Sunday, 29 July 2018
The Real Presence, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
We just heard the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000.
This miracle is a sign of many things:
Of the power of the Lord;
Of the desire of the Lord to care and provide for us;
Of our ability to trust in the Lord.
Today, however, I want to preach about the deeper feeding that this miracle points towards:
How the Lord Jesus feds us in Holy Communion.
The miracle of the feeding of the 5000 occurred at a very precise moment in our Lord’s mission:
He fed the 5000, miraculously;
He then walked on water in the midst of the storm, miraculously;
Then, He gave one of His longest sermons recorded in the Gospels:
His ‘Bread of Life’ discourse.
In that discourse, as we’ll hear in the weeks ahead, He made various claims that would be outrageous if they came from anyone who had not just manifested such miraculous power.
WHAT did He claim? He claimed that we must eat His flesh.
I want to ponder, today, how we know for sure that this is about the Eucharist.
First, and most simply, from the words of the Lord Jesus Himself:
At the Last Supper, the first Mass, when He instituted the Mass, He said,
“This IS my body”(Lk 22:19)
-not, this is a sign of my body;
-not, this is like my body.
He said this “is” my body.
Second, as a fact of history, the early Church, those first believers who had known Him and lived with Him and heard those words first hand,
The early Church understood the Lord to mean those words literally, not just symbolically.
We know this from the very earliest writings we have.
Conversely, if we want to look for people who doubt that these words were meant literally, we have to wait in history until the 8th century opinion of Ratramnus which became the basis of the views of the Protestant errors on the Eucharist in the 16th century.
The point is this: that the early Church’s view on this is identical with that of the Catholic Church still today:
The Eucharist truly IS the Lord.
Third, that this feeding actually corresponds to what we NEED:
We are beings with both a bodily and a spiritual dimension: we need God to come to us not just in some vague spiritual manner, but in the PHYSICAL.
This is exactly what He promised to do, giving us the sacraments;
this is exactly what the Catholic Church acknowledges that He does.
To conclude, Why is this IMPORTANT?
Because I need God.
I need God to come to me as the food to sustain me, as the food to lead me to heaven.
I need God not just as a symbol, not just as a hope, but I need Him, Himself.
It still LOOKS like bread, it still tastes like bread.
But I trust what He has told us, and what Christians have trusted down the centuries: It is what He SAID, it is what He PROMISED.
And so I kneel before Him, and receive Him with faith and love.