19 August 201820 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
20 Ordinary Time
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - John 6:51-58

Unhappily few of the lines that follow are original. The majority belong to those writers known as Author Unknown. Where possible, I have identified the artist. He was conceived and born contrary to all biological law. He grew up to be a very bothersome man. He told the truth and it cost Him His life. He could have avoided assassination by going fishing in Galilee for the weekend. He was often seen talking and laughing after His death. He remains forever a question mark with which people are never quite finished.

Non-believers forever worry lest they might be wrong. The Church He founded is discussed daily on the first pages of the major newspapers of the world. What might He have accomplished had He lived to 50? As a babe, He terrified a king. As a youngster, He puzzled scholars. As a man, He intimidated a Roman governor. To borrow from GK Chesterton, He was constantly in hot water. He did not seem to mind. He felt it would keep Him clean. He had no training in psychiatry. Yet, He has cured more minds and spirits than anyone else in history. Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon established mighty empires by force. He began His with love and service. Theirs have disappeared. His remains.

Statesmen have legislated on their turn. Artists and philosophers have reigned for a short period. Some have said they were more popular than He. But their names are written in the sand. His is spoken with frequency by one billion followers. Each week millions assemble to salute Him in the Eucharist. He spoke that last night to a small band of illiterate men as though the memorial ceremony would continue down through the centuries. History has proved Him correct. He calls us to Liturgy both to remember Him and worship Him. The first food consumed on the moon was bread and wine consumed in His name. Those who discover they cannot believe in Him live with sorrow. Those who believe but lack the courage to resemble Him survive with regret. Though centuries separate us from Him, He is more vital than we. We will not even be memories in the next generation, but He will flourish. He no longer stands in the dock. He has nothing to prove. He has survived the test of time. It is we who are on trial in our reaction to Him. Unlike countless peoples who impacted society by jumping in front of it and going with the flow, He got in front of the parade to take it in the opposite direction.

He presides over the world like a Colossus. After almost a century in USSR gulags, He walks openly in Moscow, Kiev, and St Petersburg. No one seems surprised. No historian can portray humanity honestly without giving Him, in HG Wells' words, the foremost place. Millions utter His name upon rising. Other millions shout it throughout the day in anger or pain. For still other millions, it is the last name they whisper before they die and the first they expect to speak when they awaken in His presence. Robert Griffin says He is the hero you could never invent.

Angels rush to Him. Devils flee from Him. He not only pushed the envelope. He broke through it. In a poor man's apparel, He pursues us always. To borrow Tennessee William's language, He is the long delayed but always expected something we live for. Ralph Waldo Emerson said His name is not so much written into the history of the world as plowed. Harry Emerson Fosdick says He changed BC into AD. Albert Nolan suggests He has no interest in people theorizing about Him but rather reproducing Him in their lives. Time magazine suggests that in His lifetime, He had no equal. It is the same today. It is not He who needs us. It is we who need Him. 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
20 Ordinary Time
Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Tangible

Sally and Sam Jones made a parenting mistake that they deeply regret. They are really good parents, but even good parents make an error in judgment. What happened is that Kathy, their nine year old daughter, wanted to go to her first sleep over with some of her school friends. Sally knew the families of the friends and felt that Kathy would be fine. Sally forgot to inquire as to exactly what the children would be doing, and, if they watched anything, what they would be watching. And Kathy saw her first really frightening horror movie. The nightmares started immediately. They continued for a week. Kathy would scream, scare her parents, and then beg to sleep with them. After a week of this, Sally told her that she needed to stay in her room and not climb into Mommy and Daddy’s bed at night. "You have your stuffed animals to keep you company. Better than that, pray to Jesus to watch over you." "But I need more than that," Kathy complained. "I need someone to hold me."

