Sunday, August 12, 2012

"I am the bread that came down from heaven"


During one hot summer day, a priest was conscious to keep his homily brief due to the heat, so after the Gospel he said simply, “Well, we all know it’s hot in here, but it’s even hotter down there.  So, be good and love Jesus!”  Well, my homily today will be a little longer than that, but I’ll try and keep it brief.

We heard in our Gospel passage today Jesus proclaimed, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  Today’s Gospel passage continues our four-week reflection on the Eucharist as we hear another part of the Bread of Life monologue from John’s Gospel. 

We find in today’s passage a lot of confusion about what Jesus is talking about.  We hear that “the Jews murmured” because Jesus had called Himself the Bread from Heaven.  You see, they knew who Jesus was, who His parents and family were.  They knew where He came from.  How could He say that He came down from heaven?  The problem really comes down to the difference between their expectations and the reality they had in front of them.  The reality before them, Jesus, differed from their expectations of what the Messiah should be and so they did not recognize the moment of their Visitation.

The people expected the Messiah to, literally, come down from heaven. They were waiting for spectacular events and supernatural manifestations in the sky when they would literally see the Anointed of God coming down in the clouds. So when Jesus, the carpenter’s son, came forward and claimed that “I am He,” they could not reconcile the reality before them with the expectations in their minds.

They knew this Jesus all too well, or at least they thought they did.  And the result was that they missed the very presence of God, the Word made Flesh, in their midst.  The message, I think, is the same for us – when we insist that God must meet our expectations and our reasoning before we can believe, we too will be in for a big surprise; and we too could miss the very presence of God dwelling in our midst.

So, how does God come down from heaven? How does God come into our lives? Well, God comes to us in very ordinary ways.  Today, God will come to us by transforming ordinary bread and wine into the extraordinary Body and Blood of His Son.  If we are looking up to the sky for the clouds to part and that Bread to descend dramatically; if we are waiting for trumpet blast and a choir of angels; if we expect a bright light to break out in our midst; well, we too will miss the reality of God’s presence on our very altar.  A presence that He promises to manifest not only on our altar, but deep within our hearts and beings as we take that precious Body of Christ into ourselves.  St. Francis of Assisi put it this way writing of the Eucharist, “The Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under the simple form of bread! Look at the humility of God and pour out your hearts before him.”

This presence of God in our midst today and every day is so simple, so ordinary, that we just might miss it; but with eyes, minds and hearts open it is so profound, so spectacular that if we are open to it, our lives will be changed.  We will become what we receive!  We will become the very presence of God – through His indwelling in this Sacrament – for all those we meet.  We come into this Church each week as our ordinary selves, but we depart as living, breathing, walking and talking Tabernacles of the Lord brining His Divine Presence to our homes, our families, our friends and even to the strangers we meet.

Once are eyes are opened; one we become re-tuned to where and how God manifests Himself to us we begin to see that He is present all around us.  In Word and Sacrament – yes; but also in the beauty of the world He created for us; in the gift of life itself; in the love shared between family and friends – through the gifts of compassion and care that we receive every day. He comes to us in the ordinary people we meet in our everyday lives.  So, today let us take a second look at those people we know all too well — or at least we think we do — those people we often take for granted. These men, women and children may indeed be the messengers that God has sent to us to speak a message to us to assure us of His love and care.

Let us not “murmur” like those around Jesus did.  The question is not whether God comes to us, but whether we are able to recognize God at work in our lives.  The Presence of God in Word and Sacrament should lead us to a recognition of the presence of God all around us.  As we take the precious Body of our Lord into our own bodies today, let us ask God through that Sacramental Grace to open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to a greater recognition of His presence in our midst.

“Amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”

May the Lord give you peace.

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