Sunday Sermon for August 8, 2021, the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:4-8; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51
In the second reading St. Paul tells us we are to do nothing that will grieve the Holy Spirit. He goes on to mention sins that grieve the Holy Spirit: bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling, and malice. Instead, he says, we are to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving. By doing these things, St. Paul says, we are imitating God because this is the way He loves us and has forgiven us.
According to St. Paul, we are to imitate God as His beloved children. This means what God holds as important, we should also hold as important. What God holds as offensive, we should also hold as offensive. If such things as anger and malice are not only offensive to God, but are so offensive that they grieve the Holy Spirit, what a greater offense it is when we refuse to believe and trust in God!
Our Heavenly Father sent His Son to sacrifice Himself for us so our sins could be forgiven and we could be saved. Many people profess their belief in these truths, but they refuse to believe what Jesus taught regarding the Holy Eucharist. These people see the Incarnation as a demonstration of God’s love for us, they even rejoice in calling Jesus Emmanuel, God with us. However, these same people refuse to believe that our Lord loves us so much that He wants to continue to be with us. Yes, He loves us so much that He wants to be within us and united with us!
In the Gospel reading, Jesus said that whoever believes has eternal life. The very next line says: “I am the Bread of Life.” Clearly, we must believe He is the true bread sent from the Father, the bread we can eat and live forever. The context of this statement is the giving of Manna in the desert. The people of Israel ate the bread of angels, but they died. Of course, their souls could not die, but they went to the abode of the dead as they awaited the coming of the Messiah to set them free. If we eat the Bread of Life, we will die like everyone else, but our souls will not enter the abode of the dead but, rather, the land of the living.
The Eucharist is not magic, so eternal life is predicated on the fact that we do not die in a state that grieves the Holy Spirit either by being in the state of mortal sin, or by refusing to believe in the Lord. How can we say we believe Jesus is God and then turn around and claim we do not have to believe what He says? What He says is the Word of God! When God spoke, created things were made. Why, suddenly, does God’s Word not have authority? Did His Word have authority in creation, and now fail to demonstrate His power?
No, He is God and every word He speaks is truth! St. Paul reminds us that God cannot deceive or be deceived. St. John tells us God is truth and God is love. As truth, He cannot lie; as love, He cannot do something that is not good for us. Given what our Lord taught regarding the Eucharist, if we want to deny that Jesus is truly present, we either need to say He is not God, He did not speak the truth, or He fails to love us by asking us to believe something that violates our dignity.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus is God, He spoke the truth, and the Eucharist really is Jesus precisely because He loves us so much. If you believe these truths taught by our Lord in the Scriptures and taught by the Church for 2000 years, then it is incumbent upon you to act upon what you believe. The Eucharist is God, therefore, our Lord deserves to be adored and worshipped in the Blessed Sacrament.
It is only through prayer, united with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, that we come to know Him intimately. This begins with faith in His Real Presence, and ends with the fulfillment of our faith in the Beatific Vision of Heaven. This should not surprise us. In the first reading Elijah is given the strength to walk forty days and forty nights until he arrived at Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Horeb. Obviously, this was not ordinary bread Elijah was given, but neither was it the Eucharist.
If God can provide sustenance for a man to walk through the desert and not get faint or dehydrated, He can certainly provide Bread that will sustain us in this life and bring us to Heaven. So, as our Lord told Thomas, “Doubt no longer, but believe” because whoever believes has eternal life!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.