Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is an invitation to us to become humble instruments of healing in Jesus’ hands by giving voice to the voiceless and caring love to the needy and the marginalized in our society. The readings also invite us to open our ears to hear the word of God and to let our tongues be loosened by the Holy Spirit to convey the Good News of God’s love and salvation to others.
Scripture lessons: The first reading (Is 35:4-7), reminds us that God's eyes are constantly focused on the helpless. God especially cares for "the frightened, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the mute," and He encourages the powerless to "be strong and fearless." This is why, in today’s second reading (James 2:1-5), the apostle gives us some basic and challenging principles of social justice. He exhorts Christians to show no partiality based on external appearance and to practice God’s “preferential option” for the poor. He warns the faithful against scorning or shaming the poor while showing special consideration to the rich. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 146), sings of a God who gives sight to the blind, raises up those who are bowed down and welcomes strangers. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus, by healing a deaf and mute man, fulfilled Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, "The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped." The ailments listed by Isaiah are symbolic of our interior illnesses: blindness to the needs of our neighbor, unwillingness to hear God’s voice and the inability to speak words of praise and gratitude. Through this miracle story, Mark also reminds us that no one can be a follower of the Lord without reaching out to the helpless (“preferential option for the poor”).
Life Messages: 1) We need to help Jesus to heal the deaf and the mute today. Jesus desires to give us his healing touch in order to loosen our tongues so that he may speak to the spiritually hungry through us. He invites us to give him our hearts so that he may touch the lives of people in our day through us, just as he touched the lives of millions through saintly souls like Francis of Assisi, Damien of Molokai, Vincent de Paul and Blessed Mother Teresa. Jesus’ compassionate touch will help us to hear the cries of the poor and the sick. It will teach us to show kindness, mercy and consideration to others. His healing touch will also help us convey peace and hope to those around us.
2) We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual deafness and muteness. We may find it hard to speak to God in prayer and harder still to hear Him speaking to us through the Bible and through the Church. Hence, let us imitate the dumb man in the gospel by seeking out Jesus, following him away from the crowd, and spending more of our time in coming to know him intimately as we study Holy Scripture and experience him directly in our lives in personal prayer.
OT XXIII [B] (8/6/2015) Is 35: 4-7a; Jas 2: 1-5; Mk 7: 31-37
Anecdote: The “little monk” who opened blind eyes: At the Annual National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, 1984, Ronald Reagan, the former president of the United States, told the old story of "the little monk," Telemachus, a martyr whose self-sacrificial commitment to Christian ideals opened the blind eyes and deaf ears of the Romans and their fifth century Christian Emperor Honorius. According to the story, this Turkish monk was led by an inner voice to go to Rome in order to stop the cruel and inhuman gladiatorial fights between slaves. He followed the crowds to the Coliseum where two gladiators were fighting. He jumped into the arena and tried to stop them, shouting "In the name of Christ, hold back!" The gladiators stopped, but the spectators became indignant. A group of them rushed into the arena and beat Telemachus to death. When the crowd saw the brave little monk lying dead in a pool of blood, they fell silent, leaving the stadium, one by one. Three days later, because of Telemachus' heroic sacrifice of his own life, the Emperor decreed an end to the games. In today's Gospel, which describes the miraculous healing of a deaf mute, we are invited to open our ears and eyes, loosen our tongues and pray for the courage of our Christian convictions to become the voice of the voiceless.
# 2: "The Touch of the Master’s Hand": In the poem “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” Myra Brooks Welch tells the story of the auctioning of an old dusty violin. The violin was about to be sold for a mere $3 when a grey-haired man stepped forward, picked it up, dusted it off, tuned it and began to play. The man played such sweet music that, when he finished, the bidding jumped into the thousands of dollars. What transformed the dusty old violin into a precious instrument? The touch of the Master’s hand. The same “touch of the Master’s hand” continues to transform our lives today. By God’s touch we become His instruments to accomplish the marvelous works described in today’s Psalm 146: to secure justice for the oppressed, give food to the hungry and set the captives free.
# 3: "Five past two." Two older men were talking. One of them was bragging just a little bit. "I just purchased the most expensive hearing aid ever made," he said. "It is imported and is guaranteed for life." The second man asked: "What kind is it?" The first man answered, "Five past two." We can laugh about the hearing loss that comes with aging. It is a minor problem that will affect most of us sooner or later. In fact, experts predict that years of rock music, leaf blowers, and noise pollution in general will result in millions of baby boomers with hearing loss. According to a recent study by the National Institutes of Health, there has been a stunning 26 percent increase in those suffering permanent hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 60, compared to 15 years earlier. [With Adam Hanft, Dictionary of the Future (New York, NY: Hyperion, 2001), p. 3.] Today’s Gospel passage tells us how Jesus healed a deaf man who was mute.
Introduction: Today’s Scripture readings offer us an invitation to become humble instruments of healing in Jesus’ hands by giving voice to the voiceless, the needy and the marginalized in our society. Today’s Scripture also invites us to open our ears to hear the word of God and to allow the Holy Spirit to loosen our tongues to convey the Good News of God’s love and salvation to others. The first reading (Is 35:4-7), reminds us that God's eyes are constantly focused on the helpless. God especially cares for "the frightened, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the mute," and He encourages the powerless to "be strong and fearless." This is why, in today’s second reading (James 2:1-5), the apostle gives us some basic and challenging principles of social justice. He exhorts Christians to show no partiality based on external appearance and to practice God’s "preferential option for the poor." He warns the faithful against scorning or shaming the poor while showing special consideration to the rich. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 146), sings of a God who gives sight to the blind, raises up those who are bowed down and welcomes strangers. The psalmist thanks God and asks us to rejoice because “the God of Jacob keeps faith forever,” by keeping His promise of peace and fullness of life for His people. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus, by healing a deaf and mute man, fulfills Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, "The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped." The ailments listed by Isaiah are symbolic of our interior illnesses: blindness to the needs of our neighbor, unwillingness to hear God’s voice and the inability to speak words of praise and gratitude. Through this miracle story, Mark also reminds us that no one can be a follower of the Lord without reaching out to the helpless (“preferential option for the poor”).
First reading, Isaiah 35:4-7: The Jews are returning to their homeland after decades of exile in Babylon. Their arrival causes great friction with the other tribes already there, especially the Edomites. Hence, Isaiah reminds Israelites that when God leads his people home, He will work miracles on behalf of those who need it most: blind, deaf, lame and mute persons. He assures them that God blesses their return, and that they should be confident and not fearful. He opens his prophetic admonition with one of the most frequent Biblical commands, “Fear not.” The life-giving streams of water bursting forth in the desert symbolize whatever is needed to achieve peace and fullness of life. The prophet gives the Israelites the assurance that God will continue to save them from their enemies, will open their eyes to the reality of what He is providing for them and will open their ears to what He has to tell them through His priests and prophets. This reading from Isaiah echoes the words of compliment given to Jesus by the people in today’s healing story, "He has done all things well; he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak."
Second Reading, James 2:1-5: In this very practical pastoral letter, James points out to the members of the Church that they should treat others, whether they are rich or poor with equal honor and courtesy. James is not writing speculative theology, but reacting to real hurts inflicted on real people, and calling real Christians to a higher level of charity and responsibility. He exposes the sad irony of a Christian's giving special consideration to someone who is fashionably dressed and wearing gold rings, while shaming the poor man in his shabby dress. The poor man, James says, is poor in the eyes of the world but rich in faith because he recognizes his dependence on God for everything and acknowledges that dependence in how he lives and acts. James insists that Christians “should show no partiality.” In a society like ours, which values people who have much money, great power or celebrity status, James’ admonition turns our cultural assumptions upside-down and inside-out. That’s what makes our showing respect to everyone we encounter, despite social and/or economic status, and our treating all people as children of God, our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, a most valuable, living witness to him who died to save us all.
Exegesis: The human touch and the symbolism of Baptism: The section selected from Mark’s Gospel begins with the healing of a deaf man and ends with the healing of a blind man in the non-Jewish area of the Decapolis. (Mark 7:31-10:52). Jesus shows his tender consideration for the weak by leading the dumb man away from the crowd so as not to embarrass him. The miracle is described in seven ritual-like steps: (1) Jesus leads the man away from the crowd (2) puts his fingers into the man's ears (3) spits on his own fingers (4) touches the man's tongue with the spittle (5) looks up to heaven (6) sighs (7) and speaks the healing command: "Ephphatha" ("be opened.") Why does Jesus carry out this elaborate ritual, while in other miracles he simply speaks a word or touches the individual? It is probably because the dumb man cannot hear Jesus' voice or express his needs. People of that day believed that the spittle of holy men had curative properties. The early Church Fathers saw an indirect reference to Baptism in the way Jesus healed the man. In Baptism, the priest or deacon who baptized us touched our ears and mouths that we might hear the word of God and speak about Christ to others, sharing the “Good News” with the poor, the imprisoned, the fearful, and the broken-hearted.
