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21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Joshua 24: 1-2a, 1-17, 18b+ Psalm 34 + Ephesians 5: 21-32 + John 6:60-69
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: August 22, 2021

Last Sunday we took a short vacation from the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel
for the celebration of the Assumption of Mary.
But for those of you who have read and prayed with the word of God in Chapter 6 of John, you know that the passage from this chapter which was not proclaimed last Sunday because of the Assumption is a very important teaching on the Eucharist. Jesus says:
“Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life within you.
(John 6:53)

These words of Jesus are so forceful and strong, so visceral and powerful because He wants to convey a very important truth about the believer’s relationship to Him.
Thus, these challenging words of Jesus are about more than physical eating and drinking.
These words of everlasting life go right to the heart of what the Holy Eucharist
is all about—transforming us into Christ’s body,
to be so intimately joined to him that He lives in us.

We become one with the Risen Christ as we eat his body and drink his blood,
which means taking all that Christ is into us.
This means putting on the mind of Christ and thinking as he does.
This means joining our hearts to the heart of Christ and loving as He does.

We begin to understand that the Eucharist is more than something to be adored.
He wants to transform us into His body, to be His presence in this world.
The Eucharist is not something but the gift of Someone—the Word of God enfleshed.

In this Sacrament we encounter and receive the Risen Lord,
and he becomes flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone.
He longs to speak through us, to love through us, to live in us,
to transform us more and more into his Body.

Which is why when the faithful come forward to receive Holy Communion,
they carry out a simple but intense gesture.
Standing before the minister of Holy Communion,
they raise their arms and open their hands to receive the eucharistic bread.
They open their hands as people about to receive a gift,
and this gesture reveals an interior attitude.
It is an act of the spirit.
To open one’s hands is the purest human gesture one can make
to represent openness to receiving a gift.
The posture of one who is standing, with arms out and hands open,
signifies not only openness to receive but also total vulnerability and inability to harm.

So, one does not grab the eucharistic bread, one doesn’t take it;
one receives it from someone who puts it into our opened hands.
Because salvation is from Christ, of whom the eucharistic bread is a sacrament,
and salvation in Christ is a freely given gift of the Father.

It is somewhat like the surrender a husband and wife make to each other daily.
They give the gift of who they are to their spouse, saying, “Here I am, I am yours.”
This openness, this vulnerability,
to receive the gift of the other is a Eucharistic action.
For as a spouse subordinates himself or herself to their beloved, they say:
This is my body given for you, take and eat,
my life poured out for you today, take and drink.
This receiving of the gift of the other is at the heart of married love and divine love.

Jesus gave his followers the great gift of the Eucharist as food for the journey of faith.
This great gift strengthens those who surrender their lives to Jesus for the journey home.

The faithful do not receive the Eucharist where they sit
but they are called to leave their places and walk toward the altar.
In this way, the liturgy invites the faithful to carry out a movement,
a walk that manifests that the Eucharist is bread for the journeying person.

The Eucharist is indeed the viaticum–the bread for the voyage,
just as the manna was for the people of Israel.
The Eucharist is bread for they journey just as the bread provided by the angel
was for prophet Elijah from the Scripture reading proclaimed here two weeks ago.

That’s why it felt so odd in the height of the pandemic this past year
for people to receive the Eucharist from the minister who came to them in their pews—
You stayed in one place and the Eucharist was brought to you as a safer way to receive.
But now we know more than ever that the Eucharist is bread for the journey,
so we come forward to receive the Bread come down from heaven.

The believer does not make his or her journey alone but only together
with brothers and sisters in faith; this is expressed in the Communion procession,
which therefore becomes a sign.
Here the liturgy teaches each one of us that this is not only my condition
but also the condition of all Christians.
The church is a people on journey toward the Kingdom..

The Communion procession is therefore the image of humanity on the way toward God, each of us in our own circumstances and states of life.
All go together toward the altar, each of us as we are,
with our own particular burdens, all compelled by the same hunger to receive
the bread of forgiveness, the bread of mercy,
the bread of eternal life that only God can give.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi