Sunday, September 19, 2021

True Greatness

 

Homily for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sept. 23, 2018. Readings - Letter of St. James 3:16-4:3; Gospel of St. Mark 9:30-37. Theme: True Greatness 

Today’s Gospel begins where we left off last Sunday: with Jesus affirming to his disciples that He is, indeed the Christ, the Anointed One, the Promised Messiah. And even though He told them quite clearly – for the second time now - that He was going to be arrested, tortured and killed they still didn’t get it. The idea of a Messiah being overcome by his adversaries was so far beyond their expectations that they just couldn’t imagine it. 

You see, like most devout Jews of their time, the Apostles were expecting the Messiah to be a mighty warrior-king. They expected him to lead a powerful army into Roman-occupied Jerusalem, where he would conquer the oppressors, take up his royal throne, and begin his glorious reign. And then those who were his intimate associates would be given power and prestige in his kingdom. They were most likely each imagining themselves in various roles of authority and boasting to the others about their potential for fame, greatness and success! We all engage in that kind of boasting and bragging at one time or another, and we all know way too well what usually fuels that sort of behavior: jealousy and envy. We quite often confuse these two words and use them interchangeably, but actually, while being related, they have different meanings. 

Jealousy is concerned about the talents or treasures that we ourselves possess. It opens us up to the dark side of human nature wherein we become suspicious of others and see people as rivals who want to take something or someone away from us and make it their own. Envy, on the other hand, has to do with another person’s talents and treasures. We see what another possesses - such as money, property, or even a relationship - and we want to take it from them. But it can go on to become a treacherous monster-within-us, by stirring up feelings of ill will towards the person or even tempting us to take steps towards making their downfall possible. In our second reading, St. James describes for us the rotten fruit that we produce when we allow jealousy and envy to have a place in our lives. They can become as destructive as a hurricane as they twist our souls out of shape and cause so much damage to us and those around us. If left unchecked they can become like two express lanes to hell, both hell-on-earth and hell-for-eternity. 

This is because they are the enemies of charity, which is the love that leads us to life with God, both here on earth and for eternity in Heaven. Charity, in its expression as love for God, has us counting our blessings with grateful hearts and thanking him for the talents and treasures he has given us. And in its expression as love for neighbor, it takes our eyes off of ourselves and what we possess and instead casts them upon the lives of those who are suffering, sick, poor or vulnerable in any way. Compassion and mercy take up the place in our souls that jealousy and envy would occupy if there was room. This is the message of Jesus which the disciples had heard many times. And yet they are arguing among themselves as if they had never heard his teachings at all. 

The intervention of Christ into their heated debate must have been an embarrassing occasion for those jealousy-driven and envious disciples. Notice how the Gospel tells us that they fell silent when he questioned them about it. Isn’t that how we all react when our unacceptable behavior is pointed out? I am sure they were also quite stunned and rather confused when Jesus made a child the symbol of those to be served in his kingdom! But that seems to be the way Jesus operates, doesn’t it? He challenges us to rethink our ideas and definitions in light of His truth, in accordance with his Gospel. He tells us to get used to seeing things very differently than how we had been doing. He calls us to rethink how we are living and to ponder what it really means for us to be successful, to be great in this life. 

Christ is teaching us in today’s Gospel that the greatest among us are the ones who put love into action by serving the least among us. This is why Jesus held up an insignificant child before the eyes of his disciples. You see, in their day a child was considered a nonperson with no civil rights, no claim to lawful protection, and no social status. And Jesus explicitly tells them to serve such as these. This forgetfulness of self, of ego, was the example given us by Jesus the Messiah, both by his life lived for others and by his death on the cross offered up for others. The mystic St. John of the Cross put it well when he wrote, “In the twilight of life God will not judge us on our earthly possessions or human success, but rather on how much and how well we have loved.”



Saturday, September 11, 2021

We Are All "Other Christs"!

 


Homily for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sept. 12, 2021. Gospel of St. Mark 8:27-35. Theme: We Are All “Other Christs”!

In today’s Gospel, we heard Peter say to Jesus, “You are the Christ.”  So, what exactly does that mean? When I was a kid I honestly thought it was his last name, you know...as in Jesus, Mary and Joseph Christ!   But it’s not a name at all. Rather, it’s a title and a very ancient one at that, going back several thousand years.