God’s love in action: What we see is not simply the healing of a physical defect, but a concrete sign of the transforming power of God's Love. The power of God's Love is working in our lives to transform sorrow into joy, sickness into health, death into new life. The dumb man who is unable to communicate also symbolizes our own communication problem vis-à-vis God. In order to perceive and proclaim God’s message, we need to be transformed. The miracle is not only about the physical healing of person who was deaf and dumb. It also points to the opening of a person’s ears so that he may hear the word of God, and loosening of his tongue so that he may speak his profession of faith in Jesus. The miracle has great relevance to us, because a person can have perfect hearing, and yet not hear the word of God, have perfect speech, and yet be unable to make an act of faith.
A challenge for the Church: All three readings speak of a God who is partial to the voiceless and the afflicted. Today, however, many of us have lost the ability to recognize the voice of God calling us for action in our modern society. We are asked to give hearing and voice to the deaf and the mute. The person healed became a witness to the power of God. A Church that is to bear witness to the example of Jesus’ love must not neglect “those who are bowed down.” Through its healing presence the Church must give voice to the voiceless.
Instruction to Keep Silence: Why did Jesus ask the man to keep silence? Jesus knew that he still had more to accomplish before his final showdown with the religious leaders in Jerusalem. If the crowds were to attempt to make him the leader of a revolt, a probable result of spreading the story of this healing around, it would spoil his Heavenly Father’s holy plan.
Life messages: 1) We need to help Jesus to heal the deaf and the mute today. Jesus desires to give us his healing touch in order to loosen our tongues so that he may speak to the spiritually hungry through us. He invites us to give him our hearts so that he may touch the lives of people in our day through us, just as he touched the lives of millions through saintly souls like Francis of Assisi, Damien of Molokai, Vincent de Paul and Mother Teresa. Like them, we are also invited to become the voice of the “poorest of the poor,” the helpless, the downtrodden and the unwanted who are set aside by the “new economy,” or who cannot even “speak plainly and fearlessly” about their concerns. Jesus’ touch will reveal to us how we neglect, scorn or shame some people while showing favor to others. His compassionate touch will help us to hear the cries of the poor and the sick. It will teach us to show kindness, mercy and consideration to others. His healing touch will also help us convey peace and hope to those around us.
2) We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual deafness and muteness. We may find it hard to speak to God in prayer and harder still to hear Him speaking to us through the Bible and through the Church. This may be because many of us are satisfied with what we have learned in catechism class about the Seven Sacraments, the Ten Commandments of God, the Six Commandments of the Church and the seven deadly sins. We don’t want to hear more about our Faith through further study of the Bible or the teachings of the Church. It is not infrequent to meet Catholics who are highly qualified in their secular professions but are basically illiterate in their Faith. Hence, let us imitate the dumb man in the Gospel by seeking out Jesus, following him away from the crowd and spending more of our time in coming to know him intimately as we study Holy Scripture and to experience him directly in our lives in personal prayer. Our growing awareness of the healing presence of Jesus in our lives will open our ears and loosen our tongues.
3) Let us bring Jesus’ holy word “Ephphatha” to a generation blighted by the materialistic cultural aggression of our times: In their day, the Romans imposed their language and culture on Palestine. Modern secular culture, in fact, is no better. Religion and God are being evicted from schools, colleges, courtrooms, politics and public life. One cannot speak of virginity or marital fidelity without a contemptuous laugh from others. The unborn child with a precious soul is often considered a “mere nuisance," a “product of conception,” a “fetus”, “a blob of tissue,” or a tumor that can be gotten rid of,” with no human rights. In today's motion pictures, all religious gestures are either forbidden or relegated to the ignorant or superstitious. We are told that sixty-five percent of our Catholic youth have no formal religious education beyond the eighth grade. They are exposed to the culture of free sex, loose relationships, liquor, drugs and violence. No wonder, then, if they become deaf and blind to Christian ideals of morality, holiness in life and social justice! May our Lord touch us through this Gospel so that we also can say “Ephphatha” (“Be thou opened!”) to everything and everyone shut in from or closed to God and His loving providence.
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (firstname.lastname@example.org) and published in the CBCI Website.
Introduction: Today’s readings explain what true religion is. It is not simply a scrupulous, external observance of rules, laws, traditions and rituals. It is a loving, obedient relationship with God expressed in obeying His Commandments, worshipping Him, recognizing His presence in other human beings and rendering them loving and humble service. Prayers, rituals, Sacraments and religious practices only help us to practice this true religion in our daily lives.
Scripture lessons: The first reading explains that religion is a Covenant relationship with a caring, providing and protecting God, fostered by keeping His Commandments given through Moses. God gave Israel the Law so that the Israelites might keep their Covenant with Yahweh and thank Him for His love and fidelity to His Chosen People. The Law was also intended to keep them a united, holy and intelligent nation, proud of their powerful, protective, single God.
In the second reading, St. James defines true religion as keeping the word of God and doing His will by helping the needy, the poor and the weak in the community. He challenges Christians to become doers of the word, not merely hearers.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes true religion as serving God and all His children with a pure and holy heart. The Gospel explains the encounter of Jesus with the Sanhedrin observers and the Pharisees who had been sent to assess his unique, controversial teachings. These experts had found Jesus’ teachings an open violation of the “Traditions of the Elders, and His implied and spoken claims “blasphemous. It was in the fifth century BC that the scribes started adding oral traditions as interpretations and practical applications of the Mosaic Law. The Pharisees observed them and insisted that all the Jews should do so. The original noble purpose was to sanctify the daily lives of the people, making them “holy as God is holy” (“You are a priestly kingdom, a holy nation” -- Ex 19: 6), and different in lifestyle from their pagan neighbors. Jesus uses the occasion as a teachable moment to give them the following lessons: 1) Don’t teach human doctrines as dogmas. 2) Internal disposition, purity and holiness are more important than external ritual observances. 3) Keep your heart holy as it is the source of sins, vices and evil habits. The observance of traditions and of washing rituals does not correct the internal motivations and inclinations that really defile people. 4) External piety without internal holiness is hypocrisy.
Life messages: 1) We need to learn and keep the spirit of the Church’s laws and ritual practices. For example our Sunday obligation is intended to allow us to worship God in the parish community, to offer our lives to God, to ask His pardon for sins, to thank God for His blessings and to receive Divine life and strength from Him in Holy Communion. Our daily family prayers are meant to thank God for his blessings, to present the family's needs before God, to ask pardon for sins and to maintain the spirit of unity and love in the family.
2) Let us avoid the tendency to become cafeteria Christians that is, to choose certain Commandments and Church laws to follow, and to ignore the others as we choose certain food items and ignore others in a cafeteria.
XXII Dt 4:1-2, 6-8; Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mk 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Anecdotes: 1) "Put your hand in Jesus' hand": For almost 50 years Mother Teresa worked in the slums of Calcutta, India. She worked among the most forsaken people on earth. You and I would recoil from most of the people that she touched every day – the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the diseased, the desperate. And yet, everybody who met Mother Teresa remarked on her warm smile. How, after almost 50 years of working in conditions like that did she keep a warm smile on her face? Mother explains that it is interesting. "When I was leaving home in Yugoslavia at age of 18 to become a nun, my mother told me something beautiful and very strange”. She said, 'You go put your hand in Jesus hand and walk along with him.'" And that was the secret of Mother Teresa's life ever after. (Rev. King Duncan). Many of us here have good jobs. And we live in nice homes, and we have easy situations. But we don't have the warm smile on our faces that this little nun, working in the most desperate situation imaginable, had on her face. What's the difference? It may be that we've never put our hand in Jesus hand. It may be that we have him only on our lips as St. James remarks in the second reading.
2) Ritual washing using drinking-water: William Barclay in The Daily Study Bible tells the story of an old Jewish rabbi in the Roman prison diagnosed with acute dehydration which would have led to his death. The prison guards insisted that the rabbi had been given his quota of drinking water. So the prison doctor and the officer in charge instructed the guards to watch the rabbi and ascertain what he was doing with his ration of water. They were shocked to find that the rabbi was using almost all his water for traditional ritual washing before prayer and meals. Today’s Gospel tells us how the tradition-addicted Pharisees started questioning Jesus when his disciples omitted the ritual washing of hands in public before a meal.
3) Pursuit of enemy not hindered by prayer: Barclay’s second story is about a Muslim pursuing an enemy to kill him. In the midst of the pursuit, the Azan, or public call to prayer, sounded. Instantly the Muslim got off his horse, unrolled his prayer mat, knelt down and prayed the required prayers as fast as he could. Then he leaped back on his horse to pursue his enemy in order to kill him. Jesus opposes this type of legalism in the Jewish religion in today’s Gospel.
Introduction: Today’s readings explain what true religion is. It is not simply the scrupulous external observance of rules, laws, traditions and rituals. It is a loving, obedient relationship with God expressed in recognizing His presence in other human beings and rendering them loving and humble service. Prayers, rituals, Sacraments and religious practices only help us to practice this true religion in our daily lives.
