The Banquet that is the Antidote for Death, All Souls’ Day, November 2, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
The Commemoration of All The Faithful Departed, All Souls’ Day
Third of Three Masses
November 2, 2013
Is 25:6-9, Ps 23, 2 Tim 2:8-13, Jn 6:51-58

To listen to an audio recording of this Mass, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily:

  • In the second Mass on this All Souls’ Day, we pondered the significance of our baptism, and how it was through baptism that we entered into Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and pondered Jesus’ words at the raising of Lazarus that if we live and believe in him, even if we die, we’ll live. In this third Mass, we will discover that this gift of newness of life with Christ, of a relationship with Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, isn’t a one-time commitment, but a life-long covenant that needs constantly to be renewed.
  • In St. Paul’s second Letter to St. Timothy, he tells us: “This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him;  if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” We need to die with Jesus in order to live with him, but we need to die not once at the beginning of our conversion or at the end of our life, but continually to ourselves. We must persevere in that life so that he is reigning within us and we’re reigning with him. The choice is perseverance or denial. He’s faithful and will never deny us, but we need to persevere in fidelity to the end. That’s what this Year of Faith has sought to strengthen us to do.
  • And the way we persevere is regularly entering into his death and resurrection. And we do that precisely in the Mass, which is our participation in time in his passion, death and resurrection. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that he is  “the living bread that came down from heaven” and that “whoever eats this bread will live forever.” The “bread” he will give for the life of the world is his flesh. To have his life within us, we need to gnaw on his flesh and drink his blood. The one who does, he says, “remains in me and I in him” and Jesus promises to “raise him on the last day.” Just as Jesus has life because of the Father, so we are to have life because of him, because of our union with him through consuming his flesh and blood. It’s for this reason that St. Ignatius of Antioch, in 107, called the Eucharist, “the medicine of immortality,” it’s the remedy for death.”Whoever eats this bread will live forever,” Jesus promises.
  • What Jesus is describing, however, is not just that we eat his flesh and drink his blood as a magical potion and then go on with life as we please. Rather, through eating his flesh and drinking his blood, we enter into a holy communion with him. We share his life. We live because of him. We make him the source and the summit of our existence. We turn our heart into an altar and our life into a Mass, celebrated in union with Him.
  • It’s the banquet of the Mass, which is the perpetuation of the Last Supper until the end of time, that the first reading and the Psalm point. But they also point to the eternal wedding banquet for which the Mass is the forestaste and preparation.
  • Isaiah prophesies how it is in the banquet of the Eucharist — encompassing the Last Supper, Calvary, and the empty tomb — that death is destroyed forever. “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines,” and we can think of no more exquisite nourishment that God himself. “On this mountain,” Isaiah continues, “he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, The web that is woven over all nations;  he will destroy death forever.” On that day, fulfilled in Christ, it will be said, “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us.” That’s what happens to us — or ought to happen to us at every Mass — as we behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the word and calls us to his Supper.” That’s what we rejoice and celebrate, because not only has he saved us but he continues that work of salvation and makes it possible for us to persevere in a loving communion with Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, believing in him and living in him.
  • The Responsorial Psalm also prophesies the banquet of the Eucharist and the eternal banquet to which the Eucharist points. The Good Shepherd leads us through the dark valleys of life to the verdant pastures where he refreshes us as he “spread[s] the table before us” and makes our “cup overflow.” That’s why we’re confident that “all the days of our life,” we will “dwell in the house of the Lord,” the very temple that Christ makes as he makes us his tabernacle.
  • To persevere in the Christian life, he faithfully gives us the means at every Mass. Just like the manna in the desert that enabled the Jews to survive, so Jesus gives us himself as the True Manna, to help us persevere through the desert of life into the ever-green pastures of eternity.
  • We thank the Lord that so many of our faithful departed lived Eucharistic lives, which is why we’re filled with hope as we pray for them today, offering for them the Mass that inserts them and us in Jesus’ prayer from the Cross as he gave his Body and Blood to make eternal life possible. We pray as well today for those who did not have the privilege in life to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, that somehow, in ways known only to God’s mercy, they might have received the effects of Christ’s eternal self-gift that we are now so privileged to receive. We pray that our reception today may not only be the antidote for our death but, through the communion of saints, theirs as well.
  • Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace! Amen!

The readings for the Mass were: 

A Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Is 25:6-9)
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.  On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, The web that is woven over all nations;  he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.  On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!” The Word of the Lord

Responsorial Psalm (Ps 23)

R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil;
for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.

R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

A reading from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy ( 2 Tim 2:8-13)
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.  Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory.  This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him;  if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us.  If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. The Word of the Lord.

Alleluia Verse and Verse Before the Gospel
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord: whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John (Jn 6:51-58)
Jesus said to the crowds: 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.”  The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”  Jesus said to them, “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.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  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.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” The Gospel of the Lord.