To understand its meaning we have to go to the very beginning of the Bible, to the story of Adam and Eve. Recall that through their free choice of autonomy from God the whole human race found itself in a state of spiritual alienation from our Creator.  Our Christian tradition has come to call this the original sin of Adam and Eve.  Through this original sin, chaos and confusion, suffering and sin entered into the human experience. And the gift of eternal life with God was also put into  jeopardy.  

In order for this sin to be forgiven and for this great spiritual wound in every human person to be healed, God promised to one day send a Savior, a Deliverer, who would set things right again. Just as Adam and Eve brought sin into the world through their selfishness and disobedience, so the Deliverer would bring salvation through his unselfishness and obedient love.  The prophets of Israel called this Promised One the MESSIAH.
 
In Hebrew, Messiah means “The Anointed One”. You see, in the Old Testament, those who were specially chosen by God to serve his people as priests, prophets and kings were anointed with holy oil as a sign of their mission.  Since the Savior was to be the greatest prophet, the holiest priest and the mightiest king, He was known as THE Messiah, THE Anointed One above all others. And so this is why Jesus alone received this most ancient title.
 
When Greek became the primary world language MESSIAH was translated into the Greek word, CHRISTOS which in English is CHRIST. And so there you have it. Christ means the Messiah, the Anointed One, the holiest prophet who would speak God’s Word to us; the most sacred priest who would enable us to offer true worship to God; the humble servant-king who would lead  us, not by strict domination like earthly kings, but by the example of loving service.
 
But now here’s an awesome truth that connects each one of us with the story of the Messiah.  We who are baptized share in Jesus’ consecration, dedication and mission as the Messiah, as the Christ.  Right after being baptized with water we were anointed with Chrism, the ancient sacred anointing oil.  And as we were anointed these words were prayed over us: "God now anoints you with the chrism of salvation as Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King…”  This is why we are called Christians.  Like Jesus we are Anointed Ones chosen by God the Father to become “other Christs” in this world.  We are anointed to speak God’s message as prophets, we are anointed to worship God as his priestly people, and we are anointed to show our love for God by serving our neighbor. 

But there is one more thing that comes into our lives because of our mission to be “other Christs” and that is the Cross.  For many Christians, the Cross has come to mean patience in trials and perseverance in suffering.  And that is certainly one of the positive inspirational meanings we can give to it in our lives.  But this is not what “the cross” meant to Jesus or to those who heard him speak about it. To understand more fully what Jesus meant we have to put ourselves into the mindset of those first century people living under Roman oppression. To them, “the cross” was a symbol of shame and public humiliation. To “carry one’s cross” meant to go to one’s death and to be ridiculed along the way.  What Jesus the Christ is telling us in today’s Gospel is that those who truly want to follow him in this life and into the Kingdom of Heaven must be willing to undergo public ridicule, humiliation and rejection because of our relationship with him.  

So the big question is: are we willing to take up the Cross and follow Jesus? The social and moral condition of our nation today certainly makes the public ridicule of the Cross a potential reality in our lives as Christians. Just about everything in our culture has found its way into opposition with Christ and his teachings. For example, abortion and euthanasia are upheld as patient rights while the Gospel tells us these are assaults on human life. Our Creator’s intentions for marriage and family have become twisted into distorted definitions and freestyle relationships. Educational institutions reject truth as something valid for all people and instead teach the politically correct propaganda of the day from kindergarten through graduate school. And there are many more examples that we all know way too well.  

Are we willing to take up the Cross and follow Jesus? Do we love God and neighbor enough to live out our mission as “other Christs”, as Anointed Ones who speak God’s message by our words and our behavior?  Our baptismal anointing is not a gift that God gives us for our own sakes.  We are called and anointed for the sake of others.  Each one of us has been anointed to live as “other Christs” among those with whom we live, work and socialize, so that by the power and witness of the Cross  we might help them to know, love and serve God in this life and then  be forever happy with him in the next.





Saturday, September 4, 2021

Ephphatha!

 

Homily for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Gospel of St. Mark 7:31-37 September 5, 2021. Theme: Ephphatha! 

There’s a strange but interesting Aramaic word in today’s Gospel: “Ephphatha”. It’s one of the very few original-language words we have preserved from the lips of Jesus. And as St. Mark tells us, it means “Be opened”. You know, this healing story has held such importance in Christianity that we still sacramentally re-enact it today at baptism during what is called the “Ephphatha Rite”. The baptizing minister touches the ears and mouth of the newly baptized while saying, “May the Lord Jesus, who made the deaf to hear and the mute to speak, grant that you may soon receive his Word with your ears and profess the Faith with your lips, to the glory and praise of God the Father.” 

Since Jesus worked so many miracles when he was among us, it makes me wonder why did the Holy Spirit inspire Mark to include this particular one for posterity’s sake? And why has the Church seen fit to remember and re-enact it in the baptismal liturgy throughout the centuries? Was it simply to remind us that Jesus had mended hearing problems and enabled people to vocalize again or was it something much deeper than that? I think it might be because it stands for the deeper healing we all need no matter who we are and no matter when or where we live. Could its inclusion in the Gospel be to remind us that we all somehow need this kind of healing ourselves? Could it be because we who are able to hear with our ears still remain deaf to the voice of God and the cries of others? Could it be because those of us who have the gift of speech too often use it to denigrate and divide instead of unite and build up? 

Did you notice how after the miracle occurred, people kept talking about all that Jesus had done to totally transform this man’s life? That’s precisely what the Ephphatha we experience at Baptism is supposed to inspire us to do. Having had our ears opened to the Word of God we are empowered to use our lips to speak of Jesus and all he has done for us to those whom we encounter in everyday life. In this way we Christians become part of the story and continue its miracle all over the earth. In other words, the Ephphatha we receive at Baptism makes us part of the mission of Christ, enabling us to become his healing ambassadors in a very broken world and among very broken people. 

Our Ephphatha healing mission is so vitally needed in today’s world. We need only turn on the media or listen to conversations around us to verify that way too much of today’s hearing and speaking is argumentative, disrespectful and divisive. Way too often these days people’s lips are used to speak bitter and disrespectful words. All too often people will not use their ears to try and really hear what someone who disagrees with them is trying to say, or to even simply acknowledge that they have the right to speak it. There is great need for healing in our social interactions and it must begin with those of us who have had our ears and tongues blessed and opened by Christ in the Ephphatha. It is not, of course, an easy thing for us to do but quite honestly it is our responsibility as Christians, as “other Christs”. 

We need to patiently listen to others before we speak so that we can hear what they are really saying. And when we respond we must do so with as much calmness and charity as we can muster so that the message (which is Christ) doesn’t get rejected because of the messenger (which is us). We need to make sure that the conversations and debates that we have in daily life, or that we engage in online, are tempered by peaceful respect and come from a place of genuine love for our neighbor. We must never forget that our goal is not to win an argument or to prove somebody wrong and ourselves right. Our goal is the salvation of souls, the bringing of others to Jesus, whose very Name itself means “God heals”. We want others to know the same love, the same peace and the same mercy that we ourselves have experienced and received from him. This is the kind of inner healing so many in our world need today. 

As Catholic Christians, we are fully equipped to successfully live the Ephphatha mission of our Baptism because of the Eucharist that we celebrate, receive and adore. At the Eucharist, we hear the Word of God proclaimed and so are taught the truth that we must speak. At the Eucharist, we come into intimate personal contact with the Risen Lord Jesus, and receive the healing power of his presence within us. And in our prayer after Holy Communion, we can adore the Lord dwelling within us and beg from him the graces of healing that we need, for we cannot go out and give to others what we ourselves have not first received.






Sunday, August 29, 2021

It All Begins Inside Us

 


Homily for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, August 29, 2021. Gospel of St. Mark 7:1-23. Theme: It’s All Begins Inside Us

The great scientist, Albert Einstein, was once asked what he would do if he had just one hour to solve a difficult situation. He replied: “I would need 55 minutes getting to know the problem, and then I would only need just 5 minutes to come up with the solution.”  In other words, once we have an accurate handle on what’s wrong, we can come up with an effective way to fix it.
 
As the daily news reminds us, the world is in a terribly desperate need of being fixed on both the national and international levels.  Besides violence in our city streets and abuse of human rights in Afghanistan,  there is also domestic discord due to heated disagreements over Covid policies, dirty politics and many other things that have us on edge these days.  If we want to begin to fix these things and enjoy a time of peace and civility,  then the first thing to do is to identify the root problem.