Scripture lessons: The first reading explains that religion is a Covenant relationship with a caring, providing and protecting God, fostered by keeping His Commandments given through Moses. God gave Israel the Law so that the Israelites might keep their Covenant with Yahweh and thank Him for His love and fidelity to His Chosen People. The Law was also intended to keep them a united, holy and intelligent nation proud of their powerful, protective, single God. The Responsorial Psalm describes a person who practices true religion —blameless and just, thoughtful and honest in dealing with others. In the second reading, St. James defines true religion as keeping the word of God and doing His will by helping the needy, the poor and the weak in the community. He challenges Christians to become doers of the word, not merely hearers. In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes true religion as serving God and all His children with a pure and holy heart. The occasion is a debate between Jesus and the Pharisees on the subject of "Tradition." Jesus warns the Pharisees against their tendency to equate traditional “human precepts” with God’s will. He blames the scribes and the Pharisees for giving undue importance to external observances in the name of “tradition,” while ignoring the Law’s real spirit. True religion should focus on the essentials. In particular, Jesus criticizes Pharisaic observance of ritual washing and declares that it is our inner motivations and dispositions that produce our purity or impurity.
First reading: Dt 4:1-2, 6-8: In the fifth century BC, internal corruption and external pressures had brought the Israelites to the brink of extinction. Kings, priests, prophets and Temple had failed to hold them together. Deuteronomy, recorded under the Holy Spirit's direction during the crisis of the Babylonian exile, 587-539 BC, presented the ancient legal traditions surrounding the Law which had been given Israel by the Lord God through Moses. In this book, Moses described the beauty of the Law and commanded its observance as Israel’s sign of gratitude for the Lord God’s promise of the land. He assured the people that their God-given Law and their faithful observance of the Law would serve three purposes: a) it would help Israel survive as a people; b) it would make the people proud of their God and His Covenant; c) it would make neighboring nations marvel at the graciousness and justice of the God of Israel, at His closeness to His people and at their closeness to Him. Hence, Moses challenged the Israelites with the questions: "What great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? What other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?" Moses cited the praise they would receive from neighboring nations as an additional reason for keeping the Law: "This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people."
Second Reading, James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27: Today we begin a series of five Sunday readings from the letter of James. In the letter, James addresses the whole Christian Church in general, rather than speaking just to a particular community or person as Paul did in his letters. After dealing with the value of trials and temptations and refuting the argument that temptations come from God (James 1:2-18), James provides the only formal definition of religion in the Bible. He defines true religion as translating the love of God into deeds of loving kindness toward the vulnerable members of the community and putting into practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. More specifically, true religion means that one is to “care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Exegesis: The context: Just as Jesus and his disciples were reforming Judaism by transforming it into Christianity, the Pharisees had begun reforming Judaism at an earlier period. They considered the “Written Law” or Torah or the Law of Moses (the first five books of the Bible), and the “Oral Law” (clarifications and additions to the Mosaic Law given by scribes from the fifth century B.C.), as equally holy and binding. These oral laws, known in Jesus’ time as the “Traditions of the Elders,” were a series of oral traditions intended to act as “a fence around the Law,” so that the Mosaic Law itself, and, thus, the Covenant, would never be violated. The original, noble intention of the scribes who formulated these traditions and of the Pharisees who practiced them was to have their religion permeate all Israel, purifying the people in their daily lives, making them holy as their God is holy. In spite of these noble intentions, however, by the time of Jesus, their religion had degenerated, being reduced to only the exact performance of external rituals. Small wonder, then, that the scribes and Pharisees were scandalized by the revolutionary teaching of Jesus, by the unique Divine and Messianic claims made by him and by his violations of the “Traditions of the Elders”! Hence, the supreme governing body of Judaism, the Sanhedrin, sent from Jerusalem as observers a team of scribes (experts in the Jewish Law), to assess Jesus’ claims, miracles, violations of traditions and controversial teachings. A few of the local Pharisees accompanied the experts and started questioning Jesus when they noticed that Jesus’ disciples had omitted the ritual cleansing of hands before a party meal.
Ritual versus hygienic washing: Ritual washing was required of the priest, but there was nothing in the Mosaic Law that required the same behavior from lay people. Pious Jews began to adopt that habit on the principle of Exodus 19:6 — “you are a priestly kingdom and a holy nation,” and gradually it became the “the tradition of the elders.” The ritual cleansing of raw food items bought from the market, of vessels used for cooking and of the hands of those who were to eat the prepared food, like many similar practices, evolved later, to remind the Chosen People of their call to be "set apart as a holy and consecrated people," with values and life-style consciously different from those of pagans. But in Jesus’ day, the Jews ignored the spirit of these traditions and practiced them simply as an essential judicial and ritual requisite. The question "Why do your disciples not wash their hands before eating?" persisted. It created tensions in the early Church, particularly in the Christian community of Mark where some of the new Christians were Jews and some were Gentiles. The Gentiles did not follow the Jewish customs, and, consequently, some of the Jewish Christians were upset.
Jesus’ reaction: In response to the Sanhedrin’s public criticism, Jesus stands in the prophetic tradition by citing Isaiah 29:13, where the prophet castigates the tendency to “teach mere human precepts as dogmas.” "This people pays Me lip-service but their heart is far from Me. Empty is the reverence they do Me, because they teach as dogmas mere human precepts." The Pharisees placed emphasis, not on building a relationship with God and their fellow-human beings, but on checking out their own external behavior. Originally these religious traditions were intended to symbolize inner realities -- outward signs of inward devotion to God's Will. But the Pharisees were using them to boost their own egos. Hence, Jesus flatly denied that external things or circumstances could separate a person from God. Jesus was not criticizing rituals given in the Mosaic Law, but the giving of disproportionate importance to these things while neglecting what was far more important, the love of God and the care for one's fellow-human beings. By insisting that uncleanness comes from violations of the moral law rather than of minute ritual prescriptions, Jesus denied a basic principle of Jewish religion and set aside a considerable amount of Mosaic Law. "Nothing that enters a man from outside can make him impure; that which comes out of him, and only that, constitutes impurity."
Real source of impurity: As illustrations of the evils which really make a person sinful and alienate him from God, Jesus mentions six evil acts: practices of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adultery, acts of coveting or lust, and wickedness in general. Then he adds a checklist of six vices or sins of the heart: deceit (lying), wantonness (shamelessness, immodesty), jealousy or envy, slander (imputing evil to others), pride (arrogance), and folly (the stupidity of one lacking moral judgment). The point is clear. Righteousness is not what we do on the outside, but who we are on the inside. Righteousness is not about the hand; it is about the heart. Acts of adultery, murder and unkindness come from within, from hearts that are adulterous, murderous and unkind. For Jesus, a community that is actively worshiping God is a community that does not base its behavior solely on precepts and doctrines, but is integrally connected to God through righteous, just and loving relationships. What makes a person holy are the attitudes and actions that Paul in Gal 5:22-23 lists as “the fruit” of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Life Messages: 1) We need to keep the spirit of the Church’s laws and practices. For example our Sunday obligation is intended to allow us to worship God in the parish community, to offer our lives to God, to ask His pardon for our sins, to thank God for His blessings, to present our needs before Him and to receive Divine Life and strength from Him in receiving Holy Communion. Our daily family prayers are meant to thank God for His blessings, to present the family’s needs before God, to ask pardon for all our sins, and to maintain the spirit of unity and love in the family.
2) Let us avoid the tendency to become cafeteria Christians: As the Pharisees did, we too show the tendency to add to or subtract from God’s laws given in the Bible and taught by the Church. Some of us pick and choose certain Commandments to follow, ignoring the others as we do food offerings in a cafeteria. For example some actively do corporal and spiritual works of Charity, but avoid Sunday Mass or remain unfaithful to the obligations attached to the gift of their sexuality or the sacrament of marriage. Others are interested in fulfilling only the “minimal obligations” of the Faith. They come to Mass late and leave early. They make an effort to avoid serious sins, but don’t go to confession even when they fall into mortal sins.
3) Let us accept the challenge to become hearers and doers of God’s word as St. James instructs us: Let us ask ourselves how the Sunday or daily readings are affecting or changing our lives. That will show us whether we are being attentive listeners to, and doers of, God’s word. We become more fully Jesus’ family members, only when we consistently “hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21). When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion today, let us ask him for the grace to become the doers of his word as he was the doer of his Fathers’ will.
Introduction: The main theme of today’s readings is that Christian life is a series of daily choices for God or against God, as we choose to live out or reject the truths He has revealed through His prophets in the Old Testament and especially through His Son Jesus in the New Testament. The fundamental choice we make determines how we live our lives, deciding whom we will serve.
Scripture lessons: In the first reading, Joshua challenges the Israelites to decide whom they will serve, the gods of the Amorites in whose country they were then dwelling or the God of Israelites Who has done so much for them. The Renewal of Covenant ceremony in Joshua chapter 24 reminds us that the Eucharist is a Covenant meal that calls for a decision of Faith. The second reading emphasizes the unity that must exist in the Body of Christ and the intimate relationship between Jesus and His followers. It also challenges the Ephesian Christians to make the right choice in life and build Christian marriages on mutual respect and love, accepting each spouse’s rights and dignity. He also uses the husband-wife relationship as an analogy to explain the close relationship between Christ and the Church. Paul reminds us that Jesus nourishes us, the members of his Church, through the Eucharist, making us his own flesh and blood, as husband and wife become one flesh. Concluding his long Eucharistic discourse, Jesus, in today’s Gospel, challenges his Jewish audience to make their choice of accepting him as the true Bread from Heaven who gives his Body and Blood as their Heavenly Food or of joining those who have lost their Faith in him and left him, expressing their confusion and doubts about his claims. Today’s passage describes the various reactions of the people to Jesus’ claims. Jesus gives his twelve apostles the option of leaving him or staying with him. The apostles exercise their freedom of choice by choosing to stay with Jesus. In this Eucharistic celebration, we, too, are called to make a decision, profess our Faith in God’s Son and renew the Covenant ratified in his life, death and Resurrection.
Life messages: # 1: Let us make our choice for Christ and live it: We Christians have accepted the challenge of following the way of Christ and making choices for Christ, fortified by the Bread he gives and relying on the power of his Holy Spirit. The Heavenly Bread and the Holy Spirit will give us the courage of our Christian convictions to take a stand for Jesus, to accept the Church’s teachings and to face ridicule, criticisms and even social isolation for our adherence to sound Christian principles in our lives. That is what we mean by our “Amen” while receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. We express without any conditions or reservations our total commitment to him in the community to which we belong. Christ’s thoughts and attitudes, his values, his life-view must become totally ours. Above all, we are to identify with him in the offering of his Flesh and the pouring out of his Blood on the cross by spending our lives for others.
OT XXI [B] (Aug 23): Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Eph 5:21-32; Jn 6: 60-69
Anecdote # 1: Martyrs’ choice for God, for Christ and his teachings: The Old Testament, the New Testament and the history of the Church tell the stories of brave men and women who heroically exercised their freedom of choice for God and His Commandments and courted martyrdom. II Maccabees 6: 18-31 describes how the 90-year-old saintly scribe, Eleazar, welcomed martyrdom rather than eat the flesh of pork. The same book describes another heroic Jewish mother and seven of her brave children who lost their lives by resisting the order of the Greek commander to reject their Jewish Faith. The martyrdom of St. Stephen is described in the Acts of the Apostles. The first three centuries saw thousands of Christians heroically choosing Christ and courting the cruel death inflicted by the pagan Roman Empire. St. Thomas More was the second-in-power in England and St. John Fisher the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University. Both were executed by King Henry VIII for choosing the teaching of the Church on marriage and divorce instead of choosing their king’s view. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian and pastor, chose to resist the anti-Christian and non-ethical doctrines of Hitler and was executed at 39. Today’s readings challenge us to make a choice for God and His teachings or against God.
#2: Do we stand for God? A group of Christians gathered for a secret prayer meeting in Russia, at the height of the persecution of all Christian churches. Suddenly the door was broken by the boot of a soldier. He entered the room and faced the people with a gun in his hand. They all feared the worst. He spoke. "If there’s anyone who doesn’t really believe in Jesus, then, get out now while you have a chance." There was a rush to the door. A small group remained - those who had committed themselves to Jesus, and who were never prepared to run from him. The soldier closed the door after the others, and once again, he stood in front of those who remained, gun poised. Finally, a smile appeared on his face, as he turned to leave the room, and he whispered "Actually, I believe in Jesus, too, and you’re much better off without those others!" [Jack McArdle in And That's the Gospel Truth: Reflections on the Sunday Gospels Year B (December, 1999).]
# 3: "I’m Jesus! Don’t you choose me?" There is the story that during the Second World War certain Nazis shot down a group of Jews and buried them in a mass grave. A wounded twelve-year-old boy was still alive. He dug his way out of the shallow dirt and went around the neighborhood seeking shelter in homes. The people knew what had happened and, when they saw the boy caked with dirt, they hurriedly shut the door in his face. One woman was about to do the same when the boy said: “Mom, don’t you recognize me? I’m the Jesus you Christians say you love.” The lady broke into tears and received the boy into her home. She had made her choice for Jesus. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges his audience to believe him and to accept his promise of the Eucharistic food.
Introduction: The main theme of today’s readings is that Christian life is a series of daily choices for God or against God, as we choose to live out or reject the truths He has revealed through His prophets in the Old Testament and especially through His Son Jesus in the New Testament. They remind us that the fundamental choice we make determines how we live our lives. Joshua, in our first reading, and Paul, in the second reading, make similar challenges to the people to make their choice. Today we, too, are challenged to decide whom we will serve. In the first reading Joshua challenges the Israelites to decide whom they will serve, the gods of their fathers, the gods of the Amorites in whose country they were then dwelling or the God of Israelites Who has done so much for them. The Renewal of Covenant ceremony in Joshua 24 reminds us that the Eucharist is a Covenant meal that calls for a decision of Faith. The Response for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34), encourages perseverance to the end, when we shall eventually "taste" (fully realize through personal experience), and "see" (everything, past, present and future, falling into place), "the goodness of the Lord!" Paul, in the second reading, emphasizes the unity that must exist in the Body of Christ and the intimate relationship between Jesus and His followers. It also challenges the Ephesian Christians to build Christian marriages on mutual respect and love. Paul says that the Christian husband and wife should stand together in love before God, respecting each other’s rights and dignity. He also uses the husband-wife relationship as an analogy to explain the close relationship between Christ and the Church. That is why he urges his faithful community in Ephesus, “Live in love, as Christ loved us.” He wants them to make the right choice in life. Paul reminds us that Jesus nourishes us, the members of his Church, through the Eucharist, making us his own Flesh and Blood, as husband and wife become one flesh. Concluding his long Eucharistic discourse in today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges his Jewish audience to make their choice of accepting the New Covenant he offers in his Body and Blood or of joining those who have lost their Faith in him and left him, expressing their confusion and doubts about his claims. Today’s passage describes the various reactions of the people to Jesus’ claims. As Joshua spoke to his followers, Jesus speaks to the twelve apostles and gives them the option of leaving him or staying with him. The disciples cannot reject Jesus after all that he has done for them. Peter, their spokesman, asks Jesus how they can turn to anyone else – he is the only one who has the message of eternal life. The apostles exercise their freedom of choice by choosing to stay with Jesus. In the Eucharistic celebration, we, like Peter, are called to make a decision, profess our Faith in God’s Son and renew the Covenant ratified in his life, death and Resurrection.
First reading, Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18: In our first reading, taken from the book of Joshua, the leader who succeeded Moses, Joshua challenges the Israelites who have entered the Promised Land to make a choice. He challenges the people to reaffirm their Covenant relationship with Yahweh. By that time (12th century B.C.), the Promised Land had been divided up among the tribes of Israel. But a big concern was whether the tribes would drift away from the worship of the God of Israel. So before departing from them in death, Joshua gathered the tribal leaders around him to issue his last words of advice. They gathered at Shechem, 40 miles north of Jerusalem, where God had first appeared to Abraham and promised to make his descendants a great nation (Genesis 12:6ff and 33:18ff). It was a fitting place for the renewal of the Covenant. Joshua reminded the people of what God had done for them in rescuing them from slavery in Egypt, providing for their survival in the desert and giving them victory over their enemies. God had been their Deliverer, Provider and Protector. This is the God that Joshua called Lord and with Whom he wanted to be covenanted. Joshua's challenge to the Israelites is to decide, then and there, whom they will serve, the gods of their fathers, the gods of the Amorites among whom they now live, or this God Who has done so much for them. They have to decide for the God of Israel or to reject Him in favor of the idols of their fathers and neighbors. Their decision for God should be reflected in their fidelity to the terms of the Covenant, i.e. the Law. Then Joshua sets the example for the rest of Israelites: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua’s challenge prefigures the choice the apostles must make in today’s Gospel. We, too, are asked today whether or not we choose to remain in discipleship to Jesus.
Second Reading, Ephesians 5:21-32: In this second reading, Paul, writing to the Ephesians, gives us the criteria for our daily moral choices in the family, parish community and civil society. He wants the Ephesians to use in all spheres of Christian life the criteria for the relationship of a successful marriage. The husband is to use the authority that society gives him over his family, not to dominate and seek his own selfish satisfaction but rather to aid in the salvation and spiritual development of his family and household. Paul uses the image of a marriage relationship primarily to express the bond that exists between Christ and the Church. In addition, he uses the image of marriage to describe the relationship that should exist among believers. Those who enter into the Covenant of marriage should love and submit to one another in mutual care and respect, just as Christ submitted himself in loving sacrifice for the Church. Paul wants the Ephesians to accept, love, mutually respect, serve and recognize the true dignity of each member of Christ as the norms for all their relationships, both in the family and in their Faith community. Paul also reminds them, and reminds us, that Jesus nourishes the members of his Church through the Eucharist, making them his own flesh and blood, as husband and wife become one flesh. So the norms of our every relationship must be acceptance, love, mutual respect, service and recognition of the true dignity of each member of Christ. Our choices in family life and parish life should be guided by this high ideal.
