Homilies - August 2015

Select a homily to read:
Eighteenth Sunday of the Year: August 2, 2015 by Fr. Boniface Von Nell
Nineteenth Sunday of the Year: August 9, 2015 by Fr. Gabriel Myers
Nineteenth Sunday of the Year: August 9, 2015 by Abbot James Wiseman (at Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd; Burke, Virginia)
Twentieth Sunday of the Year: August 16, 2015 by Fr. Christopher Wyvill
Twenty-First Sunday of the Year: August 23, 2015 by Fr. Joseph Jensen

Eighteenth Sunday of the Year

  • August 2, 2015
  • Year B
  • by Fr. Boniface

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A transcript is not yet available for this homily. Please listen here.

Fr. Boniface Von Nell
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Nineteenth Sunday of the Year

  • August 9, 2015
  • Year B
  • by Fr. Gabriel

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The prophet Elijah might be the most mysterious figure in the scripture. Yet in his petulant and unredeemed qualities, he is a lot like us. He does amazing things, yet remains an enigma. We know nothing about his background. He simply appears at a difficult time in Israel’s history. A time when the king, Ahab, was being influenced by his powerful wife Jezebel, leading people to false religion and bad values. Elijah appears, out of nowhere, to announce a drought. The drought represents the lack of spiritual nourishment in Israel.

Elijah did not accept the barrenness of this situation. He summons the prophets of Israel, all puppets of the weak king, to a contest on Mount Carmel. He uses the strange device of calling for fire from heaven. When the false prophets have no success, Elijah mocks them. “Your god is too busy to hear you, maybe he is tending to his own personal hygiene.” There is a lack of refinement, a crudeness, in Elijah that is not attractive. He has rough edges.

He is also arrogant; he shows off. He digs a trench around his own altar, where a sacrificial calf lies, drenches the altar, and fills the ditch with buckets of water. The answer to his prayer must be extraordinary, you see. Then he begs God to send fire from heaven. To everyone’s surprise, lightning strikes, licks up the water, and consumes the calf.

Elijah is not content with this victory. He has a vengeful streak. Instead of allowing the king’s prophets to be convinced and converted to true religion, he and his assistants slaughter their opponents. Four-hundred-fifty are killed. A bloodbath, literal or figurative (we are more likely to enact the latter), never does anyone good. There is an uncompromising cruelty in this that horrifies us. Elijah is not a man of peace. So he experiences the backlash, which violence always brings.

He becomes an outlaw, a marked man. He pities himself. This is where we meet him in today’s reading. He is on the run and feeling vulnerable. Perhaps this is where we can identify with him: headstrong and self-righteous, yet bewildered and isolated. His excesses, his arrogance, his mistakes, are catching up with him. But he is not ready to face reality and learn his lesson. He simply wants to whine. He indulges himself.

God is very patient with Elijah, as he is patient with us when we are immature. God doesn’t impose himself; he invites us to gradually move towards enlightenment. That is why God sends his angel, who provides Elijah with food and coaxes him to eat it. Elijah is too busy giving up to see the point of this; he eats a bit, then lies back down. So the angel says, “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.” Food, literal or figurative, is not meant so much to fill us, as to energize us, to give us the strength to move forward. The story really talks about sacramental food here. The Elijah story expands the idea of eucharist as manna; it is now “food for the journey.” The journey through life and beyond death.

In the strength of the food, Elijah travels forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments. This is like the Israelites moving forty years through the challenges of the wilderness, into the promised land. This is the place of enlightenment.

But Elijah’s enlightenment is different from that of Moses, which took the form of commandments. God reveals himself to Elijah cryptically and with subtlety. Instead of thunder and lightning and special effects, the clarity of laws, God reveals himself to Elijah in a still small voice. This takes time for Elijah to figure out. He is being pushed, as God pushes us, away from a simplistic mentality, into a place where God is more than an idea. He becomes a God who isn’t up there, like fire striking from heaven. He becomes a God in here, smoothing our rough edges, quietly transforming us, filling us with peace that behaves constructively.

This is a big change for Elijah, as it is for most of us. It allows him to negotiate challenges with less aggressiveness. It allows him to identify with the oppressed rather than being an oppressor himself—we see this in his reaction to the story of Naboth’s vineyard.