And this is precisely what Jesus does for us in today’s Gospel. He identifies the fundamental human problem as being one of an unclean (which in Bible language means sinful) heart.  Jesus is pointing out that it is from the depths of our unconverted hearts that all forms of divisive and destructive living arise in the world.  Whether we are talking about personal secret sins known just to us alone or social sins that spread their morally contaminating virus to others, it is our collective unclean choices that combine and give rise to a highly contagious spiritual pandemic of evil in the world.  Jesus is basically telling us that all of the division, destruction and conflict infecting the world are not just random things that happen around us, rather, they are more precisely predictable things that happen because of us. 

However, this worldview is not all doom and gloom. We have reason for great hope because the other side of the coin is that if the problem originates within us, then so too does the solution.  If it is true that much of the evil in the world is the sum total of all our sins and selfishness, then it is equally true that we can reverse the process by intentionally producing a sum total of peace and reconciliation, of mercy and compassion.  This means that by God’s grace, you and I can indeed change the trajectory of evil in the world by starting with the uncleanness that originates within our own hearts.  We can begin to fix the troubles we see around us by fixing the troubles that reside within ourselves. 

Now, just in case we are tempted to think that one person’s choice to change and be a leaven of goodness cannot possibly fix things and influence the world at large, let’s stop and consider a couple of real life examples.  

Almost 200 years ago, the destitute poor in the slums of Paris lived without hope of a better life. Often, just to survive they had to enter asylums for the indigent or consign their children to care of orphanages.  Then along comes a young college student named Frederic Ozanam who decides that he will personally go to the homes of the poor and see what he could do to help them.  Because of this decision of just one man, today there are over 800,000 Vincentians, ordinary everyday people like you and me, serving the needs of the poor in just about every Catholic parish in the world.  

Almost 100 years ago, people thought that alcoholism was an incurable mental disease and quite often addicts were confined to institutions. Then along came Bill WIlson, one alcoholic man who opened his heart to the power of God through a 12-Step spiritual program to freedom. Today there are over 22 million recovered addicts just in the USA alone whose sober lives have restored families and brought peace and reconciliation to once-broken lives and relationships. 

Peace, reconciliation, mercy and compassion are not just going to happen out of thin air. We must labor for them and begin to do so by working on ourselves first, on the unclean things that come from within us.  Now, as we all know this is not a simple and easy thing to do, and Christ knows this as well.  He knows that we will start off on this road to change with hearts full of good intentions.  He also knows that we will fail at times. Not a one of us can break free of sin and selfishness on our own. Not a one of us can live an unselfish life consistently without the power of God breaking into our lives and changing us from the inside out. 

And so this is why Jesus has promised to remain with us always, not just in spirit but in actuality through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Through Holy Communion he comes to us, lives within us, giving us the power to love as he loves. He grants us pardon and the renewal of our hearts through the Sacrament of Confession which is essential to rooting out the uncleanness within us. He comes to us through his Word in the Scriptures which are always readily available to us. He pours out upon us the gift of the Holy Spirit who energizes us to do good and avoid evil if we just obey his voice speaking within us.

So you see, we each have the opportunity to help fix a very broken world by focusing on ourselves and reforming our lives according to the Gospel.  We each have the power of God within us to say “Enough is enough!” and become  instruments of peace and reconciliation within our own surroundings. So, it seems to me, that if we look at things this way, the way of Jesus, then the only thing that can stop this from happening is ourselves.



Saturday, August 21, 2021

Our Joshua Moment

 

Homily for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, August 22, 2021. Joshua 24:1-18; Gospel of St. John 6:60-69. Theme: Our Joshua Moment 

In today’s first reading, Joshua puts before the Hebrew people a vitally important choice: “Decide today whom you will serve...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” To get a bit of the backstory to this momentous question, by this point in their early history, the Hebrews had been through decades of ups and downs. Their ancestors had escaped from Egypt and wandered through unknown wilderness and desert, making their way to the land promised them by God. Most of the people Joshua was addressing had not themselves personally experienced the Exodus. They were a couple of generations away from the miracles and unbelievable spectacles that God worked to liberate Israel from Egypt. 

And so, as children and grandchildren often do...they had begun to drift away from the devotion and religious observances of their elders. They needed to be reminded of and recalled back to their roots, their identity as God’s people. Joshua saw that many of them were becoming infected by the pagan culture around them in their new homeland. Some were beginning to worship idols like their neighbors who seemed better off. And so he asks this most important question and it’s really the most important question we can ask ourselves as well. “Who is the Lord and God of your life?” 

