PS: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Picture: 
I am the Bread of Life
Body: 

Each week, a Dominican member of the Provincial Preaching Advisory board prepares this Preacher’s Sketchbook in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Mass. The idea of the Preacher’s Sketchbook is to take quotations from the authority of the Church–the Pope, the Fathers of the Church, documents of the Councils, the saints–that can help spark ideas for the Sunday homily. Just as an artist’s sketchbook preserves ideas for later elaboration, so we hope the Preacher’s Sketchbook will provide some ideas for homiletical elaboration.

Sketchbook

Paul VI, Dignitatis humanae, 10

It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man’s response to God in faith must be free: no one therefore is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will. This doctrine is contained in the word of God and it was constantly proclaimed by the Fathers of the Church. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act. Man, redeemed by Christ the Savior and through Christ Jesus called to be God’s adopted son, cannot give his adherence to God revealing Himself unless, under the drawing of the Father, he offers to God the reasonable and free submission of faith. It is therefore completely in accord with the nature of faith that in matters religious every manner of coercion on the part of men should be excluded. In consequence, the principle of religious freedom makes no small contribution to the creation of an environment in which men can without hindrance be invited to the Christian faith, embrace it of their own free will, and profess it effectively in their whole manner of life.

John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 16-17

The saving efficacy of the sacrifice is fully realized when the Lord’s body and blood are received in communion. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through communion; we receive the very One who offered himself for us, we receive his body which he gave up for us on the Cross and his blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26,28). We are reminded of his words: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (Jn 6,57). Jesus himself reassures us that this union, which he compares to that of the life of the Trinity, is truly realized. The Eucharist is a true banquet, in which Christ offers himself as our nourishment. When for the first time Jesus spoke of this food, his listeners were astonished and bewildered, which forced the Master to emphasize the objective truth of his words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you” (Jn 6,53). This is no metaphorical food: “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (Jn 6,55).

Through our communion in his body and blood, Christ also grants us his Spirit. Saint Ephrem writes: “He called the bread his living body and he filled it with himself and his Spirit… He who eats it with faith, eats Fire and Spirit… Take and eat this, all of you, and eat with it the Holy Spirit. For it is truly my body and whoever eats it will have eternal life”. The Church implores this divine Gift, the source of every other gift, in the Eucharistic epiclesis. In the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, for example, we find the prayer: “We beseech, implore and beg you: send your Holy Spirit upon us all and upon these gifts… that those who partake of them may be purified in soul, receive the forgiveness of their sins, and share in the Holy Spirit”. And in the Roman Missal the celebrant prays: “grant that we who are nourished by his body and blood may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ”. Thus by the gift of his body and blood Christ increases within us the gift of his Spirit, already poured out in Baptism and bestowed as a “seal” in the sacrament of Confirmation.

Benedict XVI, Cologne, August 21, 2005

Yesterday evening we came together in the presence of the Sacred Host, in which Jesus becomes for us the bread that sustains and feeds us (cf. Jn 6,35), and there we began our inner journey of adoration. In the Eucharist, adoration must become union.

At the celebration of the Eucharist, we find ourselves in the “hour” of Jesus, to use the language of John’s Gospel. Through the Eucharist this “hour” of Jesus becomes our own hour, his presence in our midst. Together with the disciples he celebrated the Passover of Israel, the memorial of God’s liberating action that led Israel from slavery to freedom. Jesus follows the rites of Israel. He recites over the bread the prayer of praise and blessing.

But then something new happens. He thanks God not only for the great works of the past; he thanks him for his own exaltation, soon to be accomplished through the Cross and Resurrection, and he speaks to the disciples in words that sum up the whole of the Law and the Prophets: “This is my Body, given in sacrifice for you. This cup is the New Covenant in my Blood”. He then distributes the bread and the cup, and instructs them to repeat his words and actions of that moment over and over again in his memory.

Benedict XVI, Ancona, September 11, 2011

Jesus anticipated the act of supreme love, obedience to the Father’s will: the sacrifice of the Cross. His life will be taken on the Cross, but he was already offering it himself. So it is that Christ’s death is not reduced to a violent execution but was transformed by him into a free act of love, of self-giving, which passed through death itself victoriously and reaffirmed the goodness of creation that came from God’s hands, that was humiliated by sin and redeemed at last. This immense gift is accessible to us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. God gives himself to us, to open our life to him, to involve it in the mystery of love of the Cross, to make it share in the eternal mystery from which we come, and to anticipate the new condition of full life in God, of which we in live expectation.

Yet what does starting from the Eucharist in order to reaffirm God’s primacy entail for our daily life? Eucharistic communion, dear friends, wrenches us from our individualism, communicates to us the spirit of Christ dead and risen, and conforms us to him. It closely unites us with our brethren in that mystery of communion, which is the Church, where the one Bread makes many one body (1Co 10,17), fulfilling the prayer of the Christian community recorded in the Book of the Didaché: “As this broken bread was once scattered on the mountains and after it had been brought together became one, so may your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth unto your kingdom” (ix, 4).

The Eucharist sustains and transforms the whole of daily life. As I recalled in my first Encyclical: “Eucharistic communion includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn”, therefore, “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented” (Deus Caritas Est).

Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, OP