Exegesis: A tough teaching without compromise: "This teaching is difficult. Who can accept it?" It was Jesus' disciples who made this complaint. They were offended by Jesus' language -- his imagery -- the metaphors he used in his Eucharistic discourse. It was Jesus' dramatic way of saying that we must accept him totally, without any conditions or reservations. His thoughts and attitudes, his values, his life-view must become totally ours. Above all we are to identify with him in the offering of his Flesh and the pouring out of his Blood on the cross, the symbol of God's unutterable love for us. But without giving any further explanation, Jesus simply challenged them to open themselves to the gift of Faith that God was offering them: “No one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father” (v. 65). Jesus tries to help his remaining followers to make a leap of Faith, because it is only with Faith that they will be able to see and grasp the triple mystery which has been revealed to them, namely, (1) the Incarnation (I am the Bread that came down from Heaven, 6:41); (2) the redemption (the Bread that I give is my Flesh for the life of the world, 6:51); (3) the Ascension and glorification (the Son of Man will ascend to where he was before, 6:62). Having insisted earlier that the believer must eat the Flesh and drink the Blood of the Son of Man in order to have eternal life, Jesus now tells his disciples "that the flesh is of no avail." But "flesh" here is not the Eucharist. Rather, "flesh" means natural sustenance, which cannot give spiritual nourishment. And the "Spirit" here means the life-giving Holy Spirit Who will be given to believers after Jesus' ascent into heaven. Peter’s response, "Master, to whom we shall go? You have the words of eternal life,” reflects the faith-filled, free and whole-hearted decision of the early Christian community to follow Jesus and his teaching. While giving Holy Communion, the priest says, "The Body of Christ" and we respond with a total, “Amen” or "Yes!" That “Yes!” is not just an act of Faith in the Real Presence but a total commitment of myself to Jesus in the community of which I am a member. Some Bible scholars consider Jesus’ question, “Do you want to leave me, too?” to Peter and the apostle’s response as parallel to Jesus’ question, “Who do you think I am?” and Peter’s confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27-30; Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 9:18-21).
We are reminded of Paul, who spoke of "the offense (scandal) of the cross" (Gal. 5:11), and who said "The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing" (1 Cor. 1:18). The complaints of the disciples (v. 61), linked them to the Israelites who followed Moses into the wilderness. Those early Israelites were unhappy because their journey was hard. Faithful discipleship is seldom easy. Why is the Gospel offensive and scandalous? It is because God’s ways are not our ways. It is offensive because it is costly. When Christ calls us to eat his Flesh and to drink his Blood, he is inviting us to participate in his death. The Christians who first heard this Gospel experienced persecution. They knew martyred Christians, and they knew Christians who had avoided martyrdom by compromising their Faith. The Gospel with no offense would be like a surgeon with no scalpel -- having no power to heal. Christ and his cross, truly revealed, will always be an offense, except to the redeemed. The Church must always be ready to give offense -- to speak out for Christ and against the destructive beliefs and behaviors that the world finds so attractive. The total assimilation of Jesus' spirit and outlook into our lives is very challenging. And it was a challenge that some of Jesus’ disciples were not prepared to face. And the reason? "There are among you some who do not believe, do not trust me." Faith is not simply a set of ideas to be held on to. It is a living relationship with a Person and his vision of life. It is a relationship that needs to grow and be deepened with the years. It is a relationship that has constantly to be re-appraised in a constantly changing world. We must hear Peter’s words to Jesus resounding through the centuries: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Life Messages: # 1: Let us make our choice for Christ and live it: We Christians have accepted the challenge of following the way of Christ and making choices for Christ, fortified by the Bread he gives and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. The Heavenly Bread and the Holy Spirit will give us the courage of our Christian convictions to accept the Church’s teachings and to face ridicule, criticisms and even social isolation for our adherence to sound Christian principles in our lives. 2) The very option or possibility of choosing for or against Jesus is repeated over and over again in the modern age. We should resolve to take a stand for Jesus and accept the consequences. We recognize, in our going to Communion, the accepting of that challenge to be totally one with Jesus. When the priest gives us Holy Communion saying, "The Body of Christ,” we respond, "Amen." That "Amen," that "Yes," is not just an act of faith in the Real Presence; it is a total commitment of ourselves to Jesus in the community of which we are members. We must accept him totally, without any conditions or reservations. Christ’s thoughts and attitudes, his values, his life-view must become totally ours, and must govern and shape our lives. Above all, we are to identify with him in the offering of his Flesh and the pouring out of his Blood on the cross, the symbol of God's unutterable love for us.
Introduction:Today’s readings stress the fact that the Holy Eucharist, the perfect fulfillment of the symbol of the manna of the Old Testament, is the Food that gives us life forever. In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus declared that the Bread he gives is his Flesh. This Sunday, Jesus asserts that to eat this Bread is to have eternal life.
Scripture lessons:Intoday’sfirstreading, taken from the Book of Proverbs, Lady Wisdom, representing God, offers wisdom and understanding in the form of a rich banquet to all those who are willing to heed her invitation. The early Christians often identified Jesus as the Wisdom of God. They regarded the Eucharist as Wisdom’s banquet, where they shared in the Divine Wisdom now Incarnate in Jesus. The ResponsorialPsalm (Ps 34), thanks God for His providential care and His close association with His people, and invites all to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Inthe secondreading, Paul advises the Gentile Christians to show their gratitude to God for calling them, along with the Jews, to Christianity, and for giving them a share in Christ’s life. They will be able to receive this life by avoiding their former foolish ways, like getting drunk on wine. Instead they are to be Spirit-filled with their talk edifying, always trying to discern and do the will of God. In today’sGospel passage, Jesus asserts that eating the Living Bread, himself, allows us to participate in his life and to grow here and now in our eternal life with God. Jesus emphasizes the eternal-life dimensions of eating his Body and drinking his Blood – that those who have faith in Jesus and do so have already stepped into Heaven in this life, sharing in God’s own life and therefore in eternal life. Our participation in the Eucharist also concretizes and energizes our relationship with Christ and with one another. When we share in the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus himself comes to dwell within us. This communion with the Lord makes us one Body, brings us eternal life, and sends us forth to be Christ's Body for the life of the world.
Life messages:# 1: Weneedtoallowourbodytobebrokenandourbloodtobeshed forothersasJesusdid. That is why, at the end of the Mass, we are sent out to announce the Gospel of the Lord by our humble service and exemplary lives, radiating Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of service all around us. Let us say with Jesus, "This is my body, given over for you" and "This is my blood, poured out for you” and live out these words by living for others.
#2: WeneedtokeepthehungerandthirstforGodaliveinourhearts: Every human being is blessed with an insatiable longing for God. We want God as our Father to hold us gently in His arms, keeping us safe throughout the dangers we face. But often we use substitutes as an escape from that need: fast living, fast food, fast cars, needless luxuries, unrestricted sexual fulfillment. We demand the right to do whatever we want to do whenever we want. But let us remember the truth that unless we keep the hunger for God strong in our hearts, we will eventually realize the emptiness of our lives without Him.
O. T. XX (B) (August 16) Proverbs 9:1-6, Eph 5:15-20, John 6: 51-58
Anecdotes:# 1: TouchingthebodyofChrist! Mother Teresa of Calcutta had a rule that when a newcomer arrived to join her Order, the Missionaries of Charity, the very next day the newcomer had to go to the Home of the Dying. One day a girl came from outside India to join the Order. Mother Teresa said to her: "You saw with what love and care the priest touched Jesus in the Host during Mass. Now go to the Home for the Dying and do the same, because it is the same Jesus you will find there in the broken bodies of our poor." Three hours later the newcomer came back and, with a big smile, said to her, "Mother, I have been touching the body of Christ for three hours." "How? What did you do?" Mother Teresa asked her. "When I arrived there," she replied, "they brought in a man who had fallen into a drain, and been there for some time. He was covered with dirt and had several wounds. I washed him and cleaned his wounds. As I did so I knew I was touching the body of Christ." To be able to make this kind of connection we need the help of the Lord himself. It is above all in the Eucharist that he gives us this help.
# 2: Cannibalism in the Andes: In October, 1972, a plane carrying 46 passengers an Uruguayan rugby team and their families and supporters to an exhibition game in Chile crashed in the Andes. NandoParrado, one of the survivors, tells the story of their 72 day struggle against freezing weather and dangerous avalanches in the book Miracle in the Andes.[Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home is a 2006 book by Nando Parrado and Vince Ra.] The author's mother and sister were among those killed in the crash. High in the Andes, with a fractured skull, eating the raw flesh of his deceased teammates and friends, Parrado calmly pondered the cruelties of fate, the power of the natural world and the possibility of his continued existence: "I would live from moment to moment and from breath to breath, until I had used up all the life I had," he wrote. The 16 survivors had nothing to eat except the flesh of their dead teammates. After two months, Nando, an ordinary young man – a rugby player - with no disposition for leadership or heroism, led an expedition of the remaining three of the survivors up the treacherous slopes of a snow-capped mountain and across forty-five miles of frozen wilderness in an attempt to find help. The party was finally rescued by helicopter crews. It was difficult for them to decide that eating human flesh was all right, even in those extreme circumstances! Hence, it is not surprising that Jesus’ listeners protested against his invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood as described in today’s Gospel. (http://www.viven.com.uy/571/eng/default.asp)
3: Food pyramids: New standards for diet were proposed recently. A new food pyramid was developed as a guide for healthy eating. It includes a base of bread, cereals, rice and pasta. The next level up the pyramid is vegetables and fruit. A still smaller next level is milk, yogurt, cheese, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and nuts. The smallest group at the top is fats, oils and sweets. We can propose a food pyramid for those who want a healthy spiritual life. You may want to develop your own, but it might include a base of feeding on the Word of God in the Eucharist and by study and meditation on the Scriptures. Upon that base one is nourished by Christian fellowship. It should include servings of regular worship. To that a daily use of prayer and devotions could be added. On top of those elements should be time for Christian service to meet the needs of others.
