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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

August 19, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

In this part of the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus uses very vivid physical images to emphasize an essential spiritual truth—communion with Him is only way to true life. Some people hear these words—“”Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”—and think Jesus is promoting some kind of cannibalism— but that is not the case at all. Rather he is referring to the complete gift of himself to us, and as we receive the Risen Lord we are granted a new kind of life—eternal life. We hunger and thirst to take all that Jesus is into ourselves, that he might transform our hearts and minds into his.

This spiritual food of the Eucharist transforms us into “other Christ’s.” Communion with the Risen Jesus means integrating his consciousness into ours. The way Jesus communicates his consciousness is by his death, as he says: “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” His total self-gift on the cross is the heartbeat of the Mass and the foundation of love.

So, when Jesus expresses his desire for us to eat his flesh and drink his blood he is emphasizing this complete giving of himself to us and for us. Entering more fully into this life giving relationship with him, we come to an abiding awareness of divine love transforming death into new life. That in him, joining ourselves to Him in a very intimate way in Holy Communion, we die to an old way of living, and with him we rise to new life.

When we respond “AMEN” to the words, “The Body of Christ”, we are committing ourselves to the person of Christ, to His way of life: to thinking and living and loving and acting like Him. Every time we come forward to be nourished by His Body and His Blood we are committing ourselves to Him, not simply saying that we believe he is really present in the Eucharistic elements. Our belief in the Real Presence is only manifest by the effect that our relationship with the Risen Jesus has in transforming our lives to be more like his.

So, communion with Christ means union with his heart, a heart open to all people, a heart full of compassion for those who suffer, a heart open to refugees and immigrants, to those who live on the margins. Communion with Christ helps us think with Christ, to put on the mind of Christ, for he is always intent on doing the will of the Father.

This is the way to wisdom, while fools follow their own will, yielding to shallow desires. Those who are in Communion with Wisdom-Enfleshed put out into the deep, exploring with Christ’s help the deepest desires of their life. There, illuminated by Christ’s love, they discover the will of the Father.

The point of eating the flesh of the Son of God and drinking His blood is to the deepening of our relationship with Him, of growing in Communion with Him. The point is the bond with Him that such a sacred ritual meal establishes. It is about Comm-UNION, uniting our lives to the life of the Son of God.

We share in this life in Christ with one another. We only come to know and experience and taste the goodness of the Lord in our union with others, which is also the bond that Holy Communion establishes. We are joined to the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, as we share in this holy meal.

From this community of faith we call “Church” we have received wisdom which has been passed down to us through the ages. This wisdom, this Living Tradition, guides and forms our relationship with the Lord of all life. So that it is not enough to simply “believe” that the bread and wine have been forever changed into the “Body and Blood of Christ.” Something more is required, and it is revealed in the very word, “Communion.” By receiving this great gift, when we say “Amen”, we are also stating that we are in union with our brothers and sisters in the beliefs we hold in common. Such as our belief in the role of the Pope as the leader of the Church and primary teacher of the Faith, or our belief in what the church teaches about the God-given dignity of every human life, or our assent to the moral teachings of the Church. That’s why if someone who has not become Catholic, but who believes that Christ is truly present in this bread and wine, needs to also come to learn about what we believe in order to be in “communion” with us.

Receiving the Eucharist demands that we prepare for such a great gift. We will never be completely worthy to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, but we can properly dispose ourselves to receive this wonderful gift. The Church offers us some basic regulations for properly disposing ourselves to receive Holy Communion.

One needs to be free of mortal sin by confessing such sin in the Sacrament of Penance. A mortal sin cuts us completely off from God and is a rare sin. Examples of mortal sin are murder, adultery, apostasy. If you have chosen to cut yourself off from the Church and her sacraments and have been away from Mass for more than a few months, then celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Sacrament of Penance) is necessary.

The Church requires all Catholics to confess their sins at least once a year in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Fast from food & drink for one hour before receiving the Body & Blood of Christ.

If married, then be married in the Church. One of the laws of the Church is to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony. If you need an annulment for a previous marriage, one of the deacons or I can help with this process. Those who are divorced and not remarried are able to receive Holy Communion.

Those who are not Catholic, or Catholics who are not properly disposed, can come forward in the Communion line for a blessing, including little children.

As we eat the bread of life and drink from the cup of salvation, we discover a mysterious truth–we are never fully satisfied. That in being given a share in divine life, we hunger and thirst for more. We discover that the God who comes to us cannot be possessed by us, or captured and held onto.

Which is why we keep coming back, some of us daily, others weekly, to be fed.

So that eventually everything we hold onto, even our very life, can be given as a gift to God.