And so do we. We need the tangible. We need someone to hold us, protect us and give us courage. And the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became one of us. But that wasn’t enough. He gave us His Flesh and Blood. He comes into us, and we come into Him. And He holds us, protects us, and gives us courage. The Bogeyman as Kathy feared might not exist, but there is so much around us that horrifies us. I have really felt a sense of horror this summer. Perhaps, you have too. ISIS and its affiliate organization regularly assaults young teenage girls selling them into sex slavery. Those carrying out these atrocities are encouraged to do this by their religious leaders. These religious leaders do not want the soldiers to be burdened by their consciences which would naturally tell them that what they were doing was grossly immoral. I cannot help but be in horror at what is happening in our world. By the way, I was speaking to Fr. Gregory Ogbenika about the 276 Nigerian school girls who a number of years ago were abducted by Boko Haram, an ISIS affiliate. Some of them were released, Fr. Gregory told me that all those who were released were pregnant.

How can we learn about this and not be horrified? I have been given the privilege to hear countless confessions of teenagers from all over the country. God bless these honest children of God who are putting up a huge struggle against not just peer pressure, but the pressure of an industry targeting them for addiction. What remains shocking to me is not just the huge number of teen boys and men of all ages addicted to porn, but the growing number of teen girls and women who are being particularly groomed to become addicted customers. For teens, peer pressure is difficult enough. Now they have to fight against a huge industry intent to destroy them for the sake of increasing their profit. Horrifying. The revelations of Planned Parenthood’s mad grasp for money in the most terrible ways and the media’s depiction of pro-life objectors as being anti-woman, is also horrifying. This organization is responsible for a holocaust of females, destroying lives sometimes merely for being female instead of male, as well as the lives of women who have to spend the rest of their days bearing the burden of an abortion. Its claim to be the protector of women’s rights is as ludicrous as its claim that public money is not used for abortions. How can we learn about this and not be horrified? There are bogeymen out there. Unlike Kathy, our nightmares are a reality. Like Kathy, we need something tangible to hold on to, and something tangible to protect us. And He gave us His Body and Blood.

During these last four weeks we have dealt with high theology as we meditate on the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. It was tempting to continue the theological exposition today by developing the dogma of the Real Presence, but I, we, don’t need theology today. We need Jesus to be inside of us at communion. We need his protection against the nightmares of our times. We need His Strength to fight against the bogeymen. We need to eat His Body and drink His Blood, and be so overwhelmed by His Love that our world view is transformed by His Presence within us, and our presence within Him. We need to chew upon Him, grind Him with our teeth. That’s what Jesus tells us to do in the exact translation of today’s gospel. We need to drink His Blood and feel His warmth through our veins. We need something tangible, Someone tangible, to hug us, to protect us and to strengthen us to join Him in the fight against the horrors of our world. We need to receive communion. We need the Presence of Our Lord to protect us from the evil that attacks us and the death that has a grip on the world. We need the Bread of Life.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
20 Ordinary Time
Ephesians Week 6: Always and For Everything

(August 19, 2018)
Bottom line: We ask Sister Barbara to help us thank God always and for everything.
St. Paul has wonderful words as we celebrate our parish picnic and memorial dedication to Sister Barbara. After warning to not get drunk on wine, Paul says to allows the Holy Spirit to fill us - to be able to give thanks always and for everything. What does that mean? Especially when so many bad things happen, how can we always thank God? Well, when we began the homily series on Ephesians we learned that God predestines us according to his eternal plan. We of course have free will and each one has to make a decision. Nevertheless, to achieve his will God takes into account even our sins and failures. On account of his great mercy we thank God for everything including the tragedies and contradictions we experience. As Sister Barbara said, "God is good; he is so very good." We'll see those words when we dedicate her memorial. Sister Barbara saw plenty of ugliness - especially in domestic violence visits she made as police and fire chaplain. It's not that she didn't feel outrage, yet she focused on the cross, the sufferings of Jesus on our behalf.

