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Saturday, 18 August 2012

Homily/Reflection: Twentieth (20th) Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B (August 19 2012)

Theme: “The Eucharist: Food for Eternal Life”.
A teacher once asked his students to mention the basic necessities of life and they responded “food, shelter and clothing”. He asked them again, of all these which do you consider the most important. They all said food and the teacher asked them the reason for their answer. The first person said it was because food gives one the strength to provide shelter for oneself. The second person said food provides the energy to manufacture one’s clothing and other needs and a third person said food was the basic ingredient to sustain life. I think the students were all correct in their answers.

This reminds us of the theory of hylomorphism in Aristotle’s philosophy. He described substance as a composite of matter and form. From this form of dualism, medieval philosopher-theologians like Dons Scotus and Thomas Aquinas developed a Christian version of hylomorphism. Thus, for them, man is made up of body (matter) and soul (form). While the body (matter) is physical, the soul (form) is spiritual and this hylomorphic union expresses the need for both physical and spiritual satisfactions in man. That is why we eat to satisfy the body while according to Socrates, the practice of virtue satisfies the soul. 

Aware of this hylomorphic need (the needs of the body and the soul), Jesus in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, emphasized the need for satisfying both. He talked to the woman about satisfying our spiritual thirst with life-giving water – the water that gives eternal life. In today’s gospel reading (John 6:51-58), Jesus continuing his discourse on the Holy Eucharist talks also about the life-giving bread – the bread that gives eternal life and according to him, “anyone who eats this bread will live forever” and the bread is his flesh given “for the life of the world”.

Beloved friends, our world today seems to be concerned only with the things of the flesh especially physical food. We know that we are composites of spiritual and material elements and so desire both, but hardly do we look for those spiritual elements that sustain life and make it worth living. The physical food we consume is only to keep the flesh going and we do our best to consume enough of that but what efforts have we made to sustain the life of our souls?

For this reason, wisdom in the first reading (Proverbs 9:1-6) invites us to “come and eat bread and drink wine”. This invitation is not to satisfy a physical need but to take care of a spiritual need. It is not a physical food but a spiritual food though it comes in physical form. This invitation is an invitation to the Holy Sacrifice of the mass and the bread we are invited to eat is the body of Christ and the wine is the blood of Christ, all contained in the Holy Eucharist, the food for eternal life. It is also for this reason that it is said “happy are those who are invited to the banquet of the Lord”.

Beloved friends, how do you respond to this divine invitation to come and eat of the bread that came down from heaven? The body of Christ is real food for our souls and his blood is real drink. Whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood lives in Christ and Christ lives in him. This is the food we are privileged to eat in the holy sacrifice of the mass each day but unfortunately today, many of us have less regard and need for the Holy Eucharist. We are invited to reconsider our attitude towards the Holy Mass. Some prefer to call it service while others prefer to restructure it to suit their radical spiritualities. What does the Holy Mass mean to you?

The Holy mass is a sacrifice of thanksgiving and as the second reading (Eph. 5:15-20) exhorts us, we have to be filled with the Spirit, sing the words and tunes of psalms and hymns when we are together, so that always and everywhere we are giving thanks to God who is our father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our sincere thanksgiving to God should be shown more by the kind of lives we live, a life capable of letting others see the life of Christ in us. It is only when we take the Eucharist as our spiritual food and allow it to nourish our souls that people can look at us and join the psalmist today to say “taste and see that the Lord is good” because the goodness of the Lord will be ever see in all we do, since we can do all things through him who strengthens us (cf. Phil. 4:13). God loves you.

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