We do not witness the actual cleansing in the external story of Elijah. We see its effects. That is the meaning of the final episode of the saga, when Elijah ends his earthly career. Endings and beginnings are hard for most of us; in them we don’t have control over our lives. We must submit; we must accept. We grow most if we can accept God’s chastening correction as a blessing rather than punishment.

Elijah is famously and uniquely taken up to God by a chariot of fire in a whirlwind. It is not the way I would want to go. It seems painful and terrifying. Yet it is also appropriate to the brutality and willfulness of Elijah’s career. It is as if God is saying, “Dear child, if you want to be with me forever, your unintegrated qualities must be burned away.” Elijah, most uncharacteristically, shows himself to be a model of quiet, humble acceptance. There is no ill temper, there is no whining. Rather, he steps into the chariot, without taking the reins, and allows the fiery horses to bring him to God. He drops his mantle of power and authority, which he doesn’t need anymore, onto the shoulders of his successor Elisha. It is as if Elijah finally understands the still small voice of God, and becomes able to let go of his own controlling and insistent qualities.

The epilogue to the Elijah story is the promise that he will return and lead us, his successors, to know God as closely as he did: this is declared explicitly on the last page of the Old Testament, in the book of Malachi. There is also the charming Jewish custom of leaving an empty chair at the yearly Passover celebration in case Elijah quietly stops in. For Elijah to be a quiet and deferential guest, not seizing center stage, is surprising. The empty chair reminds us that God usually doesn’t reveal himself in spectacular and self-evident ways. He communicates in the still small voice. We must be quiet and very observant if we are to hear and notice, when God comes as a gentle guest into our lives.

Fr. Gabriel Myers
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Nineteenth Sunday of the Year

  • August 9, 2015
  • Year B
  • by Abbot James

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At the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Burke, Virginia

When Fr. Packard and I met for lunch at my monastery a few days ago, he said that in his own preaching he doesn’t foll­ow anything like the classical Presbyterian model of three main topics. As you’d expect, I don’t regularly do that either, but I think there are some good reasons to follow that pattern this morning. I know that a number of you have been studying Benedictine spirituality for some months, and it is quite remarkable how some of the points touched upon in today’s readings from the Common Lectionary dovetail with central aspects of Benedictine spirituality. I’ve singled out three: forgiveness, the evil of complaining or murmuring, and living in love after the pattern that Christ has left us.

First then, forgiveness. In our reading from Ephesians we heard the beautiful lines: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.” The crucial importance of forgiveness for a Christian is highlighted by the fact that immediately after Jesus gives us the words of the Lord’s Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, he comments on only one of the prayer’s seven petitions: the importance of forgiving others if we expect to be forgiven ourselves. St. Benedict takes up this point in chapter 13 of his Rule, where he writes: “The celebration of Lauds and Vespers must never pass by without the superior’s reciting the entire Lord’s Prayer at the end for all to hear, because thorns of contention are likely to spring up. Thus warned by the pledge they make to one another in the very words of this prayer: Forgive us as we forgive, they may cleanse themselves of this kind of vice.”

That sounds great, of course, but we should be honest enough at admit that it is often easier said than done, especially if the harm we have suffered from someone else is very painful and if the offender shows no remorse. I once read a poem written by a woman in the form of a dialogue between herself and the man who had raped her when she was only twelve years old. At one point the woman, now an adult, says: “I have my own pain,/ I have a clenched fist where my heart belongs./ Instead of a heart: a clenched fist.” The woman who wrote those lines and who eventually came to forgive the man who had hurt her so badly was later giving a talk about forgiveness to a group of teachers and students out in the American Southwest. At one point she was interrupted by a teacher in the back of the room who said, “My father molested me. I’m never going to forgive him, and I resent your telling me that I should.” On that occasion, the speaker was so taken aback that she didn’t know quite how to respond, but a perceptive teenager in the front row got up, turned around, and said to the teacher, “She’s not telling you that you should forgive. She’s just saying that if you do, your heart will open.” That’s really it. No longer a clenched fist or a clenched heart, but hands and a heart that are free.

