19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19: 4 – 8; Ps 34; Ephesians 4: 30 – 5: 2; John 6: 41 – 51
When Jesus first proclaimed, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”, there was an immediate controversy. We heard the heated reaction of the people; how could He claim to have down from heaven since they knew, lived among His relatives? It was preposterous, even blasphemous!
Their reaction gives Jesus an opportunity to proclaim a truth that goes well beyond the present situation of murmuring and disbelief. He teaches this, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” What Jesus has proclaimed about Himself, “I am the bread that came down from heaven” – is beyond human reasoning, beyond logic but never beyond the gift of faith which is always the result of the Father drawing you, me, any of us.
We believe that Jesus’ word is truth because God does not deceive; therefore, as Catholics, it is our belief, a belief that goes back to the very words of Jesus, that He, being the Bread of Life, gives us His very Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. In receiving Holy Communion we receive the very person of the Lord, not just some kind of symbol or reminder; we believe this and speak our belief when we say “Amen” to the words “The Body of Christ” – “The Blood of Christ”. That simple “Amen” is possible only because the Father draws us into faith, fills us with His Spirit.
Let us consider Jesus’ words because they are about us here and now gathered in this Abbey church. “I am the bread that came down from heaven” and “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him or her.” What is behind this living bread and this drawing action of the Father? It can be stated in three words: “God is love.”
The awesome reality of God’s love, the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is present among us and in us as we celebrate this Eucharist. We come in faith to celebrate our faith and hopefully leave, strengthened in faith – faith in God who is love, the love embracing us at this very moment.
We gather here today as men and women loved by God into a very personal relationship that affects our lives and will never come to an end. Do you, do I truly believe this? Let us not answer this too quickly because it just may be that in my, in your heart there is some doubt or, at least, some uncertainty.
It happened that a faithful member of a prayer group who showed every sign of belief, of devotion yet after the celebration of Mass and the reception of Holy Communion looking at the huge crucifix admitted, “I don’t believe that God loves me!” How do I know this? I was there and celebrated the Mass. So this person’s faith life was, in reality, a kind of bribe to get God’s love – a love this person already had but, for whatever reason, did not recognize it and longed for it.
So, is it possible for a priest to celebrate Mass every day for years and struggle with this seemingly absence of God’s love? Is it possible for a monk, a nun with solemn vows to carry in the heart a lingering feeling that God’s personal love is not theirs? Is it possible that someone here today, participating in prayer and hymn, who will approach to receive the Holy Eucharist feels deprived of God’s love – something never admitted to another? My brothers and sisters, anything is possible. Holy Orders, Consecrated Life, Baptism are not magic – we are human and in our history there are events that affect our relating with others, with ourselves, with God Himself – events that can and do diminish, limit, color belief.
Jesus’ words: ““No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws that person” – speaks of the passion of God for us, His sons a daughters – for us here and now. The words of Jesus we hear today are about us, each one of us, no exceptions. It is God’s will, His decision, desire, passion to draw each person to Himself because He is love and we have been created to know this love in a most personal way. I repeat: it is God’s will and shortly, in the Our Father, we pray, “Your will be done!”
Today, we have been drawn here to hear His words addressed to each one personally as if no one else existed – words addressed with a passion beyond comprehension: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.”
Is it worth our effort to pray daily to be convinced more and more of God’s love for you, for me? Is this love of God worth it? What do you think?