20 Sun OT/Yr B/2015
(Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center)
Some of you might remember (from my time here as a Deacon in the summer of 2012) that I wasn’t raised Catholic. You were so wonderful to welcome my mother and grandmother among you – and I will be eternally grateful for that. They experienced the warmness and community of Catholic Christianity here as they have so many other places in our diocese. Louise, my Gammaw, even enjoyed crocheting with the Warm Up America group in that time. Though she’s gone on to the life to come, she remembered my time here warmly, and I do too.
And that’s saying something – because to many Christians around the world, we Catholics can seem strange. What’s common about the Christian faith is our solid belief and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to love and save us – to give us faith and grace in this life so that we might journey with Him toward life forever with the Father, Son and Spirit in the life to come. But what’s uncommon about the faith of the apostles that we practice with fidelity in the embrace of Mother Church is our complete devotion to the Eucharist as the Source and Summit or our life. Everything we have in this journey finds its origin and power and beauty in the Sacrifice of Christ made present on this altar when He makes Himself present in the bread and wine we offer to the Father and receive into our very selves. Everything we do and experience that’s part of our journey – the struggles and the victories, the mountains and the valleys, our wrestling with vice and growth in virtue – all of it leads us back to the same Jesus Christ who comes to be with us, body, blood, soul and divinity right here, right now, on this altar, at the hands of this unworthy priest.
Some people find it too much to take in – some find it too hard to believe – some find it hard to accept as anything more than symbol or allegory. And it’s been that way from the beginning. Next week we’ll hear that this teaching was too hard for some and many turned away. But we – you and I – we don’t turn away from this teaching. I was raised to believe that Sacred Scripture was the inspired word of God – that when Jesus said something, He meant it.
And so when the Lord began to call me into the Catholic Church, belief in the Eucharist wasn’t as big a challenge for me as I thought it might be. I turned to Sacred Scripture. I read the Lord Jesus say, “This is my body…” and “This is my blood…” And I realized – Jesus was a smart man and God incarnate; He knew how to choose His words, and those words were faithfully recorded in Scripture. If He’d wanted to say ‘This is a symbol of my body and blood,’ He would have said so. But He didn’t. He said ‘this is my body…’ And today he says, “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.” Not the bread that I will give is like my flesh…but the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.
That’s something isn’t it? Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Friends – I’m new at this ‘priesting’ thing, and I have a ton to learn. I can’t wait to learn along with you. I can’t wait to learn from you. But even though I’m new at this priesting thing, there’s one thing I’ve discovered along the way that shows itself to be true over and over again in every parish I’ve ever encountered: if you look around this room and make a list of those who seem to have a lot of life within them…you’ll always find women and men who believe in the divine presence of Christ in the Eucharist without any qualification or hesitation.
Go ahead and give it a shot – look around this Church right now and make a list in your mind of those who seem to be so alive in life and faith and love and service to the poor & marginalized that they’re almost vibrating with it – notice those folks whose joy in the Lord Jesus and the Gospel is completely evident and contagious, and who being in their presence sets you on fire with love for God neighbor…and you’ll see. The names you’re calling to mind right now are women and men whose belief in the Lord Jesus Christ come to abide with us in the Eucharist, come to strengthen and empower us in the Eucharist, and call us into mission in and through the Eucharist – their belief is so solid and evident that they have that life within them Jesus was talking about so much so that it is noticeable to everyone they meet…so much so that it changes everyone they meet…
I’m in love with the Lord Jesus Christ, and I know you are too. We are a family of faith committed 110% to being a beacon of love, and service, and faith to a world and a city and a campus in need. We are a people who seek the Lord with our whole body, and mind and soul – and where we realize we fall short of that complete falling head over heels in love with Jesus Christ – when we fall short, all we have to do is turn our focus and attention right back here, right back to this altar, right back to the tabernacle, right back to the Eucharist. Because when we take Jesus at His word – He shows us that He’s as deeply in love with us as we are called to be with Him. And flowing from our encounter with Him in the Eucharist, His divine life swells up within us, and pours out as joy and peace and service…and life.