Some persons might be able to come to that kind of freedom rather quickly, even when the cause of their pain was as terrible as something like the murder of their child, but more frequently forgiveness is a process, sometimes a years-long process. A man whose wife had several times been unfaithful to him once wrote that anger at his wife returns again and again, so he finds himself repeatedly called to cultivate compassion—compassion toward the very same person, over the very same offense, repeatedly opening his heart, staying vigilant so that it doesn’t ease shut when he’s not watching. Some persons find that prayer helps them come to forgive repeatedly and persistently, so they deliberately pray each day for the person who has hurt them, asking for blessings for him or her. Others simply imagine good things happening for the offender. Hoping or praying in this way does open our hearts, perhaps even bringing us to the point that we no longer need such prayer because there is no longer any anger in us to serve as a reminder. I repeat that this will not always be easy, but Jesus himself never said that the straight and narrow way was easy. St. Benedict, however, does have in the prologue to his Rule some beautiful words that give us confidence to persevere no matter what the cost. He writes:

We intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service. In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love. Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.

What Benedict writes there is definitely true of all Christians. When I was a novice, I came across a holy card with a few words written by a rather well-known French author named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. What he said was this: “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” All of us were made for such joy, for what St. Benedict calls “the inexpressible delight of love.” Genuinely to forgive is a preeminent way of coming to such joy. That is my first point.

Next, I want to say a bit about one of the most pernicious destroyers of such joy, namely, complaining, grumbling, murmuring. Our Gospel reading began with Jesus telling the people, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” At that his hearers reacted very negatively, complaining about him and about what he had been saying. They considered him no different from themselves, so they asked, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven.’?” The Greek word used for their complaining even sounds bad: egongudzon, a nasty-sounding word that could also be translated as “they grumbled” or “they murmured.”

It’s quite remarkable how frequently St. Benedict warns against this kind of behavior in his Rule. As you probably know or would guess, obedience is one of the vows mentioned specifically in the formula for profession, and in his chapter on this virtue the saint writes: “This obedience will be acceptable to God and agreeable to men only if compliance with what is commanded is not cringing or sluggish or half-hearted, but is free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness.” And besides obedience, another key mark of Benedictine life is poverty. This word, of course, means different things to different people, and in some respects it would be better to speak of Benedictine simplicity of life or frugality. In fact, when Benedict literally uses the word “poor” in his Rule, he is usually referring to lay persons in the vicinity of the monastery who could benefit from donations of food or clothing from the monks. The monks themselves do, to be sure, have absolutely no personal possessions, but the monastery is expected to have a high enough standard of living that the monks will normally have no doubt or anxiety about where their next meal is coming from or whether they will continue to have a roof over their heads. Everything is owned communally, with individual members receiving for their use what each one needs and in the proportion appropriate for each.

Here there is obviously an opening for murmuring, which Benedict tries to ward off with some very strong language in the short 34th chapter of the Rule, on the distribution of goods within the monastery. Since monks have always looked back to the first Christian community at Jerusalem as the primary model for their way of life, Benedict understandably begins this chapter with a reference to what St. Luke writes about the Jerusalem community in the fourth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, that “distribution was made to each one as he had need.” Benedict comments on this in the following words: “By this we do not imply that there should be favoritism—God forbid—but rather consideration for weaknesses. Whoever needs less should thank God and not be distressed, but whoever needs more should feel humble because of his weakness, not self-important because of the kindness shown him. In this way, all the members will be at peace. First and foremost, there must be no word or sign of the evil of grumbling, no manifestation of it for any reason at all. If, however, anyone is caught grumbling, let him undergo more severe discipline.”

There are still other references to the evil of murmuring in the Rule, but you get the point. Such behavior tears down instead of building up, leads to gloomy faces and disparaging words. All of us, whether monks, clergy, or laypersons, have to recognize that things will not always go in exactly the way we might prefer, no more than was the case with Jesus himself, who indeed had to put up with much more opposition and inconvenience than any of us can expect to face, but his constant attitude was the one that should mark our lives as well: “yet not my will but thine by done.” Just think how much more pleasant life would be in the home or workplace if we could be spared the complaints of those who are never satisfied if things don’t go just as they would like. This is not to say that we should blithely accept unjust situations or that we should not try to improve things that really need changing, but it is altogether possible to do so without that grumbling, complaining attitude that both Jesus and St. Benedict warn against.

