elijah was nourished by bread from God, as we read in the first reading, we are fed spiritually through the graces we receive in the Eucharist to live and love as Jesus did and taught us to do. What the story of Elijah also reminds us is that God gives us what we need most in our life. As we pick up the story of Elijah in the first reading, Elijah was a man on the run. The queen of the northern kingdom, Jezebel, wanted him dead because he had just embarrassed her and her pagan prophets by showing that the power of our God is real and superior to their fictional pagan gods. He was also discouraged that all his efforts to seek the conversion and repentance of the Israelite people was proving to be fruitless. One the run, Elijah was not only physically exhausted, he was depressed and full of self-pity – he just wanted to die. However, not once, but twice did to our loving God provide Elijah with bread to sustain him physically and spiritually on his journey. The same is true for us. God will sustain us in our time of greatest need. Often we pray for a job or a better job; we pray that the bullying or other violence in our life stops; we pray to heal a broken marriage or relationship; we pray that we or a loved one might be cured of an illness, disease or addiction; we pray that our fears and anxieties will be removed. These are certainly good prayers. And, in the midst of these challenges, let us also pray for the grace to endure and preserve as we trust that God’s will be done. Just as God provided for Elijah in his moment of greatest need, let us pray that we may be nourished and sustained in the Eucharist, which we are about to receive. Let us pray that through the Eucharist, we may be filled with the wisdom, courage, patience or whatever it is that we need in order to endure are daily challenges. Let us pray that through Eucharist we will trust in the promise of Christ: that whoever eats this bread will have life so that our lives, with its many challenges may be filled with joy and peace – now and eternally.