18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

EX 16:2-4, 12-15 / PS 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54 / EPH 4:17, 20-24 / JN 6:24-35

      I love food, but I learned the hard way sometime back that food is about more than simple enjoyment. In 8th grade, while playing goalie in a soccer game, I dove for a ball as the attacker was on a breakaway. As the striker unleashed a shot I grabbed the ball and his foot hit the corner of my jaw. Standing up and pulling dirt out of my mouth, because I couldn’t spit, I knew something was wrong, but the dentist father of one of my teammates assured my mom that I could not have broken my jaw.

     Trusting the dentist and not wanting to waste a trip to the doctor my mom ignored my injury. After two days my mom noticed that I was not eating and decided perhaps she should take me to see a doctor. I remember sitting in the oral surgeon’s office listening to him tell me there was no way I broke my jaw, yet I was vindicated when he came back after reading the x-ray to humbly admit he was wrong, that my jaw was in fact broken. Sadly the joy of vindication was short lived because I was stuck on a strictly liquid diet for 6 weeks. At first I didn’t think that would be too bad, after all what 8th grader wouldn’t love to have milkshakes all the time for 6 weeks. Yet after a couple of days of only drinking milkshakes I knew I needed something else. No matter how many milkshakes I slurped down, I never felt full and no matter how many milkshakes I drank the hunger pains and headaches didn’t go away, so needing to switch to something more nutritious and I found myself reluctantly drinking meal supplement shakes. Now I don’t know if you have ever had that Ensure or Boost meal supplement stuff, but if you have, I think you would agree with me that while it comes in different flavors in reality it is simply different flavors of nasty. When I first began the liquid diet I couldn’t stand the supplement shakes but in time I began to warm up to them, because they began to taste better, but because of what they did for my body. Regardless of how bad those shakes tasted, they took away my hunger cravings and the hunger headaches allowing me to live my life to the fullest.

     You and I are composed of a body and a soul and thus it is essential that we feed both our physical bodies and our souls. While we are blessed to live in a country that enables us to have great physical foods, we are even more blessed that God Himself provides food to sustain our souls. God, our Father, provides the most perfect spiritual food possible, the very Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

     While at times all of us can be tempted to think that the Mass is boring, it is in this Mass that God provides for our spiritual nourishment. There are countless people who leave the Catholic Church because the preaching is better at the Protestant Church down the street, or they feel that they get nothing out of Mass. While they may be right, the preaching is probably better at the Protestant churches down the street and perhaps they feel like they don’t get anything out of Mass, to leave the Catholic Church is to run away from the only perfect source of nourishment for our spiritual lives, Jesus Christ Himself. After all no other Church can provide the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ and no other church even dares to claim that they do.

     If you read the Gospel account of the Last Supper you will notice Jesus did not say, ‘this is a symbol of my body or this represents my body,’ no, He said, “THIS IS MY BODY.” Likewise He did not say ‘this is a symbol of my blood,” but rather “THIS IS MY BLOOD.” To believe the Eucharist is simply a symbol of Christ makes absolutely no sense. After all even the Protestants agree that Jesus says what He means and means what He says. So if He says it is His Body and Blood, who are we to question Him? In two weeks we will hear Jesus tells us in the Gospel that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.”[1] Just after saying that we must eat His body and drink His blood, St. John recounts that many of Jesus’ disciples left Him and returned to their former way of life. If Jesus was just speaking figuratively don’t you think He would have called back those who were leaving Him saying something like “hold on, it’s not really my body, it only symbolizes my body.”

     Friends we can be tempted to settle for the spiritual milkshake, while God is holding out for us true nourishment. While, in 8th grade, I wanted the milkshake to nourish my physical body because I enjoyed it more, I came to realize that it didn’t satisfy me at all. So too in our spiritual lives we may feel tempted to turn towards a lesser form of nourishment, but in reality the only thing that will truly satisfy our souls is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, which we receive each time we receive Holy Communion. While those meal supplement shakes were boring, and I sometimes wanted a different kind of food, they provided the nourishment that I needed and while the Mass at times may seem boring it is the only sure way to nourish our souls on their journey to eternal life and over time, if we faithfully embrace the Mass, we will find great meaning in it just as I came to appreciate the meal supplements. My brothers and sisters it is really quite simple, if we take Jesus at His word in the Scriptures we have no choice but to admit that the Eucharist is truly His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, and since we know that there can be no greater sustenance for our spiritual lives than the Body of Christ, we can find no excuse to skip Mass on Sunday, or worse to leave the Catholic Church, after all it is only the Catholic Church who claims to actually feed our immortal souls with the Body of Christ which Jesus tells us in the Gospel of St. John is required to have life inside of us. Even if at times we feel like settling for the lesser, more entertaining nourishment, we must come to the Catholic Church and receive our true sustenance in Holy Communion.

[1] Jn 6:53

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