Finally, I turn to the most significant of all the Christian virtues, the one that St. Paul writes about at the very end of our second reading: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” If members of a monastic community or a lay family live in this way, they may expect to experience something of what the psalmist wrote in the 133rd psalm: “How good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together as one! It is like precious oil on the head, running down upon the bear, upon the beard of Aaron, upon the collar of his robe, or like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion. There the Lord has decreed a blessing, life forevermore.” That is the sort of vision that first attracted me to monastic life when I was still in high school: the vision of a group of persons all living together in a virtuous way, all advancing toward the common goal of the kingdom in a way of life marked by a healthy balance between prayer, work, holy reading, and some relaxation.

This is still what life in a monastery is and can be at its best. But one must never give in to unrealistic romanticization. Our oldest monk, Fr. Edmund, who will be 91 at the end of October, was once asked what was the best part of life in the monastery and he unhesitatingly replied, “the brethren.” When next asked what was the most difficult or challenging part, he gave the same answer, “the brethren.” This should not be surprising. When I was a so-called “junior monk,” that is, one still in temporary vows for three years, my junior master once made an important distinction. He said that joining a monastic community is very different from joining a country club. In the latter, one will normally find people of the same social standing, similar in wealth and educational background, very likely of the same political persuasion, and so forth. In a monastic community, on the other hand, there is and always has been a huge variety in the kinds of people who join: some from very cultured and affluent backgrounds, others much less so; some quite conservative in their political views, others much more liberal; some very well educated, others with very little schooling; some easy going and placid, others ready to fly off the handle at even minor annoyances.

To live in such circumstances calls for a realistic view of what to expect as well as perseverance in dealing with the challenges. This is probably why many monks would say that the next-to-last chapter of the Rule is the most important. It has the rather prosaic title “On the Good Zeal of Monks,” but its content is anything but prosaic. St. Benedict writes: “Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness that separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal that separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This, then, is the good zeal that monks must foster with fervent love: they should each try to be the first to show respect to the other, supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else. To their fellow monks they show the pure love of brothers; to God, loving fear; and to their abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

To be able to bear with one another’s weaknesses—and all of us have them in one form or another—and to be able to be truly obedient to one another are absolutely crucial for Benedictine spirituality, indeed, for Christian spirituality in general. This mutual obedience doesn’t mean that some monks go around giving orders that others have to obey. No, the word “obedience” should be understood in terms of its Latin root, audire, which means to listen. The really obedient person is the one who is able to listen, to sense, to perceive the needs of another even before those needs might be expressed, and is able to respond in a way that is really loving, even if at times this means the sort of “tough love” that doesn’t coddle another person but rather helps him or her to grow, whether spiritually, emotionally, or socially. When all the members of a monastic community or of a family strive to live according to this ideal, we may be confident that they are on the way to eternal life, are indeed experiencing something of it even now. May this morning’s celebration of the Eucharist strengthen each of you in living this way.

Abbot James Wiseman
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Twentieth Sunday of the Year

  • August 16, 2015
  • Year B
  • by Fr. Christopher

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At the Cathedral of St. Matthew

Some years ago a couple of English monks thought about establishing a monastery in an Africa country. They found a bishop who welcomed them and helped them get some property near a village where there were some Catholics. When it came time to build a chapel, the local people constructed it on seven columns, likely taking their inspiration from today’s reading from Proverbs: “Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns.” Of the seven gifts of the Spirit of God listed by the prophet Isaiah, the first one is wisdom. (Is 11:1-3)

When Solomon succeeded his father David on the royal throne of Israel, the Lord appeared to him in a dream on a certain occasion and said: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” The king asked for an understanding heart to judge the vast people in his domain and to distinguish right from wrong. God was pleased to grant him that gift and far more. King Solomon became famous for his wisdom. Wise as he was though about many things, he had a human flaw. He took wives from many neighboring countries and began worshiping their gods alongside the God of Israel.

