Message: As Pope Benedict says, the Eucharist is like
inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being.
Last weekend we had a treat: Deacon Patrick Sherrard
visited us and preached a fine homily on the Eucharist. Today we pick up that same theme as we enter the fourth dimension of the Eucharist. The first three dimensions are: food, faith and forgiveness. You notice that each begins with the letter “f”. Same with the fourth dimension, but unlike food, faith and forgiveness, it is not a word found in the Bible. It might surprise you. The fourth dimension is: fission.
Pope Benedict used the word “fission” when explaining the Eucharist to young people at World Youth Day. He asks: How can bread become Jesus’ Body given for us? How can wine become his Blood poured out for our sins? Pope Benedict answers: “To use an image well known to us today, this is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being.”
In high school science we learned about fission. It involves unleashing the energy inside matter. When I did research for this homily, I learned that one kilogram of uranium can produce as much energy as 1500 metric tons of coal. What looks like a an humble rock has enormous power inside.
Just so, says Pope Benedict, Jesus’ death “on the outside is simply brutal violence – the crucifixion – from within it becomes an act of total self-giving love.” Jesus renews that self-giving in the Eucharist. When the priest lifts up the host and says, this is my Body given for you – and the chalice, this is my blood poured out for you – Jesus draws us into his self-offering. By his cross he takes us to the Father in the Spirit.
You might protest: But I am a sinner. I am terribly distracted. So were the disciples at the Last Supper. Soon they even started dozing off!
Jesus takes us to the Father with our sins. Last week St. Paul gave us a list of common sins: bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling and malice. Those failings afflict us, but you know Jesus still wants to take us to the Father. The forgiveness – the acceptance – we experience in the Eucharist can remake us. The Eucharist is the great sacrament of forgiveness. You may get down on yourself, maybe even feel worthless and miserable, but God does not see it that way.
Think about this: If God put so much potential in a rock, how much potential has he put in you? A kilogram of uranium can give light and warmth to an entire city. Consider what God can do with you.
Some of you, like me, are astronomy fans. You know the New Horizon spacecraft is discovering amazing things about Pluto, the solar system and the universe. But we have something more amazing much closer. The American physicist, Michio Kaku, said, “Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.” God has put enormous potential in bodies, especially the part we least utilize – our brains. (smile) To unlock that potential God wants to give us something even greater – the Body of Christ.
Jesus tells us today that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. It only makes sense when you think about. You and I are composite beings: matter and spirit. Jesus who is God from God entered our material reality. He did not take up a human body, then discard it. No, he rose bodily from the dead. He gives us his body so we might have eternal life.
Before I conclude I would like address a painful question. What about those who long to receive Communion, but are presently unable? The Synod of Bishops in October may address this issue, but I want to say this. As a priest these people who long for the Eucharist inspire me. Often you and I can become casual about receiving Communion, take it for granted. These beautiful souls have so much to teach us.*
For sure we can treat Communion as simple bread and wine. We need to look deeper. As Pope Benedict says, the Eucharist is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being. Food, faith, forgiveness and fission. Next Sunday we will see the fifth dimension of the Eucharist.
For now let’s remember those beautiful words of our first reading. “Wisdom…has spread her table.” Yes, “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Amen.
*We can learn from Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta) who said: “The Lord is present in the tabernacle in His divinity and His humanity. He is not there for Himself, but for us: for it is His joy to be with us. He knows that we, being as we are, need to have Him personally near. As a result, anyone with normal thoughts and feelings will naturally be drawn to spend time with Him, whenever possible and as much as possible.” (Gesammelte Werke VII, 136ff.)
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
August 16, 2015
Twentieth Sunday: John 6 Part 4: The Dynamic Presence
This week we come to the climax of John 6. But this is not the last Sunday that we have a reading from this chapter. Next week we’ll consider the disciples suggestion that Jesus “tone down” his teaching. That’s the conclusion. Today we have the climax.
John 6 is about sustenance. It is about eating. It is about nourishment. It is about the Eucharist.
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 6: 51–58
The eight verses that constitute today’s gospel reading represent the climax of the lengthy Bread of Life Discourse in Chapter six of John’s gospel. The first fifty verses have been concerned with the spiritual nourishment that Jesus has brought into our spiritually famished world. In fact, Jesus declares, in verse 35, that he is “the bread of life,” that is, the nourishment that provides the kind of spiritual life that cannot be threatened by illness or death. He makes it clear, however, that this nourishment is available only to those who believe in him, that is, to those who accept and adopt in their lives his teaching about unselfish love.
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)—August 16, 2015
When Jesus told the crowd who followed Him that He had come down “from heaven,” they murmured in curiosity. Today, He tells them something that caused quarreling to break out. What was it?
Gospel (Read Jn 6:51-58)
As we noted last Sunday, Jesus engaged in a long discussion about “bread from heaven” with Jews who thought He might be the Messiah. They likely hoped that Jesus would do as Moses had done and cause bread to rain from above, proving Himself as such. Today, the conversation takes a dramatic turn as Jesus adds another piece of information about this bread: “The bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.” What?
Do Catholics believe Jesus really is the Eucharist or a symbol?
The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is truly and completely present in the Eucharist. In John chapter 6 Jesus 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.
◾Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist: Basic Questions and Answers
The Lord Jesus, on the night before he suffered on the cross, shared one last meal with his disciples. During this meal our Savior instituted the sacrament of his Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages and to entrust to the Church his Spouse a memorial of his death and resurrection. As the Gospel of Matthew tells us: