On this page you will find links to Fr. Reutter’s homilies and bulletin articles about the Eucharist from July and August 2018.
Be sure to use these resources frequently to grow deeper in your love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament!
- In His Own Words
- Fr. Reutter's Homilies and Articles on the Eucharist
- The bread of life
- Homily 17th Sun OT – X of Loaves and Fish – July 29, 2018 – Bread of Life Discourse, Part I
- Homily 18th Sun OT – August 5, 2018 – Bread of Life Discourse, Part II
- Homily 19th Sun OT – August 12, 2018 – Bread of Life Discourse, Part III
- Homily 20th Sun OT – August 19, 2018 – Bread of Life Discourse, Part IV
- Homily 21st Sun OT – August 26, 2018 – Bread of Life Discourse, Part V
In His Own Words
Read Jesus’ own sermon on the Eucharist, called the Bread of Life discourse in John, chapter 6. Be sure to prayerfully read what Jesus has to say about the Eucharist in this powerful chapter before diving into the other resources on this webpage.
Fr. Reutter’s Homilies and Articles on the Eucharist
Every three years, five Sunday Gospel readings in mid to late summer focus on Jesus’ great Bread of Life discourse in John chapter 6, dividing up the chapter to be read over the five Sundays. This is Jesus’ most detailed teaching on the Eucharist, and is therefore a very valuable sermon for us to reflect on, not only in understanding what the Mass is on a doctrinal level, but also understanding the role and centrality of the Eucharist in our daily lives.
Fr. Reutter is sharing the homilies he delivered on these five Sundays in 2018, as well as his bulletin articles from these Sundays, for you to utilize in your spiritual life. They are linked in the boxes to the left. You can use them to deepen your understanding of what the Eucharist is, or to help you more centrally place the Eucharist in your daily life. You could also meditate on these homilies and articles, by reading them and then reflecting for about 10 minutes on the part of the homily or article that sticks out to you.
Be sure to make plenty of use of these resources!
The bread of life
From the pastor:
Throughout the month of August, the Gospel at Mass is the “Bread of Life” Discourse, Jesus’ own teaching on what the Eucharist is and what it means to receive Holy Communion.
This is critically important for you and your family to understand, because the Eucharist is the bedrock and center of our lives as Christians.
Here are some resources to help you understand this teaching better.
- The Bible. Please read St. John’s Gospel, chapter 6, slowly and carefully
- Some excerpts from Fr. Reutter’s homilies on the Bread of Life
- Some excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Bread of Life (paragraphs 1322 – 1419)
Homily 17th Sun OT – X of Loaves and Fish – July 29, 2018 – Bread of Life Discourse, Part I
For those who didn’t hear me preach last weekend, I wanted to remind you all where I am going for the next five weeks. The Church reads through this fundamentally important Scripture passage from St. John’s Gospel, c. 6, divided up into five parts because it is a very long chapter.
It’s the story of Jesus unfolding His teaching on the greatest gift that He has ever given to the Church and continues to give to the Church: His own Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, which renews the saving sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary at each and every holy Mass and makes it present among us.
It’s so important that I’m going to be summarizing this in the bulletins and on the parish website if you want to come back to it, and as we move into fall, we’ll also be having some adult faith formation opportunities to learn more about how important the Eucharist is in our lives.
We want to take some time with it. It is such a deep, beautiful and mind-boggling mystery that Jesus breaks it in into steps, unfolding the mystery little by little and teaching it to His Apostles so they can teach us.
The first step is the sign – the miracle we might call it – of Jesus’ divine power. That’s the part we hear today, where Jesus multiplies the loaves and the fish so that people understand that He is not just an ordinary rabbi or even prophet, but God Himself.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll move on to how He explains that it is much more than just a sign, that for centuries the Father has been preparing their spiritual ancestors for His coming and this gift of the Eucharist, and – as hard as it is to believe – that we have to eat the true Body and drink the true Blood of Jesus to have Divine Life within us and to have the happiness of eternal life. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s just dive in to some of the details of today’s part of the story, because every line and every detail tells us something important about the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament: We start by noticing that a huge crowd follows Jesus, curious about just Who this guy is. But when He goes up the mountain, only the few, His Disciples, follow Him, because it is hard work to climb a mountain. That is something we should never forget. Following Jesus is challenging.
He never promises us that it is going to be a walk in the park. He tells us frequently in the Gospels that we have to pick up our Cross to follow Him. We’ll see that later when a lot of people leave Jesus because they think the teaching on the Eucharist is just too hard.
Next, there is the line about the feast of the Passover being near. That is not a throwaway line: The feast of the Passover, for observant Jews, was a very big deal. Just as many of us spend a huge amount of time and effot preparing for Christmas, it was the same then with Passover.
There was an intense preparation period as people got ready to travel to Jerusalem. The timing of this miracle is not an accident. The Passover was the annual remembrance of the Jewish people that God freed them from slavery in Egypt and allowed them to pass through the Red Sea, freed from the death that befell the Egyptians, to reach the promised land.
So Jesus was showing by this sign that He was going to change the Passover forever. More than just a remembrance of God’s saving power, at the Last Supper He would do something totally radical: He would make a new Passover that was God’s saving power in action and in the flesh. So that it wouldn’t be just a ritual, but the very core of our relationship with Him.
The next thing we notice is that Jesus, as the Son of God, can do anything He wants – with or without us. But He chooses to use His disciples to be the agents of His miracle. To draw Andrew and Philip into the act, so to speak. But not without teaching them a lesson first. St. John reminds us that He is testing Philip the Apostle with His questions. He sees this crowd of 5,000 hungry, irritated men and asks Philip – how can we possibly buy enough food to eat???
Jesus knows the answer: We can’t. And that’s the point. He is teaching Phillip that he can not rely on his own talents or material or worldly resources to provide the love and Providence of God. For that, He has to rely on the power of Jesus Himself.
The next thing we notice is that, as the Divine Son of God, Jesus can solve the hunger problem any way he wants. This is the same Jesus that created out of nothing at the beginning of the world. He could have just made food appear instantaneously, or even just willed food directly into their bellies without them having to eat.
But He doesn’t want to do that. Jesus wants to use the good things that He created in nature to extend His love and His presence. To allow us to share and participate in the work. So he takes the measly amount of barley loaves and fish and transforms them and multiplies them by His sacred power into a feast for thousands.
It is much the same with the Holy Mass. Our Lord and Savior could let us share in His holy sacrifice any way He wants. But He chooses to allow us to participate. To give the bread and wine – symbolic of the good things of the earth that He gives us and the work and labor we add – to give back to Him. And then He does the rest. He shares with a priest His divine power to transform that into His true Body and Blood.
Next, we see in the story the extraordinary overflowing abundance of the love of God. Jesus could simply multiply exactly enough food to prevent their hunger. But He multiplies in a supergenerous, profligate way, showing that His love and Providence know no bounds.
And even the lines that there was more than they could eat and that there was food left over is significant. It’s a symbol of the fact that there is far, far more to this mystery of Jesus giving us His own Body and Blood than we can possibly take in in “one sitting.” That is why we come back, week in and week out, to this great mystery of the Eucharist. For those who keep their hearts open to the mystery, it is never boing – that is, if we understand that it is a mystery – because we can receive more new grace every time we share in His Holy Body and Blood.
Sadly, not every Catholic is ready to try to grasp that. In the story, some people exclaim, “He is the Prophet come into the world.” No, He is much, much more than that. He is the one the prophets point to – the presence of God in the flesh.
In a very similar way, we should renew our efforts to see the Mass as much more than a community meal – but the very life-blood of our existence, the food for eternal life.
Homily 18th Sun OT – August 5, 2018 – Bread of Life Discourse, Part II
As re reminder for those who weren’t at Mass last week, we are continuing to read through one of the most critically important passages of the Gospels to help us understand what our Catholic faith is about: St. John, Chapter 6, where Jesus gives the teaching on the Bread of Life: what it means that He gives us the same Body and Blood that He sacrificed on the Cross for us every time we come to Sunday Mass.
In this part of the long discourse, we get to the heart of the questions that matter most to us: What are we really looking for in life? Where can we find it? What is worth working for in life?
All of these answers and more are bound up in what we do at Mass today.
Jesus’ message to the crowds in the Gospel is that they are looking for what they think will make them happy but won’t really make them happy. That’s because the way God made us, with a soul that longs to be in Communion with Him, the only thing that will make us truly happy is His own presence, His own person.
We can easily fall into the same trip as the crowd from the Gospel– especially in our own day and age which bombards us with the message that we have to find immediate pleasure and comfort in worldly goods, rather than in the presence of Jesus.
It turns out a lot of the people who are following Jesus in the Gospel aren’t there for the right reason. They were intrigued by the fact that He miraculously provided food for a hungry crowd of 5,000 men. Everybody loves a “free meal,” right? They want to see more of this. So what is Jesus’ response? He wants to help them set their sights higher. Not on a great meal, but on feasting on His presence.
So He tells them: “You are looking for me because you ate the loaves and were filled. Don’t work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life!” And where can they get this “food that endures for eternal life?” Only from Jesus Himself: The Son of Man will give this to you.
Many of us work hard to provide for our daily needs, maybe even struggle to put food on the table for our families. Of course we have to take care of our bodily needs – we are not angels.
The trouble is, we fall into the trap of thinking that is the be-all and end-all. That this is the only thing we need and the only thing that matters in life: the material but not the spiritual.
Jesus wants us to go the step further. The step that distinguishes us from the animals that He created. As much as we need to take care of our bodies, we have a spiritual hunger that is just as important. Far more important, actually. A hunger that can only be fulfilled by Jesus’ presence.
Did we catch what Jesus says, “Don’t work for food that perishes, but for food that endures for eternal life.” That means that, in a very real way, properly receiving the Most Blessed Sacrament is work. Joyful work, yes. A work more fulfilling than any job or career could ever possibly be, but work nonetheless.
Just showing up at Mass is not enough, as important as it is. If we want to receive the Eucharist in such a way that it will fulfill us, we have to work at it. What does that mean? I’m going to suggest three things
 Not attaching too much importance to material things and comforts;  Preparing ourselves
to receive it (3) Training ourselves to recognize—every time – just what it is, or better, Who it is
– that we are receiving.
The first one might be the hardest for us as modern Americans living in a land of abundance and plenty. In the material sense, we are better off than just about any generation that has gone before us. With some exceptions, we have everything we need materially and lots more. So we start getting the false idea that we don’t really need Jesus in the Eucharist. What we have in our possessions, our entertainment, is enough. We see a hint of that in the Old Testament reading.
God in His goodness, leads the Egyptians out of terrible slavery and oppression in Egypt, and what do they do? They complain. “We had better food in Egypt! We had our fleshpots and our bread!” What they don’t say is that they weren’t allowed to worship God – the “food” they really needed. So some are less than grateful when God provides this manna, this mysterious bread from heaven, because they just can’t detach themselves from material things. Sometimes it’s the same with us. That’s why the Church has a beautiful tradition of many monks and nuns who fast frequently, who deliberately deprive themselves of worldly goods, so that they can remember that the Eucharist they receive is their true treasure.
The second one is also hard for us as Americans, who are constantly rushing from thing to thing. So that we don’t always take adequate time for preparation. We might come to Mass at the last minute, without praying first, without really thinking about what is about to happen. Especially without calling to mind why we need the Mass: that we need forgiveness of sins. And often without bothering to go to confession first. Sometimes for months or even years. So that our hearts aren’t open to receive the fullness of God’s love and mercy contained in the Holy Eucharist. If we don’t do the work of preparation of coming to Mass then we can easily block the grace of God. I am going to suggest something that sounds very radical today – although it wouldn’t have 40 years ago. It’s this: that we should save the socializing in the church nave for after Mass. That our time before Mass should be the time that we save to talk to the Lord quietly, Who is truly present here in the tabernacle. Our friends can wait until after Mass to catch up with us then. It’s not that I’m anti-social – not at all. But that our relationship with Jesus comes first. He is why we are here. We can socialize anywhere, but we can’t be with Jesus present both bodily and in spirit – Body Blood Soul and Divinity – outside the Church. So we have a bit of a challenge here at St. Peter’s because this church was unfortunately not designed to have a social space for congregating conveniently located before we come into Church. But we’ll work on that. Some of you might be old enough to remember when the Church required fasting from midnight before receiving Holy Communion. Not a bad practice, for those whose health permits, even though it is now optional. Part of the preparation to receive is to make sure that we are hungry for Jesus. Being physically hungry is a great way to remind our body of that!
The third one might be the easiest, but still takes some work. When we receive, we should consciously call to mind what is happening. Even little things like praying “Lord, give us this bread always!” Or “My Lord and My God!” at the moment of consecration, may help.
Let us make that our prayer for our parish and our families. That we will truly increase our zeal to do the work necessary to receive with gratitude the very Bread of Life!
Homily 19th Sun OT – August 12, 2018 – Bread of Life Discourse, Part III
As re reminder for those who weren’t at Mass last weekend, I am doing a series in preaching and in the bulletin columns about one of the most important Gospel passages we need to meditate on as Catholics and Christians: St. John, chapter 6. That’s because, for every weekend in August, the Church proclaims this powerful Gospel at Mass, and breaks up this very long teaching of Jesus into bite-size chunks so we can begin to understand it little by little. The overall gist of the chapter is Jesus explaining how He will give us the gift of the Eucharist – not just for the disciples He’s speaking to at the time, but for all Catholics until the end of time. He also explains how this is at the core of our life and our salvation. So pretty important to
To get what Jesus is saying, it’s critical to understand that what Jesus gives us is not something but rather someone. That is, what Jesus gives us in the Bread of Life – in the Sacred Host and the holy Chalice – is not mere physical food, not just a token of His love, not merely a symbol – but Himself. It is God’s love incarnate (in the flesh), the fullness of His very Divine Being in sacramental form.
We can count how many times that Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” Ego sum panis vitae. And if we really delve into a Scripture and language study, we find out that’s not the best translation. Jesus is saying more, “It is I Myself Who am the Bread of Life.” The emphasis is on the I.
That is critically important. To be honest, it’s something a lot of Catholics still don’t understand. We come to Mass not to “get something” – but to receive Someone into our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. Or maybe better, to encounter Jesus Christ, the Living God, present on this altar, present in His living word, present in the priest who stands in the person of Christ, present above all in what is called the “Sacred Species,” the consecrated bread and wine which cease to be bread and wine but become the Body and Blood of Christ.
Incidentally, that is why there is such a difference between praying the Mass and bringing Communion to the sick and shut-in. Taking Communion to someone outside Mass is at good thing – there is still some grace given, certainly. But it’s something done only when strictly necessary – because in that case, we don’t encounter Christ the priest, making present the sacrifice of His Holy Cross, which happens every time a priest is present to celebrate the Mass.
This is such an astounding teaching that we shouldn’t get jaded to it, or to used to it, or indifferent to it in any way. The only way we can truly understand it is to ask the Lord to open up or minds to the mystery. Because once we cease to believe that there is anything special about the Eucharist, that “what we see is what we get” – then we miss Our Savior’s entire point: When it comes to the Eucharist, there is far, far more than just what meets the eye.
If we are to celebrate the Holy Mass to full effect, then it is important to wrestle with this and to ask the Lord to increase our faith.
It is interesting that in the Gospel, we see what happens to those who refuse to do so. Jesus, the Son of God, chose to take on our humanity – to grow up in what seemed at first glance to be an ordinary family – to be what seemed on the surface an ordinary man. And so many of His people simply can’t believe that this Jesus is truly the Son of God.
They can’t believe there is anything special about this man. Anything different about this man. He is just an ordinary Joe. His dad was just a carpenter. His mother was just a villager from Nazareth. As far as what meets the eye, there is nothing special here. What could He possibly have to give us that someone else couldn’t?
And if we really think about it, that is exactly the same mentality that many many people have about this gift of the Bread of Life. Sometimes, sadly, even Catholics. They might think – or act as if they believe – that the Mass is just a religious service, like any other. The bread and wine at Mass are just symbols. I knew that priest growing up and there wasn’t anything special about him.
But Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ challenges us in love to go much, much deeper.
“Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
We should almost memorize those words. They are a perpetual reminder to us that this holy Bread of Life is the gateway for us to eternal life and happiness with our Heavenly Father. That when we duly prepare ourselves to receive the Bread of Life at Mass, then, when we receive Him, we become more like Jesus, become holier, become transformed. We begin to understand more and more that our biological earthly life is not a goal in itself; it is a pilgrimage to the life of Heaven that Jesus wants for us. That the physical food we enjoy the most is as nothing compared to this Heavenly Food that we receive at this altar today.
All of this and more is the gift of Jesus, the Son of God, to us Who believe and line up our lives so that the Eucharist is the focus, the very center, the highlight of our day, the highlight of the week, the highlight of our whole life.
Let us pray for our families and our parish, that we may have the grace to do exactly that: to believe that Jesus Himself is the very Bread of Life; that with an astonishing love, He gives us the Bread of Life; that this Bread from Heaven is our most precious gift.
Homily 20th Sun OT – August 19, 2018 – Bread of Life Discourse, Part IV
As re reminder of our theme here, for the entire month of August, the Church proclaims the Gospel from St. John, chapter 6, “the Bread of Life” discourse – Jesus’ very own teaching on the Eucharist. This is such a core and important teaching that we reflect on the whole chapter for five weeks running. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that if we don’t make an effort to understand this properly, the whole foundation for our Catholic faith is on very, very shaky ground.
So I am encouraging you to read this chapter at home, to look at our parish website for more resources, and to use the free online videos and resources that we will be providing for you to spend a little more time with this.
I’ve preached in recent weeks about the Church’s teaching on transubstantiation, to use the technical term, the $10 word. It means that, the moment the priest says the words of consecration during Mass, the bread and wine offered as gifts cease to be bread and wine. If you’re wondering why the altar servers ring the bell, it is to highlight the importance of this very moment. At that very moment, the “substance” – again, the technical term – the “stuff” of bread and wine – ceases to exist. Where the bread and wine used to be, now there is truly present – not just symbolically – the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, Who died to give us life and to surrender to us His very flesh and blood. So we call what used to be bread “the Sacred Host” or “the Precious Body” of Jesus and what used to be wine “the Precious Blood” of Jesus.
Why can’t we see it at is is then? The Church Fathers teach us that, because of our weak human sensibilities, we would be revolted by eating what looked like flesh and blood, so the Lord condescends to allow the senses to perceive it as something more suitable to what we are used to eating. But still, it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ.
From the moment of consecration, until it no longer has the appearance of bread and wine. That is why we very carefully and reverently collect the consecrated bread and wine after the Communion rite and place the Hosts in the tabernacle, where Jesus dwells. And consume all of the Precious Blood. That is why any Catholic Church around the world is a very special place to pray. It is different than praying at home, in a church hall or basement, or out in nature: Because Jesus dwells there. We should be in the habit of stopping by a Catholic Church to pray, even outside of Mass time. Unfortunately, for security, many churches lock their doors. So I will be working on ways to keep the church open for our parishioners to pray. In the meantime, whenever our parish office is open, you can ask the parish staff or volunteers to let you in to pray.
But back to the Gospel. Our Lord says, unmistakably clearly, and repeating himself multiple times for emphasis, that He wants us to physically receive His Body and Blood into our bodies.
He wants us to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Some Christians say this is only symbolic. That it is like a parable, a symbolic story with a message. But that just doesn’t make any sense.
When Jesus told parables, He made it clear to His audience that it was a parable. It was always in “story form” – ‘there was a man who had a son….’ This is different. Jesus isn’t in story mode, He is giving commands. Repeated commands. And using plain, non-symbolic language.
So what do His commands mean? “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”
He is telling something absolutely extraordinary, but true. When we eat His Body and drink His blood, we share in the power of His crucifixion, death and Resurrection. That it is precisely in receiving Eucharist that Christ’s divine power overcomes the gravitational pull of sin and death. It is in receiving the Eucharist that we are saved, and – because of God’s goodness and mercy – can get to Heaven.