There is a human wisdom that makes sound judgments about the realities of the human condition and our relationships with the world. It is garnered from learning from experience and pondering its meaning. It is passed on generation to generation in sayings like proverbs, in fairy tales and myths. In the wisdom literature of the Bible we are told over and over that the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord. That kind of fear is not just fright but also an open-mouth awe, an overwhelming wonder at the transcendent majesty, the omnipotence and omniscience of God.

Human wisdom is one thing. Divine wisdom is another. There is someone greater than Solomon with us who is wisdom itself. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, [Jesus] Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God. (I Cor 1:24) Paul reminds us that the wisdom of God is foolishness to man. “Since in God’s wisdom the world did not come to know him through [human] wisdom, it pleased God to save those who believe through the absurdity of the … gospel.” The absurdity Paul is speaking of is mainly the crucifixion of Jesus. “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and an absurdity to the Gentiles. God’s folly is wiser than men, and his weakness more powerful than men.” (1 Cor 21 – 25)

I think Paul’s words can be applied to Jesus institution of the Eucharist as well. We just heard Jesus say plainly: “I am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” He connects coming to eat and drink at his table with a promise of resurrection to life forever and with his abiding with us in this life.

When he said that, some turned away. They asked, How can he give us his flesh to eat? His blood to drink? We all know that with the breakaway from the Church at the Protestant reformation, many Christians in other denomination ceased to believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. For them the Wisdom of Jesus is in the Word of God in the Bible. They became strong in knowing the power of the Word while Catholics focused more on the grace of the sacraments, especially confession and the Mass. Hopefully the ecumenical going on will bring all of us closer together in mutual appreciation of each one’s treasure from the apostolic ages.

What we believe depends on the meaning of what ‘is’ is in Jesus’ statements: Ego sum via, veritas, et vita.… Hoc est corpus meum, Hic est calix sanguinis mei. I am the truth.. This is my body. As St. Thomas says in his Eucharistic hymn ADORO TO DEVOTE, “visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, sed aditu solo toto creditor. We believe in Jesus’ presence in the consecrated bread and wine not by any changes in its appearances but “Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius. Nil hoc verbo veritatis verius.” I believe because the Son of God said it, and nothing is truer that this word of truth himself.

Do we believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God? One of my abbots used to say, If you can believe in the incarnation, believe that God the Son became a man, all the rest is easy. As we return to the altar for the offering of Jesus as the most acceptable sacrifice to the Father, let us accept his invitation to offer ourselves with him and receive with thanksgiving the spiritual food and drink true Wisdom has prepared for us. It is his pledge of his abiding presence and life to the full, beginning here and now. To the Father who sought us, the Son who bought us, and the Spirit who taught us be highest praise, honor, glory and obedience now and forever. AMEN

Fr. Christopher Wyvill
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Twenty-First Sunday of the Year

It's not often that a celebrant has a choice for the second reading as I do today. Both offerings are from chapter 5 of St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, but the one begins with v. 25, the other begins several verses earlier and contains that unpopular verse, "Wives should be subordinate to their husbands." The choice is a no- brainer unless I should want to be stoned on my way out. The fact that we now have a choice is a testimonial to how much woman's cause has advanced since the earlier days.

Our three readings seem to go off in different directions, first with Joshua speaking to Israel about a covenant, then St. Paul speaking about marriage, and finally, Jesus' followers arguing about whether to accept His teaching on the Bread from Heaven. However, all three readings do relate to one theme, i.e., commitment.

Joshua's covenant ceremony is not on Mt. Sinai but at Shechem, in the central highlands of Israel. The Chosen People have now conquered all the territory God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But on the way they have acquired any number of fellow travelers. Even when they left Egypt, we are told, "A crowd of mixed ancestry went up with them, with livestock in great abundance." In the course of the invasion, the Israelites made peace with the Gibeonites, a people of Canaan, entering into an agreement with them. In all probability this happened with many other groups. In the "idealized"

account of the invasion, the Israelites slaughtered all the Canaanites in sight. However, there are, happily, strong reasons to believe that, in fact, they converted many more

than they killed. So now we have what appears to be a renewal of the Sinai covenant, though in truth it was the moment at which many new elements, previously pagan, are incorporated into Israel. So Joshua has to challenge them to choose between "the gods your ancestors served beyond the river," or "the gods of the Amorites," i.e., the native Canaanite gods, or the God of Israel. In the full text from Joshua, as opposed to the bowdlerized version in the lectionary, Joshua speaks very sternly: "You may not be able to serve the Lord, he is a holy God; he is a passionate God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins." But they respond, "We will serve the Lord, our God, and will listen to his voice." So we have commitment.

