Homily for the twentieth Sunday of the year - Year B - Jn. 6:51-58


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Jesus said: 'I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.' The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.' "





Homily :


"Jesus said: 'I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."


Today we continue with our commentary on the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Saint John. Today's passage speaks exclusively of communion with Christ, the Bread of Life come down from Heaven. But, what is communion with Christ? What is eucharistic communion?


Eucharistic communion is, first of all, a means of salvation: "the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." It is the most effective means of salvation, for this means is the sacrament of He who is the very Savior of the World: Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is not only a sacrament which confers grace upon he who receives it: it is the sacrament of the very author of grace: Jesus, the Son of God. In the Eucharist, God is truly present among us and in us!


For this reason, all the other sacraments are directed to the Eucharist. Baptism and confirmation prepare us to receive the Eucharist; penance and the sacrament of the sick complete our preparation for the reception of the Eucharist; the sacrament of holy orders makes it possible for the ordained ministers to truly exercise their power to consecrate the Eucharistic bread and wine; marriage signifies, in an anticipatory manner, the spousal union of Christ and the Church at the end of time, a union already realized by Eucharistic communion.


"The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' "


There is much to discuss about this, it is true... But isn't this a question which unceasingly returns to our thoughts? How can it be that...? How is it possible that...? How will God ...? How? How? How? Always the same question... Why? Because faith is completely lacking, or is partially lacking. It is like when Peter began to walk on the water of the lake, in accordance with the command of Jesus, and then started to sink into the waves, because he had doubted, to no matter how small an extent, the power of the Master: "So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me.' Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, 'O man of little faith, why did you doubt?' " (Mt. 14:29-31)


We must believe what Jesus says. There is no other solution. There is no other means of salvation. Jesus is God and he speaks the Truth. And it is precisely because Jesus is God that he can give us his flesh to eat! For Jesus came to earth to reveal to us the Father, his Father, who is in Heaven. If Jesus can reveal the Father in this way, it is because he is the Image of the Father, "the image of invisible God." (Col. 1:15) In this sense, Jesus acts, with respect to us, as if he himself were the Father. So, as the Father gives life to his Son, similarly, Jesus, the Bread of Life on earth, gives life to all those who welcome him, and who thus become "children of God" (Jn. 1:12). Did not Saint Paul, in imitation of Christ, declare himself to be a true father to all those to whom he had begotten in Christ? "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel." (1 Co. 4:15)


Speaking of the Father and his Son Jesus, dare we say: "Like father, like son"? In any case, both of them give life and beget for the sake of our eternal life: the Father begets his Son; and Jesus, the Bread of Life, begets sons and daughters in a communion of faith and love which saves forever!


"So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.' "


The response of Jesus to the questions of the Jews is clear: it confirms what we have just said. Jesus acts towards us as the Father acts towards him: "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me." What takes place eternally within the Divine Trinity is realized in time at the moment of eucharistic communion. One is the model, the other the 'carbon copy'. The model and the copy are, ultimately, but a single Mystery: that of the divine Trinitarian Life in which man is invited to participate through faith, hope, and charity.


There is no possible doubt, the Trinitarian allusion is clear: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." Elsewhere, Jesus said, speaking of the Father and himself: "Philip! He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father?' Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?" (Jn. 14:9-10) Here, we are truly at the heart of communion with Jesus, of the union of the human creature with his Creator in the sacramental act of eucharistic communion! Here, we are truly at the heart of the Mystery, the Mystery of faith and love which, if we are not careful, may truly scandalize us, just as it scandalized the Jews who listened to Jesus at that time.


"He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." That Jesus-Eucharist abides in us is something difficult to believe, certainly, but it is something we can easily imagine, since we do take the Bread of Life in our hands and place it in our mouth to eat it. But that we abide in Jesus, and thus in God by the fact of communing of the Eucharist, this is something that we undoubtedly accept and believe, but not without difficulty. For it implies a reality which is identical to that of the coming of Christ in us: in order for us to abide in God, we too must be Bread of Life and food for Christ, we too must give each other our flesh for the salvation of the world!


All of this shows that, in order to commune of the Eucharist, we must first be the Body of Christ ourselves: only those who are the Church on earth, only those who already commune of the Savior of the world through faith and through sanctifying grace, they alone may approach the Holy Altar and receive within themselves the Body of Christ. It is thus that the Church, the Body of Christ in the Spirit, grows and strengthens itself unceasingly for the Glory of the Father who is in Heaven!


" 'This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.' "


Let us thank the Lord, through Mary, for having allowed us to be alive today! For the Bread of Life is there, very near us, within our reach, and God chose us so that we might receive it within ourselves each day of our life. "This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." If we eat of this bread, we will live forever! This is my wish for us all! Amen!



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