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" The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything... "
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Eighteenth Sunday - Braad of life
Last week we heard about the feeding of a five-thousand crowd with all its Eucharistic implications. It was such an impressive sign that those who were fed by Jesus wanted to crown him as their king. Today we have the continuation of the story, namely, the people keep coming to Jesus asking him for the bread from heaven. In reply he says to them: I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry. This means that Jesus is our food. He gives himself to us, especially in the Eucharist.
The truth is that there is an inexhaustible treasure of wisdom and spiritual power in the Eucharist so that we will never say enough about it. But I want to stress this today: we will never understand the Eucharist at all without a keen understanding of the Old Testament. So let's start with our first reading from the book of Exodus. When the Israelites escaped from Egypt and fled into the desert, they were seeking the Promised Land. They left the slavery of Egypt in joy, but a short time later they wanted to go back. It's incredible! They were willing to be slaves again. They found themselves in the desert, short of food and short of drink, so they began to lose heart. They became dispirited. The life of slavery in Egypt seemed far preferable to the journey through the desert. So, they started complaining to Moses: Why did we not die at the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt... You have brought us to this wilderness to starve to death. These were strong words. Therefore Moses prayed to God, and he sent them food to eat. He said: Now I will rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people are to go out and gather the day's portion. God sent manna to strengthen the Israelites so they could continue their journey.
With this in mind, let's think about us and the Eucharist. We are the new People of God, journeying in faith towards eternal life. By our baptism we have been called out of Egypt - from the slavery of sin. We are led, not by Moses, but by Jesus. We are led not to the Canaan, the Promised Land, but to heaven. Our life is a journey which doesn't end in a grave. But, like the Israelites, we are often tempted to doubt that God will provide all that we need. Fortunately, God knows all about our struggles, our worries and doubts. And just as he sustained the Israelites through manna, so he sustains us through this special bread we receive in the Eucharist. Here we present to God the ordinariness of bread and wine that symbolise the ordinariness of our lives. But then these gifts are changed and we are changed. We are made holy by this food for eternal life.
I know that some Catholics find it difficult to believe that bread and wine change into the Body and Blood of Jesus. I can understand their doubts. We don't see any change in the bread or wine. There is no difference in the taste; the bread still tastes like bread and the wine still tastes like wine. But our faith tells us something different. Therefore, we need to be humble and open to God performing a miracle every day in this church, the miracle of the Eucharist. As Paul says, we walk by faith and not by sight. So, can you be humble enough to add faith to your reason and intellect, and believe in this great mystery?
To help us believe, from time to time, God has allowed visible Eucharistic miracles to occur. These are miracles that occurred during Mass when the bread changed into the form of flesh and the wine changed into the form of blood during the consecration. Many such miracles have occurred in various parts of the world. A very famous one is the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano in Italy which took place in the seventh century. A monk who feared he was losing his vocation was celebrating Mass, and during the consecration the host turned into flesh and the wine turned into blood. He was so confused and terrified that he stood utterly dumbfounded for a long period. That was a real miracle. Today, many centuries later, the pilgrims visiting Lanciano may still see the flesh in a monstrance and the blood in a glass chalice. In 1981 a hospital laboratory tested the flesh and blood and discovered that the flesh is heart muscular tissue, and the blood is of the blood group AB positive, exactly the same as from the Turin Shroud.
Dear Parishioners. Jesus is really with us in the Eucharist. He comes to us in every Mass under the form of bread and wine. Therefore, we should always approach Jesus in the Eucharist with great respect. We should also remember that to receive Holy Communion worthily it is necessary to be in the state of grace, that is, to be free from mortal sin. Otherwise we commit a most grave sin of sacrilege. So, come to Jesus, not like a scientist trying to analyse, but come in trust, surrender, believe and receive his love! That's why it is so necessary at the start of every Mass to ask God for mercy because we are so unworthy of his love, and again before receiving the Body of Jesus we say: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. Think of how precious a moment it is when we receive Holy Communion. This is the food that endures to eternal life; this is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. May he always be the very centre and heart of our parish community, the centre and heart of the lives of each of us!
O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine,
All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.
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