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Twentieth Sunday

Jesus has two natures, one human, and the other divine. These two natures while distinctly different cannot be separated. Because Jesus possesses fully the nature of God and the nature of man we can describe Him as true God and true man. This teaching, to our human minds, borders on the impossible. Logically, every created thing has one nature, a tree has the nature of a tree, a human has its particular nature. No created thing has two natures, or it would be two things at one time, which we cannot fully understand. Therefore, the two natures of Jesus is a mystery of our faith. Through His Church, Jesus has taught us about this profound mystery and in faith we believe this true.
Jesus’ discourse on the bread of life in the Gospel of John presents us with another mystery. Jesus tells us “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him.” (John 6:56) While we may be able to accept this statement from a spiritual standpoint, Jesus emphasizes that we cannot view these words as only symbolic. Jesus explicitly tells that we are to consume His Body and Blood if we desire eternal life. If we did not have faith in Jesus, the thought of eating His Body and Blood would be a repulsive act.
Indeed, these words cause many Jews, that had listened to Jesus’ words about the Kingdom saw Him cure the sick, and feed 5000 people, to reject the teachings of Jesus. One can imagine the Jews thinking that He was planning to carve off pieces of His flesh and catch His blood for them to consume. Such a meal would be abhorrent not only aspect of cannibalism but also because of the severe religious dietary restrictions that Jewish faith had about blood.
However, Jesus, through these words, tests their faith. It was easy for the Jews to watch His miracles and hear His words, but there were was no commitment to Jesus. Jesus’ words “I am the living bread that came down from heaven, whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51) forces the Jews to choose whether follow Jesus or return to their daily lives. When he saw the number of people leaving Jesus did not change His words and say, “Wait, what I really meant was that my body and blood would just be symbolized by the bread and wine. Of course, I didn’t mean that bread and wine would really become my body and blood.” Instead, He expected those who will follow him in faith to accept this most challenging meal. Jesus meant the words by eating His flesh and drink His blood we will receive eternal life.
The Eucharist is a core element of the Catholic faith. While we may see and taste the bread and wine, we believe that we are feasting the body of Jesus and drinking His blood. In the Mass, we open ourselves to Jesus that he may enter us, body and soul, to strengthen us for the battle against evil and fortify us in making faith-filled choices. Unless one genuinely believes the Eucharist is Jesus, he or she is no different from the Jews who turned away from Jesus. If we desire eternal life, then we must allow Jesus to become part of us in the reception of the Holy Eucharist. As we accept Jesus in the Eucharist, we become one with Jesus.
I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25-26)

Deacon Dan Gilbert

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Nineteenth Sunday

Appearances are deceptive. Often we are asked to believe illusionary acts. Magicians ask us to believe that they can cause people, elephants or even buildings to disappear and then reappear. The magician can be so persuasive in his or her presentation that they transform some in the audience from being entertained into accepting that the magician can miraculously perform magic. Even more distressing is the willingness of people to listen to a political party’s efforts through the media to sway the opinions of voters. By using emotional words and heart-rending images, reporters can spin the same story to elicit a desired response that will promote the activity of one political party or the other. The truth concerning the issues becomes lost in the rhetoric of the ongoing political battle to gain control.
In both of these examples, others are telling what us to believe by influencing our senses. However, these individuals are twisting reality to increase their wealth and power over us. Preventing ourselves from falling into these sensory traps to become victims of falsehoods rest on our shoulders. We should recognize that these types of people focus only on their interests. We should investigate these proffered ideas using critical thinking to determine their truthfulness so that we are not taken in by lies.
Jesus actions and words are different from a politician, a magician or any other promise that seem too good to be true. Jesus speaks only the truth; there are no mirrors to misdirect us. Jesus always acts on our behalf. In displaying His love for us, Jesus has no ulterior motives. When Jesus asks us to change our lives, to believe in Him and to follow Him, His only desire is to bring us to the salvation of eternal life.
Jesus pointedly tells us that we can reach eternal life only through Him. Jesus tells us “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.” The Old Testament often refers to events when God intervened to provide food to His people. God brought manna to the Israelites during the forty years they wandered in the desert. God fed Elijah with bread and water to strengthen him for his journey to Mount Horeb. Even though God was the source of sustenance for the people of Israel, the people still died. Only the body of Jesus is the bread which provides for eternal life.
The delusions of this world often lead us away from the words of Jesus. In Jesus, there are no illusions, only the truth for He provides us with the words of salvation. We are bound to fail in our constant desire for entry into heaven unless we recognize that Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. Therefore let us feast on His body and blood at the Holy Eucharist that He might live in us to guide us the promise of eternal life. Let us continue to live in love as Jesus loved us; for with him in our lives, we will always be led to to the truth which is our Father in Heaven.
Jesus is the bread from Heaven so that one may eat it and never die.

Deacon Dan Gilbert

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Eighteenth Sunday

Human nature tends to desire recognition for one’s efforts. Years of service to a company may gain one a plaque of thanks. Those who persist in athletic events receive a medal or a trophy. In reality, being noticed by others is not adequate compensation for the sweat, exertion, and stress used to accomplish an endeavor. However, we are stung with despair when no one pays tribute to the work we do on a project or faithful service in a job. We can become so involved with the search for praise that we lose track of the reason for the recognition. We are misled from our mission in search of glory and praise.
Jesus resists the temptation to be identified as the foretold Scriptural Prophet or to be elevated as the king of Israel. He does not forget his mission of bringing salvation to the world through His Body and Blood. The people following Jesus were connecting with the words and actions of Jesus but wrongly interpreting them. The crowd was expecting Jesus to establish a paradise on earth. The Jewish rabbis had long predicted that the Prophet would come to carry on Moses’ work. Moses, through God’s intervention, freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. When the Israelites were wandering through the desert and starving, Moses had prayed to God and bread came down from the sky. The people had just witnessed Jesus ability to provide enough bread to feed five thousand people. Therefore if Jesus was the promised Prophet, He could save Israel from the oppressive Romans.
However, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach the crowd that the food they are seeking will not sustain them. Even after filling their stomach, they will soon feel hunger again. The bread Jesus is speaking of is different from the manna that Moses provided or the bread that Jesus had given them on the mountain by the Sea of Galilee. The people, never wanting to hunger again, ask how to obtain this bread. Jesus tells them that “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.” Jesus in describing himself as the source of bread for eternal life required faith and trust of those following Jesus. Those who refused to accept the meaning of Jesus’ words began to turn away from the crowd of followers. Even when a significant number of people fell away, Jesus remained faithful to the truth, to His mission to bring salvation to the world.
Today, like the Jews, we tend to focus on Jesus as the one who will rid us of oppression, and feed our earthly hunger. We must not forget that Jesus came into this world to prepare us for the Kingdom of God. When we focus more on earthly desires than on the salvation of our souls, we are asking for the wrong bread. Faith calls us to participate in the Holy Eucharist to sustains us for Jesus is the bread of life. In Jesus, the human heart feasts on the abundance of life for which it was made; without Our Savior, it slowly starves.
Be my strength, Jesus, be my light, my food, my joy, my all.
Deacon Dan Gilbert

 

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