homily – August 20

John 6:51-58

You know we live with a real paradox – go into any book store and there will be a whole section on cook books, all kinds of recipes from every nation – and right next to it will be another whole section of dieting – diets that offer us plans for painless and effortless weight loss. We know too that starvation is a global disaster.

Remember that great song from the musical Oliver – ‘food glorious food’? That’s what our Sunday gospel is all about – food glorious food.

At every Mass we are offered ‘glorious food’ – the glorious food of Jesus’ teachings, that nourishing bread by which we live our lives, a food that gives us strength to ‘lay aside immaturity and walk in the way of insight’.

Jesus tells us, ‘unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you cannot have life in you.” These words are as disturbing to some today as they were to the people who first heard them – to eat someone’s flesh, to drink someone’s blood – as the children in our first communion class remarked, ‘ that’s yucky.’ But Jesus’ words are too graphic to admit of any other meaning. Within the praying of the Eucharist Prayer bread becomes more than bread and wine becomes more than wine – they are what Jesus says they are; His body, His blood – glorious food and drink. We cannot diminish the words of Jesus by saying He meant bread and wine are a symbol or a representation of His Body and Blood; they are His Body and Blood, the glorious food Jesus offers for the life of the world. Again, listen to these words of Jesus, ‘Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats Me will live because of Me.’ This glorious food gives us the strength to live our Mass outside these walls in the lives we live as Christian men and women.

Every time we come to Mass we should receive this glorious food – otherwise we cannot have life within us. In the past we always linked reconciliation with Holy Communion. We never appreciated the fact that there are many ways of being reconciled to God besides the Sacrament. A sincere act of contrition reconciles us to God – and so we should always accept the invitation of Jesus – take and eat, take and drink.

When we come to receive this glorious food we are answering the invitation of Jesus, ‘come to me all you who labor and find life burdensome and I will refresh you.’ We receive Communion not because we are holy or sinless, we receive Communion because we are weak and weary, frightened or discouraged, struggling with our own personal problems and we need the life of Christ within us to cope with the problems of our lives.

Holy Communion is a gift, a gracious gift – it was never meant to be a reward for being good or following orders.

As we continue to celebrate our Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that we be graced with a deep sense of gratitude for this gift of glorious food – the body and blood of Jesus our Lord – may we take to heart his gracious invitation – unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot have life within you, but those who eat My flesh and drink My blood lives in me and I live in them and I will raise them up on the last day.