She made an act of trust in Jesus, in the ultimate goodness of the Father. And she had a secret. Every morning she spent time with Jesus present in the Eucharist. As Jesus says today, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man" - Jesus himself - and drink his blood you do not have life within you." There's a prayer that says, "Blood of Christ, inebriate me." Like wine - in moderation - can gladden the heart, so the Blood of Jesus will bring joy that endures. Sister Barbara received the Body and Blood of jesus and she spent time before him, his true presence in the tabernacle. She turned to Jesus like a sunflower to the sun. She confidently asked for little things - like finding a parking space - and for big things - like finding my lost puppy! She may still be interceding for us, helping us find our way and bringing us back to God. Next Sunday we have the final homily of this seven week series. It all leads to Jesus - the Bridegroom - and his bride the Church. Sister Barbara represented that reality when she received the veil of a religious sister. Today we ask her to help us thank God always and for everything. God is good; he is so very good. Amen.

July 22 - You who were once far off have become near by the blood of Christ.
July 29 - Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.
Aug   5 - Put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness, holiness and truth.
Aug 12 - Live in Love as Christ loved us and handed himself over as a sacrificial offering to God.
Aug 19 - Give thanks always and for everything..
Aug 26 - Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
20 Ordinary Time
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Modern
Lectionary 119

In the reflection on the eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time we saw that while the "bread of life" is found above all in the Eucharist, our hunger for the Lord can and should be satisfied in other ways as well, chief among them the study of the word of God as recorded in the Bible. Today Jesus’ teaching turns vividly to the Eucharistic imagery of his flesh and blood, expressed in very strong terms in response to the doubts of his listeners. Before reading the gospel, however, we note that, as on each of the five Sundays when John 6 is read at mass, the accompanying readings and the Psalm today revolve around images of food, drink, and nourishment. First comes the Book of Proverbs, where God’s wisdom is personified as a feminine figure, and we read: "Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns; she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table" (Prov 9:1-2). Next the Psalmist invites us to "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord" (Ps 34:9). Finally, before the gospel we hear from the Letter to the Ephesians the following admonition: "Do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18). Homilists rarely note that readings from Ephesians focusing on Christian conduct within the family and the larger Church precede each of the five "bread of life" readings from John’s gospel. Nonetheless, their effect of encouraging Christians to make manifest in their behavior and disposition the spiritual nourishment Christ brings them is important in understanding the upshot of the "bread of life" discourse.

Finally we come to the sixth chapter of John’s gospel and encounter a passage in which Jesus speaks in remarkably strong language about the reality and the sacramentality of his flesh which he will give to his followers to sustain them. The sacrament of the Eucharist makes present the reality of the risen and glorified Christ—his risen and glorified Body and Blood, together with his soul and divinity—in a sacramental manner; that is, in a non-literal manner. We are consuming not physical flesh and blood but the risen, glorified Body and Blood of Christ, made present under the signs of bread and wine by the power of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the priest. That Jesus wanted his disciples to understand how central the Eucharist would be to their fellowship after his death is made clear by his choice of words in this part of the "bread of life" discourse. He is facing open hostility from some of his hearers since they mistake his sacramental language for literal language, missing the entire point about partaking not of the flesh and blood of his physical body but rather of his risen and glorified body.

To make clear that the Eucharist is an essential part of the life of every Christian he says: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day" (John 6:53-54). In the first sentence of this quote Jesus uses the normal Greek word to describe polite human eating; in the second sentence of the quoted text he purposefully changes his language and uses the Greek term used to describe wild animals and livestock "munching" on their food. Both in hearing and keeping the word of the scriptures and in sharing in the glorified Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist let us all resolve to "taste and see the goodness of the Lord" and thus to be numbered among his faithful ones who are nourished by Christ in many ways and who make him present in many ways in the midst of our modern world.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
20 Ordinary Time
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

You can imagine how difficult it was for the Jewish people at the time of Jesus to come to terms with his teaching on the Eucharist. The words he uses as recorded in the Gospel of John must have sounded incredible to them, ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’ It sounds like cannibalism and this was an accusation that was made against Christians for many centuries. His listeners must have found the whole thing very difficult. However, it does say that they began to argue among themselves so perhaps at least some of them did take his words to heart. If there is an argument then we must assume the some were in favour of what Jesus was saying as well, of course, as a good number being against him. Because we are locked into thinking always of the scribes and Pharisees we tend to believe that all the Jews were against Jesus but obviously this wasn’t so.

