19th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B – “Meeting a person”

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“Without Sunday we cannot live”  Two weeks ago we heard the Gospel about the multiplication of the loaves.  This event recalled the Mana by which God fed the Israelites in the desert after they had escaped from Egypt. Moses promised Israel that God would send a new Prophet who would give the people a new Mana.  Jesus is the new prophet – the Eucharist is the new mana, the perfect food for our souls.  In the Holy Eucharist God always gives us the graces we need to live a Christian life.  He adapts himself to the needs of each one.

We ended our Homily two weeks ago with the question – “What is the secret ingredient?   What makes the Eucharist the perfect food?”   Jesus gives us the answer in our Gospel today.

Jesus says  “I am the bread of life”  Jesus is the new mana the people have been waiting for.  This mana is not a thing but a person – Jesus himself.  It is he who gives us life.   It is Jesus who is the perfect food.

Jesus gives us the strength to live the Christian life.  In our second reading, St. Paul says “Imitate God”   This is the Christian life – to imitate Jesus, God made man – to love and forgive our enemies, to proclaim the good news to the poor, to give our body and blood for others.   Who better to strengthen us to live a Christian live than Christ himself?  Is there really any other way we could do so?

This is why we need to come each and every Sunday. Coming to communion is not filling up on spiritual energy like you would fill your car with gas.  If you have a bigger tank you can last longer.  Coming to Communion is coming to meet a person, to enter into a relationship with him.  Relationships grow by spending time frequently together.  Perhaps we have heard the same readings many times before.  We have said the prayers and come to communion many times.  But love is something grows by repetition – how many times do we reminisce about the same stories with family, how many times to we kiss our loved ones or give them a hug?  The more we spend time with someone the more we become like them.  If we want to imitate Jesus, if we want to live like him, we must be united to him each and every Sunday.

This also helps us see why the Holy Eucharist is adapted to each one of us.   The Eucharist is not a generic religious ritual, but an encounter with a person.  Jesus comes to meet me where I am at.  He listens to the things I have to say.  He comes to heal the weaknesses and hurts that I bring this Sunday.   While we come to Mass together each of us has a unique encounter with Jesus.

The Eucharist is the perfect food because the Eucharist is Jesus himself.  Holy Communion is not a thing – but a person – Jesus – our Lord and God.

This helps us to understand the ceremonies of the Holy Mass – when we kneel at the consecration, the bells, bowing before communion, the silence after communion – they are not just rituals or traditions – they are concrete ways in which we show our love for our Lord.  We kneel to get ready to welcome our true King, the bells announce his arrival, as we approach Holy Communion we make a small bow to acknowledge Christ is present.  We say “Amen” to profess our faith that hidden in the little Host is truly Jesus our Lord.  The silence after communion is not just an awkward pause as we wait for Father to start again, it is a moment to converse in silence with the Lord who is with us.   The Mass is not a just a ritual but an encounter with a person – Jesus who comes to us today.

To receive the nutrients of food we need to be able to digest it.  But we do not “digest” a person – we get to know them.  We get to know them by entering into conversation with them.   To gain the fruits of the Holy Eucharist we must enter into conversation with Jesus who comes to meet us.  Imagine a young man wanted to introduce his family to his new girlfriend.   He takes them all to a nice restaurant.  All are shy – no one says very much.   At the end they thank him for the nice meal, but afterwards they are equally strangers as when they started.  If we come to the Holy Mass and say nothing Jesus will be a stranger to us.

Without Sunday we cannot live!  Without Sunday we cannot live because without Jesus we cannot live.  He is the true Mana the true spiritual food for our souls.   By being with him, we become like him.  We can then truly “imitate God” as St. Paul suggests.  The Mass is the greatest thing we can do because Jesus is the greatest person we can meet.   We will continue to speak of this special meeting next week.