Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)


Homily for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

From Real Presence to Real Identity

Proverbs 9:1-6

Ephesians 5:15-20

John 6:51-58

African Christians find it hard to understand the justifications that have been offered for some of the major controversies and divisions that have harmed the unity of the one church of Lord Jesus Christ. Here are some of such justifications. The separation between the Greek and the Latin churches occurred because of disagreement over whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son (the Greek position) or from the Father and the Son (the Latin position). The Protestant Reformation was anchored on the conviction that one is justified by faith alone as opposed to the Catholic position that one is justified by faith expressed in good works. Many Christian confessions are still divided because of disagreement over the manner in which Jesus is present in the Eucharistic bread. Some think he is physically present, others think he is spiritually present, and yet others that he is only symbolically present. All agree on the fact that the Eucharistic bread is the body of Christ but they disagree on the manner in which this mystery occurs.

In today’s gospel Jesus focuses on the fact that the bread of the Eucharistic is indeed himself but does not say a word on the process whereby this identity between the bread and himself takes place. Why then would Christians, who all believe in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharistic, distance themselves from one another because of disagreement on how this happens? One would have thought that what unites them, their common belief that the bread of the Eucharist is the body of Christ, should be more important than what separates them, their different ways of explaining the manner in which this takes place.

In John’s gospel passage Jesus speaks of the food that he gives for the life of the world in many different terms. Firstly, he speaks of it in terms of BREAD AND WINE, although he uses the word “drink” not “wine.” But he speaks of it in terms of ordinary and normal food and drink. “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever,” (verse 51b) “for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (verse 55).

Secondly, he speaks of it as being his FLESH AND BLOOD. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life (verses 53-54). “Flesh and blood” is a phrase that means the whole person. Some scholars think that by speaking separately of his flesh (“meat,” not “body” as in the other gospels) and his blood, Jesus is referring to himself as the lamb of sacrifice with its blood separated from its flesh.

And thirdly, he speaks of the life-giving food as HIMSELF. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. … whoever eats me will live because of me” (verses 51,57). Here he identifies the bread from heaven not just with his body which is only a part of his total person but with himself in its totality.

With this understanding that Jesus equates the Eucharistic bread with his total person, we can see that, strictly speaking, it is an understatement to say that the Eucharistic bread is the body of Christ. It is more than the body of Christ. It is the whole of Christ. Using a traditional expression, it is “the body and blood, soul and divinity” of our Lord Jesus Christ. Similarly, speaking of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist could be seen as an understatement. Jesus Christ is not merely present in the Blessed Sacrament, as if one could break the consecrated host and find Christ hidden inside it, rather the Blessed Sacrament is Jesus Christ himself. It is not so much a question of presence as that of identity. That is why it baffles African Christians to learn that Christians down the centuries have fought and killed one another over the question of Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament when Jesus himself did not tell us that he is present in the Sacrament but that he is the bread of the Eucharist.

As we receive communion today, let us be conscious that we are receiving Jesus Christ himself and let us open our hearts to receive the new life that he brings to us. For he promised that “Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me” (verse 57).


20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

 Homily # 1

I wonder how many of us are aware of what percentage of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Well, what do you think?  10%.  20%. 50%.  Survey after survey has shown us that more than 67% (that’s 2/3 of us folks) don’t believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist.  That number probably doesn’t represent so much a conscious dissent as it does a profound ignorance on the part of Catholic laity.

To me, this signals an enormous failure in the catechetical programs within our Church.  On a more serious note, it’s also a cause for profound sadness, since it means that many Catholics have lost sight of the most central truth of our faith—that Jesus Christ gives Himself to us in Holy Communion.  He isn’t satisfied just to send us a message or a reminder about Himself.  He actually gives Himself to us in the Eucharist—Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Can you believe that?!!  What a gift—God literally gives Himself to us—and 67% of us don’t believe it—amazing!

Well, no matter what some people may tell you, I am here today to tell you that Jesus is here in the Eucharist.  So, how can I, just a simple deacon, make such a bold statement?  Because Jesus said that He is literally and actually present in the Eucharist, that’s why.  St. Cyril tells us, “Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the word of the Savior in faith, for since He is truth, He can’t lie”.

In today’s gospel, Jesus makes some very bold and provocative statements.  As we’ve heard in recent weeks, Christ is throwing down the gauntlet about His divinity.  People were (and are) going to have to make a decision—yea or nay about what He has to say.  There can be no fence-sitters on this issue.  We either, “eat his flesh and drink His blood” and have eternal life in heaven or we don’t and we spend our eternity separated from Him.  The choice is ours and ours alone—no one else can make it for us.

