20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7 (9a)
August 19, 2018
Last week we heard about how the Jews murmured about Jesus saying, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They thought it was impossible for him to have come down from Heaven because they knew him as son of Joseph and Mary.
This week we hear the that “The Jews quarreled among themselves,” because Jesus told them that he will give his “flesh for the life of the world.” This didn’t make sense to them. How could he do this? Why would he want to? Even if he could, taking at face value, it would sound like cannibalism. That’s disgusting.
Jesus goes on to say that we must “drink his blood.” That too would seem disgusting. Speaking in terms of the Jewish law, Deuteronomy 12:23 prohibited the drinking of the blood of the animals. To do so was to take on the life force of the animal.
This is exactly why we need to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood but not in the sense that the Jews are thinking. We come to receive the Eucharist to become more like Jesus.
Before we fault the Jews for not getting this, we need to realize that they do not have the perspective that we have. We know what Jesus is talking about to be the Eucharist. The Jews knew nothing of the Eucharist as the bread of life. How could Jesus’ words to eat his flesh and drink his blood make sense to anyone except in the light of the Eucharist.
Many will leave from the crowd and turn to their former way of life because of their inability to understanding what Jesus says his Bread of Life Discourse. I wonder why they never said to Jesus, “What do you mean? This makes no sense to us.”
Wisdom starts with admitting that we don’t know everything. Do we understand all that Jesus says? Do we really think that we can fully comprehend God, God who is infinite, God who is all-knowing?
I don’t think so. We need to open ourselves to “make the most of the opportunity” that God gives us to “not continue in ignorance.” So, we must “try to understand what is the will of the LORD.”
Yet, we must accept that we will not always understand. Some of the people left because they did not understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
I think the same is true today. Many of those who leave the Catholic Church do so because they don’t understand the mysteries of our faith. People want clear and factual knowledge.
There is no clear and factual knowledge of how the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. There is no change in what we see or the chemical make-up of the bread and wine.
That’s because the change does not happen on a physical level. We are called to believe in the mystery of the Eucharist not because of scientific evidence but because of Jesus’ own words at the Last Supper when he said, “this is my body….this is my blood.”
Why does he give us his flesh and blood? Again, the answer comes in Jesus’ own words, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” The food we most need is food for eternal life, food for our soul.
It takes an act of faith. Next week we will hear that many of the disciples left because they couldn’t understand. When Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave? Simon Peter answered, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Peter didn’t understand but he did believe. We are called to do the same.
What we celebrate in the Eucharist is a mystery. We come into the church from a physical world. In faith we are called to look beyond the physical. We may not understand the Real Presence in human terms. Even before we come to the Eucharist, we might struggle some to understand what we hear in the readings at Mass. What does this mean for us today?
To open ourselves to what God offers us at Mass, I encourage you to put a little preparation into it. Look at the readings before or after Mass and ask God to help you understand. I encourage you to come early enough for Mass to say a prayer before we Mass begins to ask God to help you open yourself to what He offers you. We come here in faith but a faith that might not be perfect. When your faith seems weak, pray the words of the father of the boy with the demon, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
It is Jesus in the Eucharist!