All of his Apostles were Jews and so were most of the other disciples. The people who followed Jesus around and the great crowds that turned out to listen to him and to witness to his miracles were also Jews who were not against him, even if they might have found some of his teaching a bit difficult. What we are dealing with in the words of Jesus here is some teaching that is entirely novel. Here is the Son of God come down from heaven. He was about to give his life on the Cross and to rise from the dead in order to forgive the sins of all of mankind. And he gives his followers a commemorative meal to remind them of this in which he says that the bread and wine become his flesh and blood. He invites them to consume this flesh and blood in order to deepen their union with him. Nobody had ever heard anything like this before, it was something completely new. Nowadays we take it all for granted, but in those days it must have been very difficult for people to even begin to understand what Jesus was talking about.

The point that we believers today have to understand about the Eucharist is that it is transformative. The Eucharist changes us. It is vital that we are aware of this. We are imperfect beings, we all need to makes changes in our lives in order to become better people, to become better Christians. We all require transformation. The Eucharist is spiritual food, it feeds our souls and through our participation each Sunday we gradually become more like Christ. You may not be very aware of this transformation, but I bet you that the people who live around you are. They realise that coming to mass is good for you, they know that it helps to make you the person you are. Of course, if we come to mass with hardness in our hearts it will do us no good whatsoever.

We need to be open to the grace and power of Christ, we have to allow him into our hearts; we have to let him change us. If we come to mass with our hearts closed to the one above, if we remain locked in to our own preoccupations, we could receive Holy Communion a thousand times and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. It is all a question of attitude. If we come to mass with the right attitude, if we come seeking forgiveness of our sins, if we come with a desire to do better towards our fellow human beings, if we come with the wish to worship God and to pay due reverence to our Saviour, then with these attitudes we can rightfully expect a transformation to gradually take place in our lives. There are of course some rules about receiving Holy Communion, we cannot simply receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament any and every time we come to mass. The most important rule is that we should not be conscious of serious sin. If we come to mass in a state of sin then first we must be reconciled by going to Confession and only then receive the Eucharist.

Also we mustn’t be blasé about our reception of the Eucharist. I know of people who never go to mass at all during the year and then at Christmas during Midnight Mass they swan straight up to Holy Communion without giving it a second’s thought. They simply take the sacrament for granted, they think that it is their perfect right to receive Holy Communion whenever they wish. I keep talking about attitude and I do so because it is very important. The best attitude we should try to develop in relation to the Eucharist is that of reverence. By this I am not talking about anything exaggerated such as lots of genuflections and bowing of heads. What I am talking about is an attitude of the heart. By reverence we mean putting ourselves in the correct relationship we ought to have with God. It means acknowledging that he is as far above us as it is possible to imagine and that we owe him absolutely everything. We owe him our whole lives, every bit of pleasure and human satisfaction that we experience, we owe him all our family and friends, and we acknowledge that everything that we possess has its origin in him. But more than this, because he sent Jesus to live among us and show us the way and ultimately to save us from our sins and bring us to heaven. So while on the one hand we know that we ought to grovel before him, on the other hand we recognise that it is he who lifts us up and invites us to share in his life.

Taking these two things into account we realise that we ought to be living a life in true companionship with the Lord. We know that we ought to be following his commandments and sharing in his sacraments. If we have this idea in our heads, that we should show him reverence and give him all the honour that is his due, then we should have no fear when it comes to approach the altar and receive him in Holy Communion. Our relationship with the Lord will have deepened and we will see him as a companion on our journey through life. We will see him as the one who loves us and sustains us with the gift of his body and blood.

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