Introduction: Today’s readings stress the fact that the Holy Eucharist, the perfect fulfillment of the symbol of the manna of the Old Testament, is the Food that gives us life forever. In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus declared that the Bread he gives is his Flesh. This Sunday, Jesus asserts that to eat this Bread is to have eternal life. The first and second readings encourage us to turn aside from those things that do not nourish and sustain us and turn towards the Divine source: “be filled with the Spirit.” In today’s first reading, taken from the Book of Proverbs, Lady Wisdom, representing God, offers wisdom and understanding in the form of a rich banquet to all those who are willing to heed her invitation. The early Christians often identified Jesus as the Wisdom of God. They regarded the Eucharist as Wisdom’s banquet, where they shared in the Divine Wisdom now present in Jesus. TheResponsorialPsalm (Ps 34), thanks God for His providential care and His close association with His people, and invites all to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”Inthesecondreading, Paul advises the Gentile Christians to show their gratitude to God for calling them, along with the Jews, to Christianity, and for giving them a share in Christ’s life. They will be able to receive this life by avoiding their former foolish ways, like getting drunk on wine. Instead they are to be Spirit-filled with their talk edifying, always trying to discern and do the will of God. In today’sGospel passage, Jesus asserts that eating the Living Bread, himself, allows us to participate in his life and to grow here and now in our eternal life with God. Jesus emphasizes the eternal-life dimensions of eating His Body and drinking his Blood. “Eternal life” is complete and lasting happiness, satisfying our deepest longings and realizing all our dreams. We begin to experience this happiness in this world and enter it completely and forever in Heaven. This means that those who have Faith in Jesus have already stepped into Heaven in this life, sharing in God’s own life and therefore in eternal life. In the case of the Eucharist, once we start eating and drinking Jesus’ Body and Blood, we’re there. Our participation in the Eucharist also concretizes and energizes our relationship with Christ and with one another.
Firstreading,Proverbs9:1-6: In Old Testament times, most people believed that Heaven and Hell existed within this present life rather than in the future. According to Proverbs, Heaven exists in the quest for Divine wisdom, that is, the quest to discover Yahweh's presence in everything and everyone. Those who discover how God operates in this world will live fulfilled and happy lives. In chapter nine from which today’s first reading is taken, Wisdom is depicted as a gracious hostess inviting the people to a fine banquet. "Wisdom" becomes the symbolic image of the search for God's will. As this reading suggests, Faith opens up the fonts of wisdom to nourish us. The reading invites us to an even more excellent banquet: the banquet depicted in today’s Gospel, John 6: 51-58. When we partake of the Flesh and Blood of Christ, we are filled with true wisdom. Here, wisdom means knowing the will of God in our lives, knowing the real values in life and knowing how to live life as God means us to live. In their hymns and creeds, early Christians often identified Jesus as the Wisdom of God. The Bread of Life discourse in John indicates that the Eucharist is Wisdom’s banquet, where we share in the Divine Wisdom Incarnate in Jesus.
Second Reading, Ephesians 5:15-20:In the earlier chapters of his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul reveals God’s secret plan. It is to extend the call of the Chosen People to the Gentiles, too. Hence, in today’sselection, Paul advises the Gentile Christians to show their gratitude to God by avoiding their former foolish ways, like getting drunk on wine. Instead, they have to befilled with the Spirit, understand the will of the Lord and address one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual singing, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Paul encourages the community in Ephesus "to discern the will of the Lord." The authentic follower of Jesus “gives thanks always and for everything." Paul believes that no one can be a faithful follower of God without actively trying to discover God's willfor him or her.The apostle believes that we can discover God’s will wherever we may be.
Exegesis:The background: Although the traditional and accepted view of today's selection from the Bread of Life discourse is that the passage represents a literal event in the life of Jesus, there are some Bible scholars who suggest that this passage is simply a theological reflection on the Eucharist, written for the early Christians. Among the four Gospels, only John’s Gospel fails to mention the Eucharistic institution at the Last Supper. Instead he dedicates five chapters (13-17) to reporting Jesus' discourse, a dialogue between Jesus and his critics, on that theme. Today’s selection, the fourth of five excerpts from this discourse,read on successive Sundays, shows the shocked reaction of some people to Jesus’ blunt statement that the Life-giving bread which he is going to give them is his own body and blood.
Life-giving bread from Heaven: "I, myself, am the living Bread come down from Heaven."“Come down from Heaven”refers to the Incarnation and announces Jesus’ Divine origins; without the Son’s becoming a human being there would be neither Sacrament nor Salvation. Eating this Bread results in profound at-oneness with the Divine: the Son-become-man. The reference to the future, "I will give," points to Jesus’ sacrificial death and to his "Flesh," which was to be offered on Calvary and shared at every Eucharistic celebration. Jesus reminds his listeners that this was not the first time in the history of salvation that God had provided his people with food. The people knew about the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness. They now must realize how that experience differed from Jesus’ feeding his followers with the Holy Eucharist.
A shocking statement: “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you,” Jesus insists. That we cannot have everlasting life unless we eat Jesus’ Body and drink his Blood was a shocking message to the listeners. Indeed, Jewish law prohibited the eating of human flesh, and blood of any kind was considered to be the actual life of a living being. Drinking of blood, consequently, was prohibited in Judaism and in Christianity (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:10, 12, 14;cf. Acts 15:29). Some of Israel’s Old Testament neighbors apparently drank blood as a religious act, believing that if they drank the blood of an animal they took into themselves the strength and vitality of that creature because blood was life, and life was blood. Seeking life from the blood of an animal was idolatrous for Israelites because life comes from God alone. In addition, for the Jews, blood itself was a spiritual contaminant, and coming in contact with blood immediately rendered one ritually unclean. That was why a woman was considered to be ritually unclean for several weeks after she gave birth to a child. We saw in the Gospel [13thSunday B] how a woman with a chronic hemorrhage of blood dared not approach Jesus openly. In the story of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite on their way to the Temple would not contaminate themselves by contact with the injured man because he was bleeding. To this day, observant Jews will eat only kosher meat from which the blood has been fully drained.
The Bread of Life from Heaven is theBody of Christ: The Bread of Life, or the Holy Eucharist, is the Sacramental Body of Christ. Theologians recognize four elements in this “Body of Christ.” 1) The physical body: It is the physical body of Christ which was born in Bethlehem and died on Calvary. 2) The risen body: It is the transformed and glorified body of Jesus (I Cor 15: 35-49) with which Jesus appeared to his disciples. 3) The Mystical Body: It is the Church which is the continuation of Jesus Christ on earth. Each baptized believer is an integral part (member), of the Mystical Body of Christ. 4) The Sacramental Body: It is related to and distinct from the above mentioned bodies of Christ. During the Holy Mass, Jesus takes the bread and wine which we offer on the altar, offers it to God his Father and declares: “This is no longer your body, it is My Body; this is no longer your life’s blood, it is My Blood.” The Eucharist is, thus, Jesus' dying for us, sacrificing himself for us, and calling us to perform the same sacrifice for others.
The Eucharist is the eternal sacrifice of Jesus providing life to those who eat his Body and drink his Blood. Thus, the Holy Massis the Sacramental act which transforms our lives into the Divine Life. In each Mass, Jesus transforms us into other Christs - ritually, sacramentally and existentially – thus keeping his promise: “I will be with you till the end of the world.”
The deeper meaning:In spite of the Jewish antipathy to eating human flesh and blood, “eating Jesus'Flesh and drinking his Blood" became a common liturgical activity for Christians around the time of John's Gospel. The second century martyr, St. Ignatius of Antioch, said, "For food I want the Bread of God, which is the Flesh of Jesus Christ and for drink I want His Blood, which is incorruptible love." It was at the Last Supper that Jesus linked his Flesh with the bread he broke, and shared it with his disciples. Likewise, he linked his Blood with the cup that was passed around, the Blood that was the pledge of an unbreakable bond between Jesus and his people. "This is my Body (my Flesh)... This is My Blood... which will be poured out for you.” The Bread that we eat in the Eucharist is the Body of the Risen Lord; the Wine that we drink in the Eucharist is the Blood of the Risen Lord. When Jesus spoke of his Flesh and Blood as the Food and Drink of eternal life, he was offering himself to the multitude as the real Source of Life. To eat the Flesh of Jesus and to drink his Blood is to become totally identified with his very Person, with his deepest thoughts, with his vision of life, with his values, and with his mission to build the Kingdom of God. In other words, Jesus is here calling us to follow him, to be with him sharing totally and unconditionally his mission and destiny. Thus, the Eucharist is more than a memorial of Jesus’ death (see 1 Cor 11:23-25). Rather, it is the continuation of Jesus’ life after his Resurrection (Luke 24:13-35).