To put it even more astonishingly, as one of the Church Fathers says, “It is not merely the flesh of man but of god, and it makes man divine, by inebriating him, as it were, with divinity.” To put it even more starkly and simply: without the Catholic priesthood and the Eucharist, no one could escape eternal damnation.
So it is by sharing properly in the Eucharist, we are connected to the divine power and love of Christ Himself. This inestimable gift is freely given out of love by Christ to all His faithful. But for so great a gift, we should be very, very careful how we receive it. Because the more precious the gift, the more grave the responsibility to use the gift properly. And there is no more precious gift than the Eucharist.
St. Augustine says the faithful receive the Body of Christ if they labor to be the Body of Christ. In other words, receiving the Eucharist requires a serious, serious commitment. To remain united to Christ, to follow His commandments, to follow the guidance of the Church, His Bride and our mother, to accept all that Christ teaches through His Church. If we are not willing to do all of this – not just part — we should not receive Communion. That sounds startling in this day and age, where people talk about ‘welcoming’ and ‘inclusion’ as if it were just about being friendly. But it is what the Church has always taught.
Because receiving Communion is much deeper than just having a friendly gathering. The Church Fathers even remind us that if we don’t take receiving Communion seriously – such as being aware of serious sin and not confessing it first, we are causing spiritual harm to ourselves. It is something we should think and pray about.
What Jesus wants for us is eternal life and joyful Communion with Him. He gives us this most astounding and Precious Gift as that food for the journey, as Bread from Heaven. But it demands a response from us, more than just passively or automatically coming up in the Communion line.
Let us pray that, as we ponder this amazing gift of Christ’s real presence, we may act upon Our Lord’s words, so that we may receive worthily, reverently, and with profound gratitude the true flesh and true drink of Our Lord and Savior.
Homily 21st Sun OT – August 26, 2018 – Bread of Life Discourse, Part V
Today we come to the end of the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus’ very own teaching on the Eucharist and what it means to receive the Bread of Life at Mass. As a reminder, I have been devoting a lot of time to it recently, dwelling on it for these last 5 weeks where it came up in the Church’s cycle of Mass readings, because it is so core to our Catholic faith and so important to understand it and get it right.
But as we wrap it up, I don’t want to leave it behind completely. I’ve put resources up on our parish website, so you can spend time at your leisure. This includes my homily notes but also some great free videos you can watch online. Please check that out at sccrohio.org.
As we come to the conclusion of the story, there is something we should really focus on: the teaching on the Eucharist is shocking. I’ll say that again. 2x. At some level, if we are really taking our faith seriously, we should be utterly surprised, even shocked, at the truth of what Jesus is saying. Jesus, the Son of God, the Lord of the universe, through Whom all things were created comes to us under the form of Bread. Jesus, Our Savior and Lord, is so astonishingly humble, that He gives us His own flesh and blood to eat, that He comes to us in the appearance of what looks like food and drink.
The line in the Gospel stands out after Jesus tells the people that they must eat His Body and drink His blood to have eternal life. They complain – loudly – that this teaching is too hard to accept. What is Jesus’ response? Not, don’t worry about it. It’s not a big deal. Not, don’t worry about it, I’m just speaking symbolically, not do what you want, as long as you pray your own way, it will be OK. No. Quite the opposite. Jesus doubles down and asks the people outright, Does this shock you? The Word of God is Spirit and Life.
In other words, Jesus recognizes, I know this seems shocking. I know this seems hard to believe.
But it’s true. Furthermore, to have true life in God, to have that relationship with God that you are hungering for, you have to wrestle with this hard teaching, come to grips with it, ask me to help you understand, that the way to have the fullness of life, true life within you, is through the receiving of my Body and Blood. By being united to me in the Eucharist.
Look at what happens in this passage. The ones who have weak faith, want to meet Jesus on their own terms and not His – they just walk away. So much so that Jesus asks Peter and the men He called to be His Apostles, Do you want to walk away too?