Paul's words about the relationship between husband and wife, in the second reading, are also concerned with commitment. Skipping over the sticky part about submission, his words are truly beautiful. As you know, they are used in the wedding ceremony. He uses the word "love" five times, three times with reference of the husband for the wife. This love is raised to the highest level, by the comparison, "as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her." We can see a connection to the first reading because covenant is the best analogy for marriage. A covenant is not a contract, but the inauguration of a new relationship, a relationship similar to blood kinship; it involves a sharing of shalom and blessing. In such a relationship there should be only one will--or rather, two wills acting as one. It involves commitment. Young people often mistake infatuation for love, but the two are worlds apart. Love abides; infatuation fades as soon as a new attraction comes along. Why do so many marriages end in divorce? No doubt there are many reasons, but one can be rushing into it, without thought or planning. I know a couple, childhood sweethearts, who determined not to marry until both had obtained graduate degrees. One can feel confident that that marriage will last. For one thing, finances, which vex so many marriages, are unlikely to be a problem. It is unlikely they will suddenly face unforeseen decisions, such as whether the wife should work, whether they should have children early or later, whether they should save or try to by a home, decisions on which marriages sometimes founder. Again, it is a question of commitment.

The gospel, again, is a different matter. For several Sundays we've been reading from the Bread of Life discourse in chapter 6 of St. John's gospel. It started some weeks ago with the multiplication of the loaves, went on to relate this to the manna in the wilderness, proceeded to identify Jesus as the Bread come down from Heaven, and last Sunday became very concrete when Jesus identified His Body as Bread to be eaten, His Blood to be drunk. In that reading, He declared, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you." Many of those present had difficulty accepting these words, and we can easily understand this. We, after years of celebrating Mass and receiving the Eucharist, have no difficulties in understanding what Jesus is saying (aside from the mystery involved). But a Jew contemporary with Jesus? We expect it would be a different case. We know that John's gospel was written after a whole generation of Christian experience. We know that this gospel is the fruit of John=s long meditation on the events of Jesus life, seen in the light of the Christian experience. The easy way out of the question is to understand the author as expressing the developed Christian faith and retrojecting it into the career of Jesus. I call this "the easy way out"-which I would gladly take. But against it stands the earliest Christian tradition, the synoptic gospels and, even earlier, St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, which all present Jesus' words of institution, "take and eat, for this is my body, take and drink for this is my blood." And this passage from today=s gospel describes an event in which such words formed a watershed between those willing to believe and the others who weren=t. Those willing to believe had seen His miracles, but more importantly, had seen something in Him that made them know that anything He said was true. This is expressed in Peter's response to Jesus' question, "Will you also go away?" "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." That is commitment! Although the covenant requires commitment, as does marriage, no commitment binds us so closely as our commitment to Jesus.

No homilist could ever do justice to the Eucharist. It demonstrates God's love for us in so many ways. That Jesus left the sacrifice of the Mass for our daily worship, the Eucharist for us as a memorial, shows a desire to be near us so great that it is almost impossible to understand and believe. We think we transform the Host into our body, but in fact it is the other way around: He comes to us to transform us into Himself. Even outside the action of the Mass, He leaves us the Blessed Sacrament so He can be near us.

We said that covenant introduces a relationship similar to blood kinship; nowhere is this more true than in the Eucharist. We speak of covenant as a sharing of shalom and blessing, that it implies one will. To make this actual, we need to be certain that our will is one with His. We speak of commitment, but none is greater than His. To show our gratitude for all He has done for us, we should strive to make our love, our commitment to Him equal to His.

Fr. Joseph Jensen
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