In today’s Gospel we finish with John’s 6th chapter known as the Bread of Life discourse. We see where those who were ready to proclaim Jesus king just days before are now turning from Him because of His message. “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” we hear those around Him say. Christ’s message of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, in order to have life eternal, was repugnant to their sensibilities and heretical to their way of understanding their faith. The Jewish laws spoke sternly about blood, and eating human flesh was abominable. So in the span of a few spoken words they turned from their savior and they “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”
In a way those who turned from Jesus’ words are not any different from many of our friends and family – of our society in general. The message of Christ; proclaimed by His bride Holy Mother Church isn’t what they want to hear – it isn’t what they expect their messiah to say. It doesn’t meet with their vision of salvation. It isn’t the God they want!
The Gospel message of salvation and Love is not comfortable and easy – it is radical and intrusive on our lives. We are meant to change if we dare to follow. I believe that it this reason why so many in society ridicule and attack our faith. They find it too hard and therefore deny its value. They attack any and all who proclaim it fearlessly because it just might become popular. They try to push it to the back of society so that it will have no effect.
Then there are those within our faith, walking beside us, that shrink from the reaction of society. They try to put Christ’s teaching within the trendy and fashionable ideas of our times. They water-down the message so it seems more palatable – rationalize it with the modern mindset of relativism. In short, they try to take the Word and make it likeable.
Brothers and sisters, I ask each of you, within your hearts – is this what Christ wants? Does He want us to take the truth and change it so that it is more acceptable to everyone? Does He want us to take His message and make it easy to follow; or does He want us to proclaim the Truth? Do we want to be liked by those around us at the risk of our and their eternal salvation; or do we, like St Peter, say to Christ “You have the words of eternal life.We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” and so, become in our generation a voice for God and proclaim the Way, the Truth and the Life.
On the front door of our home is a plaque with my answer which we heard in our first reading from Joshua: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” How about you?
En el evangelio de hoy terminamos con el capítulo sexto de Juan conocido como el discurso de Pan de Vida. Vemos que aquellos que estaban dispuestos a proclamar a Jesús como Rey tan sólo unos días, ahora se van de él debido a su mensaje. “Este modo de hablar es intolerable, ¿quién puede admitir eso?” oímos a los que le rodeaban decir. El mensaje de Cristo de comer su carne y beber su sangre, para tener la vida eterna, repugnaba a su sensibilidad y su forma de entender su fe. Las leyes judías hablaban con severidad sobre la sangre y comer carne humana era abominable. Así que en el lapso de unas pocas palabras habladas se apartaron de su salvador y ellos “volvieron a su antigua forma de vida y ya no lo acompañaron”.
En cierto modo los que se apartaron de las palabras de Jesús no son diferentes a muchos de nuestros amigos y familiares – de nuestra sociedad en general. El mensaje de Cristo, proclamado por Su Santa Iglesia no es lo que ellos quieren oír – no es lo que esperan que su Mesías diga. No satisface a su visión de la salvación. No es el Dios que ellos quieren!
El mensaje del Evangelio de salvación y el amor no es cómodo ni fácil – es radical e intrusivo en nuestras vidas. Se supone que debemos cambiar si nos atrevemos a seguir. Creo que esta razón por la que muchos en ridículo la sociedad y atacar nuestra fe. Les resulta muy difícil y por lo tanto negar su valor. Atacan a todo el que proclame sin temor porque puede llegar a ser popular. Tratan de empujar a la parte posterior de la sociedad para que no tenga ningún efecto.
Luego hay quienes dentro de nuestra fe, caminan junto a nosotros, que se encogen ante la reacción de la sociedad. Intentan poner la enseñanza de Cristo dentro de las ideas de moda y moda de nuestros tiempos. Ellos quieren cambiar el mensaje para hacerlo que parezca más aceptable – racionalizarlo con la mentalidad moderna del relativismo. En pocas palabras, tratan de llevar la Palabra y hacerla agradable.