And as Christians we must also take up this question but tweak it to ask: Is the Lord Jesus Christ who rose up from the grave, freeing us from slavery to sin and death, the God whom you serve? Is He truly the Lord of our hearts and Master of our lives or are we actually worshipping an idol in place of God? Today’s Gospel asks us the same sort of question. After hearing Jesus’ teaching on the reality of the Eucharist, many parted ways with him. And so he asks the others, “Do you also want to leave?” Staying with Jesus or leaving his company is a decision that is required of every Christian. And it is one that we must make every day. 

Some people try to live from one day to the next without making any such a definite decision. They are like boats without a rudder, confused and moved this way or that by whatever happens to catch their attention from one day to another. They have no purpose, no direction, no meaning or mission to their lives. They let choices be made for them by social media, parroting whatever happens to be the popular thought of the day, whatever happens to be the politically correct point of view in the world around them. They let others decide the important questions of life for them. They do what others do, they think what others think, and they say what others say. They make the culture around them their idol, giving it the power and influence that the Word of God should have in helping them make spiritual and moral choices in life. 

The question that Joshua put to the people is asked of us every Sunday at Mass. During the Creed, all of the assembly of God’s people in the church stand up and speak out their trust, their faith, their belief in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Creed isn’t just a prayer we recite. We call it a declaration or profession of faith. It is our response to the question: “Who is your God? Whom do you serve?” 
  • We respond that we serve God our Father who holds our lives in his hands. 
  • We trust in Jesus Christ his Son, our Lord, who became man for us, who taught us the way of the Gospel that leads to Heaven, who died and rose for us so that we could live in joy forever. 
  • We serve the Holy Spirit, who is the Bond of Love connecting us with God and one another, and who dwells within us as in temples.
  • Furthermore, we declare that we hold all these truths as a people, the people of God, that is called his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. 
  • We believe that both as individuals and as a people we shall rise from the dead ourselves and live with both body and soul in the Kingdom of God. 
This is the Rudder of Faith that gives direction to the decisions in our lives. Every time we come to Mass we have this “Joshua Moment” when we must choose God as the Lord whom we serve. The question we need to ask ourselves today is this: when we stand to profess our faith and declare our decision, are we doing so from the heart and soul of who we are, or are we simply reciting a prayer that is to be said at that time? The honest answer to this question makes all the difference in the world in our lives!



Saturday, August 14, 2021

Jesus Living in Mary...and in Us!

 

Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 2021. Readings: Revelation 11:19-12:10; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Gospel of St. Luke 1:39-56. Theme: Jesus Living in Mary...and Us! 

A very interesting scientific study released in 2012 can help us approach the great event of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul into heaven, from a very amazing point of view. In addition to pondering this mystery from the Bible or theology or spirituality, we now also have science adding its “two cents” as to why the Assumption of the Mother of God can make sense. We all know that a unique bond unites a mother and child like no other type of relationship. And this is what we have always used as our starting point when dealing with the Assumption of Mary. She is Mother of God. Immaculate. All-holy. She carried the Lord of the universe within her womb. Thus, we reason, it makes sense that she should be raised body and soul into heaven ahead of the rest of us. 

And now science also offers us the opportunity to reaffirm this maternal reason for Mary’s Assumption. Did you know that recent scientific studies have shown that mother and child share each other’s cells from the first days of life in the womb? As early as the second week of pregnancy, before a woman even knows she is certainly pregnant, there is a two-way flow of cells and DNA between the child and the mother. Cells containing DNA from the baby enter the mother’s blood circulation, while cells from the mother cross in the opposite direction and transfer into the child. 

And here’s the newly discovered amazing part: a good number of the baby’s cells persist, thrive, and actually become a part of the mother. This throws a whole new light upon the maternal relationship and shows us that a woman is so much more than simply a carrier or vehicle for a baby. Even if she is not the natural biological mother, but simply a surrogate for another, she becomes physically, genetically, forever one with the baby in her womb. So it is fair to say that in this sense, a mother carries her children within her for a lifetime and not just for 9 months! 

Now, let’s apply that scientific finding to Mary and Jesus. It means that the Blessed Mother didn’t just carry Jesus within her womb for 9 months, but she continued to carry and have Jesus truly physically present within her by means of the cells of his Divine Humanity for her entire life! Mary was literally a walking, breathing, Tabernacle of the Lord’s Body and Blood. Now, it seems to me that if we hold that Jesus’ crucified body could not remain in the grave and undergo corruption, but was raised up in Resurrection and glorified at his Ascension, it makes sense that Mary, having within her the very Presence of her Divine Son, should also be raised up from the tomb body and soul and experience her Assumption. 

