I. Homily – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 15-16, 2015
II. “You are the priest who beat Bobbly Flay, aren’t you?”
A. As I was waiting in an airport some time ago with a priest friend, a third priest walked up to us. My friend said, with a sense of surprise and excitement, “You are the priest who beat Bobby Flay!”
B. Well, I don’t watch a lot of cooking shows, but I guess this priest had been on one of these shows and the dish he prepared beat out the famous chef, Bobby Flay. There is no doubt that the way America eats is changing.
1. There is a whole TV channel dedicated to art of cooking…and the value of a grocery store seems to be increasingly determined by the quality its food and the freshness of its produce.
2. There is no doubt that more and more people are concerned with eating right…
3. Even our young people are more and more conscious of what they are eating.
4. Although I wish that one of the experts would come out and say that the most healthy food is a French Dipped Italian Beef Sandwich with a large order of fries, I don’t anticipate this happening anytime soon.
C. On the contrary, the experts tell us we should eat fresh fruit and vegetables…the experts tell us, for example, that Kale contains high levels of vitamins K, A, C.
1. The reason that the Kale is good for us is that it contains different nutrients that are good for the body.
2. What if, however, a commentator came along who said that the reason that eating Kale is good for us is not that these nutrients are actually in Kale but eating Kale causes you simply “TO BELIEVE” that you are receiving vitamins K, A and C?
3. What if, it were said that you do not actually receive vitamin K when you eat Kale…no…the value in eating Kale is that it helps you to believe that you are receiving Vitamin K?
4. After all, isn’t there real value in positive thinking? If you think that you are healthier, won’t you be happier and, therefore, healthier?
5. Well…I would expect that you would find this silly and stop eating Kale.
III. There is a message communicated today in our Liturgy that has a lot to do with what we eat.
A. Our first reading from the Book of Proverbs speaks to us of the Wisdom of the Lord. We heard:
1. “To the one who lacks understanding, she (Wisdom) says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!”
B. We sang Psalm 34: “Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord.”
C. Saint Paul, in our second reading, exhorts the Ephesians…and us…to “be filled with the Spirit.”
D. Finally, our Lord Himself cautions His disciples: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”
IV. At first glance, our passages of scripture use the image of eating to describe coming to KNOW God, understand His Law and possess a knowledge of His will.
A. We make analogies between eating food and gaining knowledge all the time:
1. When we attend a lecture or when we were in school and the teacher was particularly interesting, we might have said, “Boy, she was great. I really ate up everything she said,” which meant, “I learned a lot” and “really enjoyed what I learned.”
2. Or, if heard a phrase that really made us think, we might say, “I really need some time to digest that.”
B. So, when Proverbs is speaking about Wisdom, and tells us: “To the one who lacks understanding, she (Wisdom) says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!”
1. Or, the Psalm invites us: “Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord,” we may rightfully conclude that this entails not actual eating but learning and understanding…
2. …and, indeed, there is no doubt that the knowledge of God is absolutely essential to the life of faith…God has revealed Himself to us so that we might know Him…knowing is essential to any and every true relationship…in fact, knowledge is an essential prerequisite to LOVE. The more we know someone the better we are able to love them and the better they are better able to love us.
V. But…our Lord today in the Gospel SHOWS us what love is.
A. Did you notice in the Gospel reading today that Jesus doubles-down after they take issue with what He said?
1. Right after Jesus identifies Himself as the living bread come down from heaven and that they need to eat His flesh, the people listening grumble against Him.
2. And…what does Jesus do?
a) Does he back track?
b) Does he try to soften the blow?
c) Noperino! He gets even more explicit.
3. In response to their arguing with each other, He does not back down but instead tells them, “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 within you.”
a) Although we hear the same word “to eat” throughout our English translation of the Bible, the original text has Jesus using different words prior to this argument and after this argument for the word “to eat” …Jesus ceases using the very common and colloquial term for “eating” and begins using the word which describes more explicitly a very physical act of eating…even “chewing or gnawing.”
b) Jesus was not seeking to allay their fears. He needed to make a point…even at the risk of some “finding it difficult to hear.”
c) Jesus stubbornly making clear the necessity to eat His body and blood teaches three lessons:
B. First, it is about love.
1. Jesus is teaching them about love.
2. Love does not remain in the realm of intention. If I say that I love you, but my intention to love you never flows over into reality…into deeds…into, we might say, truth, i.e., into how I treat you, then this love remains, at best, incomplete.
3. Jesus wants them to know that His love is not simply intentional but true and real.
4. His love is not like that of the food expert who tells us the real value is found in believing the Kale has nutrients but that Kale really does, in fact, have those nutrients.
C. Second, Jesus was teaching His disciples how a real person loves.
1. A real person loves by sacrificing themselves for the good of the other.
2. Jesus suffered and died on the cross so that we might have life and have it to the full.
3. He gave His life because He loves us.
D. Third, Jesus was teaching His disciples about how He loves us now and in eternity.
1. Two people who love one another sacrifice their lives for each other not just so that the other might have life…they sacrifice so that they might be completely united with one another forever.
2. We see this demonstrated so beautifully in the intimacy of a husband and wife…they love one another and so they desire union spiritually, psychologically and even physically.
3. But, God desires a chaste and intimate union with us of which we can now have a taste and which is fulfilled in eternity.
4. This is why our Lord felt the need to double down when challenged on this point. This was not just a point of order. It was essential to the joy, love and union, HE desires for us and with us.
VI. The value of the Bread of Life, the Eucharist which is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, is not found simply in “feeling,” or “thinking,” or even “believing” that the Eucharist is a SIGN OR SYMBOL of the Grace God has given.
B. The Eucharist is what it signifies.
C. The reception of Holy Communion accomplishes union with the Lord when we receive Him worthily.
1. Certainly, there is no doubt that this gift of love places an obligation of love upon us.
a) It makes no sense to receive our Lord and then continue to live as if love has not now come to dwell within us.
b) But, we must also bear in mind that the nutrition Christ gives in the Eucharist is not vitamin K or A or C…what He gives is His flesh for the life of the world…truly…actually…really.
VII. So…our Lord was not simply teaching His disciples about eating but about Love and the way He loves us…so let us “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
I. Homily – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 15-16, 2015