Drawing Our Life from the Food that Binds Heart to Heart, 19th Sunday (B), August 9, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Monastery of the Poor Sisters of St. Clare, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Sunday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Year B
April 9, 2015
1 Kings 19:4-8, Ps 34, Eph 4:30-5:2, Jn 6:41-51

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were made in today’s homily: 

  • Jesus’ triennial five-week Eucharistic Catechesis in the Gospel reminds us of what is most important in life, that we are called to draw our life from him in the Holy Eucharist.
  • Like with Elijah in the first reading, God realizes that the journey would be too much for us unnourished, and consequently he does more than send an angel with a hearth cake and jug of water, but sends his Son to give us himself as our food and drink as daily manna, so that we can be strengthened for the journey of each day toward the mountain of God, not Horeb but the celestial Jerusalem.
  • The Lord in the Eucharist makes it possible for us to see his goodness but to taste it in the supreme gift.
  • Today, August 9, the Church marks the anniversary of St. Edith Stein, known in Carmelite Religious Life as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Before her death in the Concentration Camp 73 years ago today, she was a prodigious writer in philosophy, theology and devotional spirituality. In one of her poems, entitled “I Will Remain With You,” she pondered the great goodness of God incarnate she could taste and how she drew her life from this sacrifice every day. Pondering the heart of Jesus loving us in the Holy Eucharist, writing: “This Heart, it beats for us in a small tabernacle Where it remains mysteriously hidden In that still, white host. That is your royal throne on earth, O Lord, Which visibly you have erected for us, And you are pleased when I approach it. Full of love, you sink your gaze into mine And bend your ear to my quiet words And deeply fill my heart with peace. Yet your love is not satisfied With this exchange that could still lead to separation: Your heart requires more. You come to me as early morning’s meal each daybreak. Your flesh and blood become food and drink for me And something wonderful happens. Your body mysteriously permeates mine And your soul unites with mine: I am no longer what once I was. You come and go, but the seed That you sowed for future glory, remains behind Buried in this body of dust. A luster of heaven remains in the soul, A deep glow remains in the eyes, A soaring in the tone of voice. There remains the bond that binds heart to heart, The stream of life that springs from yours And animates each limb. How wonderful are your gracious wonders! All we can do is be amazed and stammer and fall silent Because intellect and words fail.”
  • And she also wrote about how our Eucharistic faith is related to today’s second reading. Today St. Paul told us in his Letter to the Ephesians, “Do not grieve the Spirit of God,” and St. Teresa Benedicta described how we grieve the Holy Spirit. She wrote in his essay “Before the Face of God,” “We are made members of the Body of Christ by virtue of the sacrament in which Christ himself is present. When we partake of the sacrifice and receive Holy Communion and are nourished by the flesh and blood of Jesus, we ourselves become his flesh and his blood. And only if and insofar as we are members of his Body, can his Spirit quicken and govern us. It is the Spirit that quickens, for the Spirit gives life to the members. But it only quickens members of its own body…. The Christian must fear nothing as much as being separated from the Body of Christ. For when separated from Christ’s Body, the Christian is no longer his member, is no longer quickened by his Spirit…. However, we become members of the Body of Christ not only through love…, but in all reality, through becoming one with his flesh: for this is effected through the food that he has given us in order to show us his longing for us.” The Holy Spirit wants to enliven us but in order for that to happen we must remain in communion with Christ in his body. St. Paul describes today some of the ways we cut ourselves off from communion: “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.” And then he describes how the Holy Spirit seeks to quicken us: “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” The Holy Spirit seeks to help us to imitate God in the way we treat each other, living in love and sacrificing ourselves in love of God and others as a fragrant offering to God.
  • That is precisely what St. Edith Stein did. Her whole adult life was that adult aroma, but we can ponder in a special way how she offered herself to God at the end of her life. When it became too dangerous for her to remain in a monastery in Cologne, the sisters smuggled her to Echt in the Netherlands, soon followed by her blood sister Rosa, a third-order Carmelite, who came after their mother died. “I understood the cross as the destiny of God’s people,” she wrote. “I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody’s behalf.” As her understanding of the sacrifice involved in picking up her Cross and following the Lord grew — shown in her most famous theological work, “The Science of the Cross” — so did her willingness to take it upon herself for her Jewish people. “Ave, Crux, Spes Unica,” she repeated: “I welcome you, O Cross, our only hope.”  Her welcome and knowledge of the Cross in faith would soon become a Biblical embrace of her crucified Spouse. After the Dutch bishops publicly condemned Nazism, the Gestapo retaliated by deporting all Jewish converts in the Netherlands to the concentration camps. “Come, we are going for our people,” she said as she was being rounded up in Echt. She was transported to Auschwitz, where she died in the gas chamber 73 years ago today, the final culmination of her life in faith, knowing that moments after the poison gas would suffocate her in the gas chamber that she would become a fragrant aroma for God and begin to smell forever the beautiful fragrance of Christ.
  • Today as we prepare to receive the greatest gift ever given, Christ’s gift of his body and blood that strengthened St. Edith Stein to remain faithful and courageous under the weight of the Cross and to offer herself with Christ as a sacrificial offering for the salvation of her people, we thank God for allowing us to see and taste his goodness. Christ gives his flesh for the life of the world and this eternal life not even the hatred that built the concentration camps can extinguish.  This is the “living bread” come down from heaven so that we, like St. Edith Stein, may eat of it and not die.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 1 Kgs 19:4-8

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD with me,
Let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
And delivered me from all my fears.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.
And your faces may not blush with shame.
When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard,
And from all his distress he saved him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2 Eph 4:30—5:2

Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.
So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

Alleluia Jn 6:51

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord;
whoever eats this bread will live forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 6:41-51

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven, ”
and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Stop murmuring among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
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.”

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