To me, it really isn’t much of a decision.  How about you?  When I was going through my conversion process, several liberal Catholics told me that believing in all of the dogmas and doctrines of the Church really wasn’t all that necessary for me to become a Catholic.  They (basically) said, “Just believe what you believe and everything will be OK because Jesus is a God of love and He’ll understand”.  To these people, ‘sincerity’ is the only thing that counts—just be sincere.  Hmm.

I looked at these people and said, “You mean to tell me that all someone has to do to become a Catholic is just be sincere”?  I also told them (and they knew of my Jewish background) that Adolph Hitler was sincere—he sincerely thought that any Jew or gypsy or any person of color—anyone not of Aryan stock were vermin who needed to be exterminated.  There has to be more than just sincerity to be true follower of Jesus—there has to be.

I also asked these same people if they believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  A few said ‘yes’ but most of these people said that it really didn’t matter what one believes about the Real Presence.  After all, they said, it’s just a matter of being true to yourself.  In addition, to a person, they didn’t feel that it was a ‘good idea’ to stress the Real Presence in front of non-Catholics.  Ecumenism, you know!

My response to them was, “If I believed in God’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, I’d crawl down the aisle on hands and knees over broken glass, not only to receive Him but also to tell everyone about it”.  Needless to say, they looked at me like I had just gotten off the turnip truck.

So, how do you see the Eucharist?  Is it the center of your life?  Do you really believe that Jesus is actually present?  If you truly believe that Jesus is God, you do.  Remember, Jesus cannot lie and He told us that He is really present.  Would you crawl down the aisle over broken glass to receive Him—would you?

Let me tell you about one of my heroes and his belief in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist—Abp. Oscar Romero of San Salvador .  In 1977, when he was consecrated archbishop, he was a quiet and traditional priest.  In fact, so much so, that the secular government celebrated his installation by executing several priests and other social activists.  These executions were to be the new archbishop’s epiphany.

Abp. Romero now began to see the poor in a much different light and used his position in the Church to try to fight against government-sponsored injustice.  In fact, one of the sayings about the Church in San Salvador during this time was, “the Church is where it should have been—with the people surrounded by wolves”.

Like Jesus, Abp. Romero earned the hatred and fear of the establishment.  The shadow of the cross now began to cast itself over his life and the life of his ministry.  No amount of govt. pressure could stop him from proclaiming Christ’s Real Presence both in the Eucharist and in the poor.

On March 24, 1980 , Abp. Romero was celebrating Mass at the Chapel of Divine Providence in San Salvador .  As he elevated the Host and said, “This is my Body, given up for you”, a rifle shot rang out.  It pierced the archbishop’s heart and he died on the altar, a martyr for Christ.  Abp. Romero became the Eucharist that day.  Like Jesus, Abp. Romero poured out his own blood for us.  Like Jesus, he became a martyr for the truth and a prophet of justice—like Jesus.

If a very ordinary man like Abp. Oscar Romero would gladly die for his faith in Jesus’ Real Presence, what are we doing to live for it?

As I mentioned earlier, there has been a failure in organized catechesis.  I’m sure that there are a million reasons why but, to me, the main reason is this.  We, as Catholics, have not been as appreciative of the Eucharist as we should be.

Think back to your First Holy Communion.  Do you remember how awe-filled you were?  As you have grown older, do you still have that same deep reverence for the Eucharist?

If not, here’s a thought.  In a few minutes, as you come down the aisle, focus your thoughts on what is about to happen.  You are about to really receive Jesus Christ Himself—the same Christ who died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead.  He is the same Jesus who will come again to judge the living and the dead on the Last Day.  Now, if that isn’t ‘food for thought’, I don’t know what is.

What joy and peace it should give us to know that an eternity in heaven awaits us, if we’ll truly believe Jesus’ words in today’s gospel.  “Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life, and I will raise him/her up on the Last Day”.  As for me, I believe every word that Jesus said.  Do you?

Homily # 2

Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalm 34(33); Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

If we are about to take a journey the last thing we would do is to leave everything to chance-if we have any sense. No person with even a trace of common sense would dream of just showing up at an airport hoping that a plane there would be going to where he or she wanted to go, and that there would be a place on the plane. No person with even a trace of common sense would think of taking an interstate without making sure that the interstate headed where he or she wanted to go. And yet there are people who don’t use any common sense about the most important journey they will ever take, the journey of their life. For whether we want to or not, the fact of our birth sets us off on a journey, a journey which will one day end in our death. How singularly stupid if we don’t use common sense in making sure that this journey will be successful. No intelligent person would leave the results of this journey to chance. This is the way the ancient Israelites looked at life. Life was a “path”. And just as they used to take paths every day to places they wanted to go to, so they were concerned to find the supreme “path”, the path which God wished them to follow to journey through life as He wanted them to journey. And for this the ancient Israelite realized that what was needed was common sense or wisdom.