Hermanos y hermanas, pido a cada uno de ustedes, en sus corazones – esto será lo que Cristo quiere? ¿Quiere que tomemos la verdad y la acomodemos para que sea más aceptable para todo el mundo? ¿Él quiere que llevemos su mensaje y lo hagamos más fácil de seguir, o quiere que proclamemos la verdad? ¿Queremos agradar a los que nos rodean, a riesgo de nuestra salvación, o como San Pedro, dice a Cristo “Tú tienes palabras de vida eterna;y nosotros creemos y sabemos que tú eres el Santo de Dios. “ Y así, ser en nuestra generación la voz de Dios y proclamar el Camino, la Verdad y la Vida.
En la puerta de mi casa esta una placa con mi respuesta que escuchamos en nuestra primera lectura de Josué: “En cuanto a mí toca, mi familia y yo serviremos al Señor”. ¿Yque tal ustedes?
Father Martis is fond of telling those he speaks to (and I am paraphrasing here) that the Mass isn’t some trendy entertainment that wows us. It is a solid, rhythmic, almost plodding event that lends itself to, indeed demands, continual reflection and observation by those participating. And because of this we are constantly surprising ourselves with insights and understanding – and this lasts for our lifetime.
It is an amazing place to be kneeling behind father during the consecration of the bread and wine. I don’t see his face as he leans forward and says the words of consecration; it gives me a profound feeling of the divine coming upon the altar, through father. As I look over his right shoulder and watch as he lifts up the up consecrated host and then the Chalice containing Christ I am very aware of the offering Christ is making to His Father on our behalf – the sight is very tangible and powerful. At this point in the Mass I am always humbled by the intimate relationship my God has with me.
But, back to Father Martis’ description of the Mass – this week I have come to realize just how ‘Marian’ the act of consecration is. This past Wednesday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Virgin Mary into Heaven, and today we hear Jesus tell those following Him “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” Last evening, as I looked up at Jesus’ body in the appearance of bread being elevated by Father David; I was struck with our Holy Father’s words concerning the Solemnity of the Assumption ‘“Mary was “taken up” to the very place from which her Son had “come down.”’ Jesus comes down to us, through Mary, He gets His physical body through His mother, and it is this body that he feeds us with. From this body, from the flesh created within Mary we can receive eternal life. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” We hear Christ tell us.
But last night it dawned on me; in a very special way, we are also receiving Mary. Through her fiat her flesh brings to life the human form of God. In the same way that parents say that their children are the flesh of their flesh, her very being is part of the Eucharist along with her son, as her prayer is one with her son, and her love for each of us is one with her son. While still looking at the elevated Christ I was surprised and humbled by the intimate relationship Holy Mary has with me. Her intimate union with her Son continues in the Eucharist and through His grace it flows to us as well.
With all of this going through my mind last evening; I thought it is no wonder that Christ lifted to Heaven the body of the woman who gave Him His.
It is interesting to note that in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. John (the discourse on the bread of life) those who Jesus is preaching to are looking for answers; answers to their state in life, answers to what is in their future, answers about God. But when they are given the answer they are shocked, disappointed – they murmur. They are rejecting outright the words of the man that they have followed – the man they saw perform miracles – the man who, up until this discourse, they were ready to proclaim king. Their hearts were not ready for the message of eternal happiness. It seems that the message they were expecting needed to fit into their preconceived idea of what it was to be; and since it wasn’t, they were scandalized.
From that day forward, until now, the gospel message has been met with doubt, rejection, ridicule because it doesn’t fit the paradigms of the societies that it was proclaimed in. It isn’t a timely and trendy message that reinforces people’s opinion of themselves. And this is due, in part, to the lack of proclaimers, lack of true witnesses to the light of God’s message.
Today we finish up the celebration of our Patron – St. Dominic. A man who in the 13th century went about Southern France, parts of Italy and Spain witnessing to the Gospel. He went through regions where the paradigms of the people were, at best indifferent to the Gospel and at worst, heretical. He called to conversion of heart those he met – and he was successful. He is a model for us – in this anti-Gospel time – a role model on how to preach with our lives and words. A role-model on how to live a Eucharist centered life; how to take nourishment from our God to strengthen us in the mission of proclaiming the truth. For indeed, the ability to proclaim the Gospel is dependent on the strength given us from the Eucharist – because they are the one and the same. Christ is the Word and Christ is the Eucharist. Jesus is the Truth and our nourishment. However, how we use this strength given to us determines our witness – do we allow Christ to nourish and lead us or do we receive the Eucharist to let it waste away in the darkness of hearts not ready to proclaim the Gospel.
