Tuesday, August 18, 2009

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 23, 2009

Lectionary #122

Joshua 24: 1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Ephesians 5: 21-32
John 6: 60-69

We see in the first reading and the Gospel reading, people being asked to make a choice; to step over the line; to cross the Rubicon; to fish or cut bait…you get the idea. What we have are groups of people being asked to make a life changing decision.

In the Book of Joshua, we see God giving the people of Israel an opportunity to get out of the covenant they first entered into with God at Mount Sinai. God, who freed the Israelites from the Egyptians; who guided and sustained them through the desert; who protected them from their enemies; is giving them a do over. God does not want to coerce a commitment from Israel; he wants them to accept his way freely. They can be like other people in the land of Canaan, trying to control their lives through worshipping little idols. Or, they can be transformed into God’s unique people, with all the glory and challenges that transformation will bring. The people chose to “serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

In today’s Gospel, we are at the end of the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus has announced that he is the bread of life, that his flesh and his blood is true food and true drink. Anyone who feed on him will receive life eternal. His disciples, his followers hear this and do not know what to make of it. Some must have thought that Jesus was a crazy person. Others heard this teaching, and could not understand its meaning. Others must have heard the words, and understood them, but were afraid to accept them. For to accept the meaning of his words, is to be open to a radical transformation. The disciples could not make that choice, so they left Jesus, all but the Twelve. Peter, speaking for them all, has made the decision to continue to follow Jesus, because he has “the words of eternal life.” In making that choice, the lives of the Apostles are forever changed.

Every Sunday, we hear the Word of Lord, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. But are we letting ourselves be transformed, are we saying yes to Christ by entering into his life and letting him enter into us. Every day, we make that decision anew to serve the Lord by serving others, to love the Lord by loving others, by being people of hope.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 16, 2009

Lectionary #119

Proverbs 9: 1-6
Ephesians 5: 15-20
John 6: 51-58

“The Jews quarreled among themselves saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (Gospel of John)

There have been surveys that asked Catholics whether or not they believed the Church’s teaching on Christ’s Real Presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist. One survey was taken by Gallup in 1992, and the other survey was taken by the New York Times/CBS news. The results of these surveys showed that a growing number of Catholics, especially young Catholics, no longer believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist. Why this unbelief? Is it a perceived lack of reverence in the Eucharistic liturgy? Is the result of Western skepticism about all things mystical? Or could it be that we have not lived Eucharistic lives?

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, because he loves us so much, is willing to give himself to us in the form of bread and wine; so that the gift of divine life will be renewed within us. And what have we done with this gift? When we eat this bread of life, do we open ourselves completely to the Presence of Christ? Do we allow Jesus in, and allow him to transform us? Have we forsaken foolishness? It is we who will provide living proof of the power of the Eucharist to transform.

I want to close with the words of St. Francis of Assisi, from his writings, The Admonitions, “And we may ask in the words of Scripture, Men of rank, how long will be dull of heart? (Ps. 4: 3). Why do you refuse to recognize the truth and believe in the Son of God? (Jn 9: 34) Every day he humbles himself just as he did when he came from his heavenly throne (Wis. 18: 15) into the Virgin’s womb; every day he comes to us and lets us see him in abjection, when he descends from the bosom of the Father into the hands of the priest at the altar. He shows himself to us in this sacred bread just as he once appeared to his apostles in real flesh. With their own eyes they saw only his flesh, but they believed that he was God, because they contemplated him with the eyes of the spirit. We, too, with our own eyes, see only bread and wine, but we must see further and firmly believe that this is his most holy Body and Blood, living and true. In this way our Lord remains continually with his followers, as he promised, Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world (Mt. 28: 20).”*

*The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, Franciscan Herald Press, 1976

Monday, August 3, 2009

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 9, 2009

Lectionary #116
1 Kings 19: 4-8
Ephesians 4: 30-5:2
John 6:41-51

This Sunday’s Scriptures begins with the story of Elijah, fleeing the anger of Ahab, King of Israel. To escape, he flees into the desert. We have already seen in the previous Sundays’ readings, what the desert meant to the early Israelites. The desert heat drained them of energy; its lack of food and water weakened them; the starkness of the desert frightened them. It has the same affect on Elijah, just one day’s journey into the desert, and he is ready to give up. He complains to God that he has suffered enough, and is ready for death.

Most of us have had a “desert” experience in our lives. The struggles, the challenges of daily life can sometimes drain us of life, of hope. Some of us may experience a life crisis, a burden that we find too hard to bear. Like the desert heat, life can sometimes beat down on us, so much so that sometimes we feel like giving in to the despair, the hopelessness. Or else, like the early Israelites, like Elijah, we want to give up the journey we began when we were baptized. We want to give in to the bitterness, the anger, the hatred.

In the Gospel, we hear Jesus’ response, “Stop murmuring..” As God did for Elijah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, comes to provide “the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.” Jesus Christ, “the living bread,” comes to feed us, to strengthen us, to renew the life within us, so that we will get up and begin the gospel journey again. As the bread Elijah ate, gave him the strength to reach Mount Horeb, where he encountered God; so to when we receive the Eucharist, we are united with God. Through the Son, our hope is renewed, the darkness of despair dispelled. Feed by the “living bread,” anger, bitterness, and hatred are removed, and kindness, compassion, and love are reborn.