The first reading from the Book of Proverbs speaks about such wisdom and compares her to a well-to-do woman in charge of a well-run house. She invites anyone who is “simple”-i.e., anyone who doesn’t have wisdom-to come and stay with her and eat and drink her “food” in order “to live”, i.e., in order to prosper as God wants us to prosper. Thus wisdom or prudence or common sense is compared to food. Every day we must eat and drink if we are to live; every day we must use wisdom or prudence or common sense if we are to live.

Psalm 34(33) invites us to place our trust in God for the right food: lions may go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord for nourishment will never be in want.

In the second reading Paul uses blunt language to address the people of Ephesus. Ephesus was a very large city in the ancient world in what is now western Turkey. It was a seaport with all the contacts with foreign climes which seaports everywhere have enjoyed. And for that very reason it was the scene of all sorts of temptations for those who wanted to live decent lives. “Be careful about the kind of life you live. Act like intelligent people, not like persons who are senseless”. This is straight talk from one whose travels made him well acquainted with all the dangers of his contemporary world. We are certainly aware of the dangers of our contemporary world-or are we? Sometimes it takes unvarnished talk like Paul’s to bring us to our senses about how we are toying with our eternal destiny.

In the passage from John’s Gospel Jesus speaks about the Eucharist in terms of wisdom. Just as Wisdom is pictured in Proverbs as a person inviting everyone to her table, so Jesus is pictured in Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel as inviting His followers to come to Him and acquire wisdom for their journey in life by eating His Body and drinking His Blood. And just as sharing in Wisdom resulted in life in the Old Testament, so the sharing in Christ’s Body and Blood results in life for us. But this sharing in Christ’s Body and Blood should not be regarded as something which encourages us to be mindless. We should use our sharing in the Eucharist to reflect on our lives and to accept the challenges which Christ gives us to live as the Father wants us to live. Paul’s vigorous words are an example of the kind of language which we should use with ourselves: “Be careful about the kind of life you live. Act like intelligent people, not like persons who are senseless”. Receiving Holy Communion should be a constant challenge for us to search for Christ and His wisdom in our everyday lives. With such a marvellous source of life available for us, we would be foolish indeed if we did not accept Christ’s invitation and always so live as to be able to receive His Body and Blood. This is true wisdom for the journey of life.