Heaven on earth theology: “Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” "Eternal life" is complete and lasting happiness satisfying our deepest longings and realizing all our dreams. But Jesus’ audience was content with the “bread" they already possessed: the Mosaic Law. Their ancestors ate this "heavenly bread" but "died nonetheless." Jesus is as essential for our resurrected existence as food and drink are for our earthly life.Remember what Jesus told Martha after her brother Lazarus died? "I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in me, even if he die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Heaven doesn’t begin after death. It already exists for those who believe in Jesus. When we begin to eat and drink Jesus’ Jesus warns us that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood we Body and Blood, we are already in Heaven. No wonder that unless we eat this Food and drink from this Cup wewill not have Divine life within us!
Life messages: # 1: We need to allow our body to be broken and our blood shed for others as Jesus did: When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion we accept a great challenge. We accept the triumphs and the tragedies, joys and the pains necessary to build up the Kingdom of God wherever we have been called to serve. That is why, at the end of the Mass, we are sent out to announce the Gospel of the Lord (Form 2),through the witness of our humble service and exemplary lives, radiating Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of service all around us. As we walk away from the altar we may perhaps hear Jesus saying: "This is my Body, which will be given up for you" and "This is the Chalice of my Blood … which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”. What a power we would be for our world around us if each one of us could say that and mean it! That is why, at the end of the Mass, we are sent out with, "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life"(Form 3), through our lives.
#2: We need to keep the hunger and thirst for God alive in our hearts: Every human being is blessed with an insatiable longing for God. We want God as our Father to hold us gently in His arms, keeping us safe throughout the dangers we face. But often we use substitutes as an escape from that need: fast living, fast food, fast cars, needless luxuries, unrestricted sexual fulfillment. We demand the right to do whatever we want to do whenever we want. But unless we keep the hunger for God strong in our hearts, we will eventually realize the emptiness of our lives without God.
Introduction: We are living in a world where people of all races and creeds hunger more for spiritual sustenance than for physical food. In response to the spiritual hunger of people in his own day, Jesus proclaims himself to be “the Bread of Life that came down from Heaven."
Scripture lessons:The first reading describes the physical and spiritual hungers experienced by the prophet Elijah. The Bread of Life Jesus speaks about is prefigured in this reading by the miraculous food with which the angel nourished the Prophet Elijah in the desert while he was fleeing from the soldiers of Queen Jezebel. After being nourished by the Lord, Elijah was strengthened for the long journey of forty days to Mount Horeb where God instructed him to continue his prophetic work.
The second reading presents Christ Jesus, the “Bread of Life,” as a “sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.”Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians that, instead of seeking satisfaction in anger, slander, bitterness and malice, they are to nourish one another with compassion, kindness and mutual forgiveness.
Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum on his return there after his miraculous feeding of the five thousand. During the discourse, Jesus reveals himself as the true “Bread of Life that came down from Heaven,” to give life to the world. Jesus proclaims himself as the new and perfect manna, the Incarnate Son of God literally "come down from Heaven." This means that the Holy Eucharist actually gives us a share of eternal life while we are still on earth. But some of Jesus' followers turned away when he explained the source of his mysterious power and his Heavenly origin.
Life messages: 1) Let us accept the challenge to become bread and drink for others: "You are what you eat?" Let us recognize that Jesus whom we consume in the Holy Eucharist is actually God Who assimilates us into His being. Then, from Sunday to Saturday we will grow into Jesus, as Jesus grows in us, our lives will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we will become more like Jesus. Thus, we shall share in the joyous and challenging life of being the Body of Christ for the world – Bread for a hungry world, and Drink for those who thirst for justice, peace, fullness of life, and even eternal life. In other words, the Eucharist challenges us to sacrifice ourselves for others, as Christ has done for all of us.
# 2: Let us appreciate Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist:Since the Holy Eucharist is "the Body and Blood, together with the soul and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ,” the Sacrament a) increases our intimate union with Christ; b) preserves, increases, and renews the Sanctifying Grace we received at Baptism; c) cleanses us of past sin and preserves us from future sins; d) strengthens the theological virtue of Charity in us, thus enabling us to be separated from our disordered attachments and to be rooted in Christ; and e) unites us more deeply with the mystery of the Church.
OT XIX [B] (August 2) I Kings 19:4-8, Ephesians 4:30--5:2, Jn 6:41-51
Anecdotes: # 1: Marching caterpillars: You may know the famous story of Jean Henri Fabre, the French naturalist, and his processional caterpillars. He encountered some of these interesting creatures one day while walking in the woods. They were marching in a long unbroken line front to back, front to back. What would happen if he made a complete ring with these worms? Would they break their circle or not? So, Fabre captured enough caterpillars to encircle the rim of a flowerpot. He linked them nose to posterior and started them walking in the closed circle. For days they turned like a perpetual merry-go-round. Although food was near at hand and accessible, the caterpillars starved to death on an endless march to nowhere. That seems to be the story of many people today. They are on a march that leads to nowhere. We need to stop for a moment, and sit down in the presence of Jesus and receive him as the Bread of our spiritual life.
# 2: Starving to death in the midst of plenty of food: During the winter of 1610, the population of British immigrants to Jamestown, in the U.S. (the Pilgrims) went from about 500 people to about 60. While disease and American-Indians took some lives, most of the settlers simply starved. There were plentiful supplies of fish, oysters, frogs, fowl, and deer all around them. But these settlers from the city were not accustomed to obtaining food from the land. Hence, they starved! [Cullen, Joseph P. "James' Towne," American History Illustrated (October, 1972).] We sometimes act the same way. God comes to us continually in the Person of the Holy Spirit to guide us. As a loving Father, God awaits the opportunity to meet our needs, but we are not accustomed to receiving things from His loving hand. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises to give us spiritual food. It is up to us to receive the Heavenly Bread.
# 3: He died arguing with them that the canisters were empty.John Krakauer wrote a book entitled Into Thin Air, the story of an expedition to Mount Everest during the spring of 1996 which resulted in a great loss of life. One of the most unfortunate stories was about a young man named Andy Harris, who was one of the expedition leaders. He had stayed at the peak past the deadline that the leaders themselves had set, and as he was coming down, he was in dire need of oxygen. He radioed his problem to the base camp telling them what he needed and told them that he had come upon a cache of oxygen canisters left by some of the other climbers, but they were all empty. The problem was they were not empty - they were absolutely full, but because his brain was already so starved for oxygen and he wasn't thinking clearly, he died arguing with them that the canisters were empty when in reality they were full. The problem was that the lack of what he needed so disoriented his thinking that, even though he was literally surrounded by what he needed, he never took advantage of it. The very life that he needed he held in his hand. He just didn't take it. What oxygen is to the body the Bread of Life is to the soul. Without that Bread, we will never satisfy our real spiritual hunger which is why every day we need to feed on the Bread of the word of God.
Introduction: We are living in a world where people of all races and creeds hunger more for spiritual sustenance than for physical food. In response to the spiritual hunger of people in his own day, Jesus, in today’s Gospel passage from John 6, proclaims himself to be “the Bread of Life that came down from heaven.” It is through Jesus, the bread of life, that we have access to the Divine life during our earthly pilgrimage to God. The sixth chapter of the Gospel of John which contains Jesus' teaching on the Eucharist begins with Jesus’ miraculous feeding of his five thousand hungry listeners in a deserted place to satisfy their bodily hunger. Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum on his return there after his miraculous feeding of the five thousand. During the discourse, Jesus reveals himself as the true “Bread of Life that came down from Heaven,” to give life to the world. Manna" was God’s gift rained down "from Heaven" upon the Israelites to prolong their earthly life. Jesus proclaims himself as the new and perfect manna, as the Incarnate Son of God, literally "come down from Heaven." This means that the Bread we consume in the Eucharist is more than just a guarantee that one day we'll have eternal life. It actually gives us a share of that eternal life while we are still on earth. But some of those who had just witnessed Jesus’ ability to supply them with earthly food turned away when he explained the source of his mysterious power and his Heavenly origin. The first reading describes the physical and spiritual hungers experienced by the prophet Elijah. In this reading, the Bread of Life Jesus speaks about is prefigured by the miraculous food with which the angel nourished the Prophet Elijah in the desert while he was fleeing from the soldiers of Queen Jezebel. After being nourished by the Lord, Elijah was strengthened for the long journey of forty days to Mount Horeb where God had given Moses the Ten Commandments. The second reading presents Christ Jesus, the “Bread of Life,” as a “sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians that, instead of seeking satisfaction in anger, slander, bitterness and malice, they are to nourish one another with compassion, kindness and mutual forgiveness. It is Faith that strengthens us to live in this way, doing the right thing in our relationships with others, in a world filled with terror and violence and in a Church marked by betrayal and disillusionment.
