Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Proverbs 9:1-6
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-7
Second Reading: St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 5:15-20
Gospel: According to St. John 6:51-58
This week we come to the penultimate reading from the “Bread of Life” discourse, the heart of the writing of St. John. Here we begin to see the difficulties Jesus caused when He said:
“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.”
The Jews quarrel over His words, and it seems that this would be the perfect time for Jesus to clarify, to explain, or even to go so far as to say that He was speaking metaphorically and that there were subtle nuances in the language that He chose. Jesus understands what the situation needs and so He follows up with:
“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.”
There, that was sure to calm the crowd.
Jesus wanted to be totally and completely clear about the message that was heard. If you were going to continue to follow Him you knew exactly what He was preaching and there was absolutely no wiggle-room when it came to understanding His point about the Bread of Life.
The belief that what we experience in the Eucharist is indeed all that Jesus proclaimed it to be has been part of this most important dogmatic teaching of the Church since the very beginning. Through the centuries there have been various Eucharistic miracles that point to the Real Presence of Jesus in the host, and the tradition of Eucharistic Adoration is a testament to this enduring belief. Those on the outside see it as idolatry – the worshiping of a piece of bread, but we who take Jesus at His word see beyond the sensory image of bread to the Messiah who truly resides in the humble host.
Anyone who has experienced Eucharistic Adoration has an understanding of this miraculous presence of our Lord, visible under the guise of a simple piece of bread. To sit in a chapel, like that of the Poor Clares on Rocky River Drive in West Park, and simply be with Jesus is to be filled with such calmness and peace that the madness and the discord of the outside world simply fade from the mind, the heart and the soul. I have taken students to this chapel while on retreat, and they expressed feeling a true closeness with Jesus and asked why no one ever told them about such a profound form of prayer.
How wonderful that the Church, guided for over two millennia by the Holy Spirit, made the choice that must seem to many as total madness, the choice to take the words of Jesus seriously. It has given us the daily miracle of the Eucharist and the equally miraculous and totally real ability to sit in the presence of Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration.
The Second Vatican Council called the Eucharist “the fount and apex of the whole Christian life,” and with good reason for it connects us in a real and sacramental way with our Lord Jesus Christ. To avail ourselves of this “fount and apex” is to be called by that same Lord to live forever in that peace and calm that only God can give.