And as I see it, this leads to an awesome conclusion for each one of us. Through our faithful, devout and regular reception of the Eucharist we, too, become one with the Risen Lord Jesus. By means of this holy sacrament, his Body and Blood enter into us and become part of us. And like Mary, this will lead us to our own resurrection from the dead and reunification with glorified bodies as we profess in the Creed each Sunday. Jesus himself told us this when he spoke the words we have been hearing from the 6th chapter of St John’s Gospel these past few Sundays: “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.” (Jn 6:53-54) 

So you see, the Assumption of Mary tells us the rest of our own story on planet Earth. It’s a truth about Mary and about ourselves that is so much more than just a liturgical celebration in August. It’s a truth for dark times and for cold times; a truth for times when we feel defeated and for times when we wonder if things will ever get better. The Assumption of our Blessed Mother shows us that there is a seed of immortality growing within us, planted by the Eucharist and waiting to blossom at the right time. The Assumption assures us that the immortality we are hoping for is not a ghostly life, where we exist as spirits floating around for eternity, but it’s an actual glorious physical life in a real place called the Kingdom of Heaven where we will live forever, body and soul, with Jesus, Mary and all the saints.



Saturday, August 7, 2021

Soul Food

 

Homily for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, August 8, 2021. The Gospel of St. John 6:41-51. Theme: Soul Food 

As I was reflecting on today’s gospel, in which Jesus says he will satisfy our deepest hunger, I thought of what St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said when asked to compare her charitable works in the USA to those in India. She said: “Hunger in America is so much deeper and so much worse than in India because it is a hunger of the soul, a hunger for God and for love. There is so much wealth in the USA but also so much more spiritual poverty, so much more spiritual hunger.” Was Mother Teresa spot-on in saying that we who are satisfied materially are in reality starving and dying spiritually? I think so and I also think facts bear it out in what we see happening all across our nation. Well-fed but spiritually-hungry America, with all we have at our disposal to satisfy our physical needs, has among the highest rates of addiction and emotional disorders in the world. Is there a connection? 

Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935 said that AA had success where other programs failed because AA was the first to see that addiction is a spiritual disease that requires a spiritual remedy. Addiction happens because for some reason, real or perceived, people come to believe they are not loved, not valuable, not worthwhile. The pain of this spiritual hunger is too great and so they reach out for whatever will promise to satisfy, to fill that space within us that God and love are meant to occupy. I think that this is very much like when we are really physically hungry and we’ll grab whatever food is quickly at hand. 

Fast food and junk food provide instant gratification but not much real nutrition at all. They satisfy the hunger for a time, but do nothing to truly nourish us, to promote our growth and health for the long-term. They actually end up making us worse off in the long run. And the same is true about the things we do and chase after in life that are futile attempts to satisfy our spiritual hunger. When we are starving spiritually we’ll grab for anything that promises to give meaning and love to our lives; we will reach out for anything that seems to be able to satisfy the hunger. 

Fortunately for those who have the ears to hear and hearts open to receive the message, today’s Gospel is full of real hope, it offers genuine dependable promises. It reminds us that God our Father draws us to Jesus, to the Bread of Life who truly satisfies our deepest spiritual hunger. Through our mindful and attentive worship at Mass, Jesus offers us spiritual nourishment in the Word He speaks to us. He provides spiritual nourishment in the Eucharistic Bread He gives to us. It is by encountering and becoming one with the Risen Lord Jesus in the Mass that we can truly satisfy our deepest spiritual hunger. 

When it comes to feeding our bodies, we take great care to learn what is good for us, as well we should: we shop for food with mindful awareness of proper nutrition; we prepare it thoughtfully and eat it gratefully. And it seems to me that the same should be true about our approach to spiritual nourishment. We should do all we can to prepare ourselves interiorly, spiritually, to partake of the Living Heavenly Bread, which is the very Body and Blood of Christ. And then we should approach the altar thoughtfully and hold out our hands gratefully to receive the Lord with faith and devotion. 

The gift of receiving the Eucharist should bring hope to weary hearts, uplift drooping spirits and dispel any gloom or darkness that threatens us, especially as we recall and repeat within ourselves the closing words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: "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."