First reading, 1 Kings 19:4-8: King Ahab of Israel married a pagan queen, Jezebel, who imported pagan worship into Israel. The prophet Elijah challenged 450 of the pagan god Baal’s prophets, defeated them in a public sacrifice-contest and killed all of them. The furious Queen Jezebel sent soldiers to kill the prophet. Today’s first reading expresses Elijah’s discouragement and frustration as he fled for his life. Collapsed in the only available shade, Elijah fell into a sleep of exhaustion while awaiting release through a speedy death. God heard His prophet’s prayer and sent an angel to feed him and strengthen him in his flight. The miraculous food provided by God sustained him through a 40-day pilgrimage to Horeb (Mount Sinai), where Elijah would be commissioned again as God’s prophet to carry on the struggle and to anoint his successor. Like Elijah, all of us learn to recognize our weakness and frailty, and are able to experience God’s empowering grace which is capable of transforming our powerlessness and discouragement. The lectionary compares God’s strengthening of his prophet by the miraculously-provided food with His strengthening of us in our pilgrimage to Heaven by the Bread from Heaven, namely, the Holy Eucharist.
Second Reading, Ephesians 4:30-5:2: The second reading contains St. Paul’s practical advice for peaceful, communal Christian living among former enemies, namely, the now-converted Jews and the converted Gentiles. Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians that their discipleship must be guided by the virtues of compassion and forgiveness, avoiding “bitterness, fury, shouting and reviling which would grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” That is how they should offer their lives as sacrifices pleasing to God, just as Jesus, “the Bread from Heaven,” offered himself as a “sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” It is Faith that strengthens us to live this way, doing the right thing in our relationships with others, in a world filled with terror and violence and in a Church marked by betrayal and disillusionment.
Exegesis:Jesus’ unique claims: Jesus makes a series of unique claims in today’s gospel passage: 1) “I am the Living Bread that came down from Heaven.” 2)”I am the Bread of Life.” 3) “The Bread that I will give is My Flesh for the life of the world.” 4)“No one can come to me unless the Father Who sent me draw him.” 5)“I will raise him on the last day.” 6) “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God.” In short, Christ Jesus reveals himself as God and as the “Bread of Life from Heaven,” sent by the Father for our salvation.
Jesus’ claims challenged: Jesus’ Jewish listeners could hardly contain themselves when Jesus claimed to be the "Bread of Life" (v. 35) who "came down from Heaven" (v. 38). They thought they knew his father and mother (v. 42), and saw him as just another hometown boy – a carpenter by profession without any formal training in Mosaic Laws and Jewish Scriptures. They could remember when he had moved from Nazareth to Capernaum with a band of unknown disciples, mostly fishermen. Hence, they came to the natural conclusion: “either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse" (C. S. Lewis).
The complaint launched: In today's portion of the lengthy Bread of Life discourse (49 of Chapter Six's 71 verses), John re-emphasizes the similarities and contrasts between the old "manna in the wilderness" experience and this new notion of a “Bread of Life” that is directly tied to Jesus. In verse 41, John’s noting of the Jewish identity of the "complaining" crowd recalls for us their own unique history. Those listening to Jesus began to "murmur" against Jesus and his gifts of Heavenly Bread even as the ancient Israelites began to "murmur" or "complain" against Moses -- first out of hunger (Exodus 16:2,7,12), then against the monotony of the manna diet (Numbers 11:4-6). Like the Israelites, we, too, complain when God fails to meet our expectations.
Jesus’ response: Jesus knew that the Jews were upset about his explanation that the multiplication of bread and fish signified that he himself was the Heavenly Bread that gives eternal Life. Jesus challenged the Jews to take a journey of Faith by seeing him, not as the son of Joseph, but as the one who came down from Heaven. Saying, "No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me ..." Jesus told his listeners, and tells us, that everyone who has become his follower has done so because God the Father has called him or her to Jesus. It is an act of God that has brought us to follow the way of Jesus. Faith is a gift. To follow Jesus is to live by Faith; to believe means to make those necessary changes to one's lifestyle that being a believer demands. Then Jesus offered the ultimate reassurance to every one of us who believes: "I will raise him up on the last day" (cf. vv.39, 40, 44, 54). This persistent theme serves to remind the reader/listener that only Jesus, the true Bread of Life, can impart the gift of eternal Life to the faithful.
Faith in practice:"Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me."Here Jesus clarifies that listening to God, and learning from God are key factors in our seeking Jesus and in our growing into strong believers and faithful servants of Jesus. The Good News is that God is willing to be present in our midst and to teach us. Jesus asserts this point quoting Scripture, "And they shall be taught by God."
The Holy Eucharist foreshadowed: Jesus’ dialogue with the Jews no longer deals with manna, but with his very person: the revealer who brings us God's salvation. Although John’s Chapter 6 has no direct reference to the Holy Eucharist, Jesus’ words remind us of the centrality of the Eucharist as the primary source of our spiritual nourishment. Jesus knows quite well that we need both spiritual and physical food for life’s journey. He offers both to us. Thus, the meal that we share at the Eucharistic table provides the food for this journey (“viaticum”). Furthermore, He tells us that this Bread from Heaven is His Flesh, given for the life of the world.The Jews, as well as Jesus’ disciples, understood that he was speaking literally when he said that His Body was food. This statement appeared to some as outrageous and impossible. Jesus, however, insisted that His words must be accepted literally, and that His Father would draw men to accept them.
The bread from heaven is also the word of God: In the Bible, bread appears several times as an image of wisdom, or Divine revelation: Isaiah says "You who have no money, come, receive bread and eat" (55:1-3); Proverbs invites everyone, "Come, eat of my bread"(9:1-6), and Sirach says, "Whoever fears the Lord and holds to the law will obtain wisdom... She will feed him with the bread of learning."(15:1-3). This should make a lot of sense to us, because we read books and watch movies and television to learn about life (hopefully) and to increase our knowledge. In the same way, we need to read, reflect and pray over the Word of God privately so that it can nourish our souls and be our true "soul food".
Life messages:1) We need to eat the living bread from Heaven and be one with Jesus: Jesus wants us to eat him because he IS Bread. "You are what you eat?" Jesus is Bread and he wants us to eat his Flesh. Thus, we bring him into the core of our being. He is ready to come into our lives, regardless of who we have been, or how unqualified we feel. Let us live the life of Faith ... making changes so that he becomes the staple food of our spiritual life, not a side dish. Let us be people who recognize that Jesus, whom we consume, is actually God Who assimilates us into His being. Then, from Sunday to Saturday we will grow into Jesus, as he grows in us, our lives will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we will become more like him. Thus, we shall share in the joyous and challenging life of being the Body of Christ for the world – Bread for a hungry world, and Drink for those who thirst for justice, peace, fullness of life, and even eternal life.
# 2: We need to accept the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist as an inspiring challenge. Based on sound tradition and the centuries-long teaching of the Magisterium, the Roman Catholic Church has consistently held fast to the belief in the Real Presence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the other sacraments as the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all sacraments tend." In this most blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist "the Body and Blood, together with the soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained" (CCC #1374). The Fathers of the Church explain that, while ordinary food is assimilated into man, the very opposite takes place in Holy Communion. Here man is assimilated into the Bread of Life. Hence, let us learn to receive Jesus, really present in the Eucharist, with due reverence, true repentance, proper preparation and grateful hearts. Let us remember that Holy Communion a) increases our intimate union with Christ; b) preserves, increases, and renews the Sanctifying Grace received at Baptism; c) cleanses us from past sin and preserves us from future sins; d) strengthens the theological virtue of Charity, thus enabling us to be separated from our disordered attachments and to be rooted in Christ; and e) unites us more deeply to the mystery of the Church.
3) We need to appreciate God’s love for us expressed in the Holy Eucharist.Pope John Paul II taught: “The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Presence of Christ, who gives himself to us because he loves us. He loves each one of us in a unique and personal way in our practical daily lives: in our families, among our friends, at study and work, in rest and relaxation. He loves us when he fills our days with freshness, and also when, in times of suffering, he allows trials to weigh upon us: even in the most severe trials, he lets us hear his voice. To celebrate the Eucharist, ‘to eat his Flesh and drink his Blood,’ means to accept the wisdom of the Cross and the path of service. It means that we signal our willingness to sacrifice ourselves for others, as Christ has done” Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (Holy Thursday, April 17, 2003).
4) We are participating in Christ in the Eucharistic celebration: The "Sacrifice of the Altar" is our participation in the entirety of Christ – his life, his ministry, his crucifixion and death for our sins, his Resurrection, and his Ascension to Heaven. We unite with him by offering our lives to him so that he ministers to the world through us. We sacrifice our will when and where it interferes with his, which results in our being raised up to new life as we follow Christ to Heaven. Every Catholic Mass accomplishes this by providing us with our Savior's Body and Blood, crucified and Risen, here and now, in the form of edible food. As Pope St. John Paul II pointed out in Ecclesia de Eucharistia,"The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed that the Eucharistic banquet of Mass is 'the source and summit of the Christian life'."