Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The following homily was given for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time at St. Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2000. In his Apostolic Letter inviting us to prepare for this Jubilee Year, Our Holy Father wrote: "The Year 2000 will be intensely Eucharistic: in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the Savior, who took flesh in Mary’s womb twenty centuries ago, continues to offer himself to humanity as the source of divine life" (Tertio Millenio Adveniente, No 55). In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us His central teaching on the Eucharist and its role in our individual lives as members of His Body — the Church. Jesus tells us today "I am the living bread … whoever eats this bread will live forever". The Eucharist that we receive is life giving. "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." We are all called to be icons of Christ, the living Christ. But how are we to do this? How are we to become like Christ? By being drawn into close union with Him in the Eucharist in which Christ is really and truly present. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: "‘Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,’ is present in many ways in his Church: in his word, in his Church’s prayer, ‘where two or three are gathered in my name’ (Mt. 18:20), in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But ‘he is present…most especially in the Eucharistic species’" (no 1373). So, there are many ways in which Jesus is present, but he is uniquely present in the Eucharist — body, blood, soul and divinity. Through coming into contact with Jesus we begin to be changed into him. Yes, through receiving the Eucharist, we are brought into communion with Jesus, the living icon of God. It is in receiving Him that a wellspring of graces flows into us. It is this intimate contact and living together with Jesus that strengthens us on our journey to heaven. The Eucharist is the "‘source and summit of the Christian life’" (Lumen Gentium 11). Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." … "Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me." The Eucharist that Jesus instituted for us 2,000 years ago gives us life. As plants need water regularly to live, so do we need to receive the Eucharist regularly in order to live as His disciples. United with us in this Eucharistic celebration is a number of deacons ordained for the service of our diocesan church. Dear deacons, in February of this year the Holy Father addressed you during your jubilee celebration in Rome with the exhortation, "Faithful to Christ in all things …you will also be faithful to the various ministries the Church entrusts to you …You rightly strive to live without separating your liturgical service from that of charity in its concrete forms. This shows that the sign of Gospel love cannot be reduced to categories of mere solidarity but follow as a logical consequence of the Eucharistic mystery" (Address of John Paul II to Permanent Deacons 2/19/00). Jesus is teaching us today that the Eucharist must be the source of all our lives. It must certainly be the source of your lives as deacons, and the source of the lives of all those you serve. It is through eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood that, as deacons, you will be enabled to be made into living icons of Christ — who came "not to be served, but to serve". This is the source of your life! Once again, we hear Jesus tell us: "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." "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 in you." "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." Brothers and sisters, let us take this teaching given to us today by our Lord, and make it the cornerstone of our lives as servants of Christ and of our brothers and sisters. Let us all make the Eucharist the center of our lives, actively participating in the Mass as frequently as possible and adoring Christ in Eucharistic adoration. Through the Eucharist we will be given life, we will remain in Christ and He in us, and we will be strengthened in our service to God and to His Church. Through the Eucharist, we will be empowered to continue putting into practice St. Paul’s advice in today’s second reading: "…try to understand what is the will of the Lord … be filled with the Holy Spirit … giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father." Yes, we are a Eucharistic people, for Christ in the Eucharist is the source of divine life and our daily strength!

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2000