Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday in the Ordinary Time – Year B
Sunday Homily Theme: PROTESTING AGAINST THE EUCHARIST : IMPLICATIONS & COMPLICATIONS
Teaching and feeding are essential ingredients of parental care. God feeds us in Christ and Christ feeds us both by his Word and Sacraments. Jesus is both the bread of understanding spoken of in Isaiah 30 : 20 – 26 and the bread of nourishment spoken about in today’s gospel, Jn 6 : 48. As children of God on the journey to the promised land we need the Word of God which provides us with the practical external strength (called logo therapy) and the Eucharist which provides our internal spiritual strength ( for genetic/ character regeneration). Protesting against the Eucharist therefore is the greatest harm ever done against Christianity because without the Eucharist, Christianity becomes mere Social Organization.
B. PROTESTING AGAINST THE EUCHARIST
Protests are legitimate human activities born out of disgust with the status quo, disagreement with a proposal/ idea or dissatisfaction with treatment meted out on someone or a group of individuals. Protests are important. Without it, any human society degenerates into monolythism, dictatorship or despotism. However, protests when they are born out of impropriety and insobriety have the capacity of leading so many people astray. In the case of today’s gospel, the Jews protested against Jesus’ teachings on the Eucharist on two erroneous grounds; First he said he is ‘the living bread that came down from heaven’ but they thought they knew better where he came from. Secondly, he said anyone who doesn’t eat his flesh and drink his blood will not have eternal life, but they were not ready for any form of cannibalism or clandestine cultism ( the type that ate and drank human flesh and blood). Thus they protested.
But what they didn’t understand was actually more than what they thought they did. This is still the reality of today’s Protestant movements – that what we do not understand before protesting is often more than what we think we do understand.
C. DEALING WITH THE PROTESTANT SPIRIT
The protestant tendency, like I said earlier is a necessary tendency in man but history always has an avalanche of record of its destructive effects in religion. The Bible recorded in the book of Numbers, that some people protested and refused to venture into the promised land after the negative report of the Scouts who went on reconnaissance. As a result, many Israelites died in the Wilderness, Ps 95. In the New Testament, just as the Athenians / Areopagites protested against Paul’s teaching on the resurrection of the dead and so Paul could not make many converts there so it still happens in many of our Churches today. Even in our various families, so many new ideas or proposals are being met with stiff protests.
* Story of Fr Taban from Palotaka in Sudan. His African Congregation found it hard to believe that he was really a priest because they’ve always had White Priests who gave them clothing and medicine. To make matters worse, he introduced some of the changes of Vatican II on inculturation and began to face the congregation during mass and celebrated in Vernacular. People protested against him.
When Jesus said that he was the Living Bread that came down from heaven, they found that assertion heretical and blasphemous because they had seen him growing up as the Son of Joseph and Mary. But today we know better that to refuse Jesus’ claim as the bread of life is not only to miss life in this world but in the life to come.
D. AVOID NEGATIVE SUPERNATURALS
I once heard a preacher use these words: ‘Avoid negative supernaturals’ – bitterness, passions, anger, harsh words, slander, malice, etc. They have an uncanny way of weakening us spiritually and causing energy leaks in our spirit man. Like Elijah, we are often exhausted when we discharge our negative supernaturals. Elijah used his negative supernaturals to fight and kill the prophets of Baal. He was exhausted. He asked God to take his life. But God gave him food ( OT Eucharist). He ate and was strengthened for 40 days walk to Mount Horeb. No ordinary food could have done that. Even there, he didn’t meet God in the noisy thunderstorms but in the gentle breeze of quiet time, 1 Kg 19 : 1 – 8.
In today’s 2nd reading, St Paul gives us some very practical advice about living according to the mind of Christ by loving as he loved – by cultivating our “positive supernaturals” – kindness, compassion, love, patience, forgiveness, etc, Gal 5 : 22. Never lose temper or raise your voice on anybody.
* Somebody said that why people raise their voice when they are quarrelling is that the communication gap/ distance is now so much that they have to shout ( even though the other person is physically very near to him/ her).
The Eucharist contains both the transformative power for holiness and regulatory power against sin. St Augustine communicates this clearly when he said that ‘The Son of God became Son of man so that the sons of men could become the sons of God’. This can only be realized through the double process of feeding by his Word and the Eucharist. The Eucharist remains the engine of our spirituality. The Catholic Church will continue to uphold the teaching on the Eucharist as the real Catholic identity from the Apostolic, Patristic, Medieval, Tridentine, Post Vatican II and Post Pentecostal era. Like the electrician that cannot explain what is in the electricity but can make it give you light, so also the Catholic Church cannot explain exactly how Jesus Christ is in the Eucharist but she can make it give us new life in Christ if we believe.
Christianity becomes productive and life changing when the two processes of Eucharistic nourishment and Logo therapy are taken seriously by Christians. Protestants against the Eucharist need to repent and look at the Word of God more deeply. The Eucharist remains the “intolerable language” mentioned in John 6 : 68. Christ will never compromise his stand . The entire Roman Catholic Church still says with Peter today, ‘To whom Lord shall we go? You have the message of eternal life’. Let’s end with this hymn : Guide me O thou great Redeemer pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak but thou art mighty hold me with thy powerful hand. Bread of heaven feed me till I want no more!
Happy Sunday dear friends!
- FR BEN AGBO.