And Peter answers him what we all hope that we can answer. “Where else would we possibly go? We have come to believe that you have the words of eternal life. We are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” In other words – as hard as it it to wrap our minds and hearts around this truth – we know that it is the truth. Because You Yourself reveal it to us.
Let’s stop a minute and ask ourselves what this all means for us. The first question that we have to ask ourselves is, do we take this seriously? After all, there is more than one way to “walk away.” One is by simply not coming to Mass. That’s a problem, of course. And a growing problem, especially among the young. Doesn’t take much to see when we look around that not many of our young people are coming to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.
But another way of “walking away” from the teaching about Jesus’ Body and Blood is by coming to Mass, but not really receiving the Eucharist as if we truly believe it is Jesus’ Body and Blood.
I’ll be honest. I am not much of a fan of the way our bishops have instructed us to receive Communion. Walking up in a line, placing it in our hands. I am just old enough to remember when the bishops instructed us to receive Communion at an altar rail, on our knees. I think people “got it” back then, just Who it was that they were receiving. So we have to make much more of an effort now, since the visual sign is not there, to remind ourselves what we are about.
One Catholic speaker I know told this story: He was a convert, actually a Protestant minister. And so he tried to get a lot of his Protestant friends to accept the Catholic faith and her teaching on the Eucharist. He had one guy on the hook. He was close, but couldn’t quite make the leap.
Why not? Because he visited a Catholic Church once and observed how people received Holy Communion. He saw a lot of people not the least bit prayerful, chewing gum, walking out the door the minute they received without praying in thanksgiving, and so on. And because of that poor witness, he said he just couldn’t believe. His response: “If I believed what you Catholics say you believe about the Eucharist, I would crawl on my knees to that altar and beg God to make me worthy to receive!”
That’s a challenge to us. If we can re-cover that spirit of true humility before Our Eucharistic Lord, true belief in what Jesus is saying here, than that faith will attract lots more people to the Catholic Church. Which is of course what Jesus wants. He doesn’t want anyone to walk away.
But the corollary of that is that we can’t be shy about this. The Apostles gave their lives to teach about the Mass and the sacraments. Some of us aren’t even willing to talk to friends or family or co-workers about what the Bread of Life means to us. We need to change that! I will do what I can, including making changes to the placement of the tabernacle so it’s more obvious how important it is – but you have to do your part as well.
Something else I want to address from this Gospel, although I wish I didn’t have to. There is a line that should almost send a chill up our spine. Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and who would betray him. Jesus knew that He would reveal the greatest truth and mystery of His love – that the fullness of His love would be given to us in the Holy Eucharist – and that despite that sacrifice of the Cross, despite His staggering humility toward us – that some given this greatest gift would still betray Him. We know, above all, that Judas Iscariot, the man called to be an Apostle, to share in the first Mass, was foremost among these betrayers.
Human nature hasn’t changed, and we see that still happening in the Church. Some priests and bishops and even former cardinals – given the greatest gift imaginable of bringing the saving Body and Blood of Christ to the world – have betrayed Jesus in terrible ways, such as the abuse of young men. The faithful understandably feel angry, betrayed and confused. But Jesus knew this was going to happen. And it doesn’t stop the holiness of the Eucharist. It doesn’t stop the holy Mass from uniting us to Jesus. It should not rock our faith to know that there are a few betrayers among the men who the Lord called to be holy priests now just as there were at the beginning. Instead, it should motivate us to pray: to pray for the conversion and willingness to repent of all those who have committed grave evils or enabled grave evils in the past, so they are not permanently lost; to pray for the courage and wisdom of our bishops to take the appropriate steps to purify the Church, even if it means resigning from office; to pray that our bishops and seminary rectors take all of the steps necessary to continue to insure that only psychologically and spiritually healthy men are ordained to the holy priesthood; to pray that the good men currently in seminary do not get discouraged and continue to pursue holiness. One thing we learn from studying Church history is that, when there are times of rot or corruption or in the Church, those are precisely the times when the Lord raises up great saints and reformers. We pray that it may be so now.