Today’s Prayer after Communion is very appropriate for us today, and every day for that matter.
May the communion in your Sacrament
that we have consumed, save us, O Lord,
and confirm us in the light of your truth.
On this Solemnity of St Dominic we look back at our Patron’s life with more urgency than in the past. St Dominic lived in the late 12th and early 13th century and throughout Europe the people were turning from the true Church and falling into lax practices and apathy. St Dominic himself, on his first mission outside of Spain, witnessed in Southern France the damage done by the Albigensian Heresy, a dualistic theology which saw the physical world as corrupt, a creation of Satan and the spiritual world as good, created by God. And despite attempts by the Church to re-evangelize these people the heresy, thrived. Fr. Dominic de Guzman, with his zeal for the Lord and for the Lord’s people decided to address this problem – in another way. He went through the region, not living apart from the people and just preaching to them about the error of their ways; but living among them and showing by example and words what the Church was truly about. It was during these years in Southern France that St Dominic realized the need for a new stream of spirituality, one of simplicity, continual learning and spiritual poverty that would witness to the Lord’s plan. Along with another great saint of his day, St Francis of Assisi he understood that living among the people was the way to their hearts and minds; that this ministry was the way to bring the people to Christ and Christ to the people.
Today, we see the same general malaise in our society and lax spiritual awareness of God’s plan. We are living in a time that is seeing an almost reverse Albigensian heresy – where materiality and our successes with it are viewed as the ultimate good; and things spiritual are viewed as restrictive and almost evil. And even though the disease of the soul is different; the answer is still the same. We need, by our witness of our lives and our words, to bring Christ to the people and people to Christ.
Events in the past few years have shown us that society is still in need of true knowledge, simply explained and radically lived. It is up to us, believers in the Gospel, to shine the light of love on our land, as did St Dominic in his time. But to do this best, we need to challenge ourselves to learn the faith of our Fathers, the faith of the Church, the true message of Christ as proclaimed by His bride. In October of this year the Year of Faith is beginning, and we are urged by our Holy Father to dig deeply into this rich deposit of God’s plan; to learn about our faith not only to deepen our understanding but to re-evangelize the world. May the intercessions of our Patron St Dominic de Guzman to our Heavenly Father bring us the resolve, courage and strength to go out and proclaim the Gospel with the same spirit of wisdom and understanding that was given to him.
Our salvation is brought to us by God’s grace, but it is maintained by our cooperation. We are all aware of this – left to ourselves we can’t obtain eternal life in heaven – only by God’s gift can we enter our home. However, it isn’t a free ride – St Paul tells the Philippians and us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. St James tells us in his letter: “Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him.” In today’s second reading St Paul tells the Ephesians: “that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
We are called to participate in our own salvation, our action is required. In short God calls us home to Himself but He never said it would be an easy trip. Our fallen nature makes us look for the easy way – as today’s first reading from Exodus highlights. The Jews, being freed from slavery under the Egyptians by God, look back to their subjugated, but comparatively easy, life as the better way than walking forward with God through tough times. “Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!” they lamented.
Throughout our history mankind would rather live in the squalor and darkness of sin because it is easy; then try to move forward into the loving embrace of our God; because that takes work, brings the pain of self-awareness and radical personal improvement, and calls us to feel for others. But ultimately, we must endure the desert of our fallen lives and the journey through it to our real life with our Creator. There is no other way.
However, today’s Gospel highlights we are not called to endure our journey through our desert alone. God walks with us. Christ, Himself, stands with us; indeed He feeds us with His Body and Blood. We have the gift of divine nourishment to strengthen us on our way. It just takes our self-surrender to the loving help God.
“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Jesus tells us. Have faith, take what I give you; trust it will be enough – for it is. All we have to do is open the eyes of our hearts and see what is taking place on this Altar at every Mass; see the gift from God. When we do, never will we have to ask what those people in the Gospel asked Christ “Sir, give us this bread always.” Because we see the Bread of Life come down from heaven and we partake and never hunger, never thirst and are strengthened to participate in our journey of salvation.