Homily # 3

I first remember my father talking about the Great Depression when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Even though we didn’t have a lot of money, we still had decent food to eat (what Jewish family didn’t?) and clean clothes on our backs. So, I really couldn’t process what he was saying, when he told me about bread lines and soup kitchens.
Well, one day, in order to show me what he was talking about, he took me down to an area in Los Angeles where men and women were standing in line for a sandwich and coffee.
It was very interesting for me to watch what some of the people did with their food. Most of them accepted it with a smile and a ‘thank you’. Others, with heads hanging, just took it and shuffled off. Some tore open the paper and wolfed down the food. A few of the people opened the package and threw the entire contents away. Some of them ate only the meat or only the bread. Some of them re-wrapped the sandwich to eat later. Some of them made the sign of the cross. Some of them cursed, as they took this handout.
Looking back, now, however, with Catholic eyes, I realize that those poor and hungry men and women reacted to that little lunch much like Catholics of today react to our magnificent banquet-our Holy Eucharist.
Just think about these words that Jesus said in today’s gospel. “I am the living bread which has come 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”.
Throughout the ages and still today, many people grumble and have doubts about the Host being Christ’s real flesh and the Cup being His real blood.
There are countless Christian denominations which pride themselves on saying that they believe that the “Lord’s Supper’-as they call our Eucharist-is only a symbol of Christ’s Body and Blood. They, unfortunately, forget that Jesus is God and cannot lie. So, if Jesus tells us that the Eucharist is truly His Body and Blood, we’d better believe it.
In Christ’s day and in our day, many people, even Catholics, grumble, “It’s impossible. Jesus can’t give us His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink”. But, they, too, are forgetting that Jesus is God and cannot lie. Others may accept the Eucharist, but they do it out of habit and give no thought whatsoever to what is going on. Still others say that they believe, but their faith is weak. Many will say that their faith is strong but their actions deny it.
Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist has always been a problem for some people-throughout the ages. It’s contrary to our senses and to our science. Our senses tell us that what looks like bread is bread and what looks like wine is wine. Science can discover the texture and the shape and the composition of material things. There’s no way that we can look under a microscope and see a tiny Jesus. That, my brothers and sisters, can only come by faith. Science can give us knowledge but only God can give us the greatest gift of all-our faith in Him.
You know, I really have trouble believing someone who says that their faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is strong and then doesn’t even bother receiving Him on Sunday’s, let alone on a daily basis. Can you imagine a hungry person being too lazy to go and get a sandwich-for free? Yet, that is what we’re doing when we don’t receive our Lord in the Eucharist. Perhaps, we’re too lazy to prepare ourselves properly for Jesus by not examining our consciences and going to Confession before receiving Him. Ah, but that’s for another homily.
When only about 30% of American Catholics go to Holy Communion on a regular basis, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that we have a problem. I think that we’ve forgotten that our food is not only prepared by God, it is God.
I’m reminded of a true story of a soldier who was severely wounded. When he was out of surgery, the doctors said that there was a good chance for recovery, except that the soldier wouldn’t eat anything. The nurses and nuns tried everything, but he refused all food-drinking only water and juice.
One of his buddies knew why the soldier wouldn’t eat-he was homesick. So, his friend, since the hospital wasn’t too far from the soldier’s home, offered to bring the young man’s father to visit him. The commanding officer approved and the friend went to the parents’ home. As the father was about to leave for the hospital, the mother wrapped up a loaf of fresh bread for her son.
Well, the patient was very happy to see his father but he still wouldn’t eat-that is, until the father said; “Son, this bread was made by your mother, especially for you”. The boy brightened and began to eat.
I think that you can guess where I’m going with that story. You and I are that boy. We are the ones who have been wounded in the battle of life. We are the ones who’ve been wounded by sin, by trials and pains, by loss and by our forgetfulness of God.
We lose our taste for the food that will strengthen our souls. Holy Communion gives us life, spiritual life, God’s life. It gives us spiritual healing and spiritual strength.
There was nothing ‘magic’ about the mother’s bread unless, that is, one feels that ‘love’ is magic-which, of course, it is.
From his experiences at home, our wounded soldier knew that ‘love’ was the main ingredient when his mother baked her bread. And so it is with us. We know, don’t we?, that the eternal love-the sacrificial love of God for His children-is the main ingredient in His Bread-His Eucharist-that He so graciously gives us. The Bread, which becomes His Body and the wine that becomes His Blood.
All of us can experience what the wounded soldier experienced, if we keep in mind that Holy Communion is ‘bread from home’.

Homily # 4

Proverbs 9:1-6
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

A story is told about a stranger entering a hobo camp in the mid-1930’s and asking if anyone would give him some food.  He was ignored.  People turned their backs to him and walked away.  To the astonishment of everyone in the camp he called out in a loud voice that he would just have to be satisfied with his homemade hot stone soup.

He went about gathering sticks and pieces of wood and built a fire.  When the fire was ready this man started a large kettle of water to boil.  He then purposefully selected only the ‘best’ stones he could find…he washed them at the well and added them to his ‘broth.’

As he stirred and tasted his mixture he lamented aloud “it sure would be nice to have a little salt”…suddenly someone stood next to him with not just salt but other spices as well and these went into the pot.  Again as he continued to stir his strange concoction he mentioned casually that a potato or two would surely be good for the soup.  A few individuals brought potatoes and others brought a variety of vegetables to add to the stew.  It wasn’t very long when a couple of men returned from hunting and contributed some fresh meat.

As the stew continued to cook other people gathered around the fire and contributed what they had to offer.  Soon conversations started…a couple of folks had fiddles and someone else produced a harmonica…music followed with laughter and dancing.  When the soup stew was cooked and ready to eat…someone asked to say a blessing….they thanked God for all the good that He had given them.

When the day was through, the music and conversations over…the meal finished off to the last morsel, people went back to their shanties and cardboard houses fully satisfied that it was best meal they had ever tasted.

Just as this community celebrated a moment of great contribution and in some cases sacrifice, the Eucharist we celebrate today is much more than a reenactment of the Last Supper event.  Jesus is inviting us to change our lives significantly.  He tells us, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever…the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

In inviting us to feed on his “flesh” and drink of his “blood,” Jesus calls us to embrace the life of his Father; the life that finds joy in humble service to others, a life that is centered in unconditional, total, and sacrificial love…a life that seeks fulfillment not in the traditional understanding of this world but in the holiness of the next.

The Eucharist remains external though, until we take it within ourselves.  In essence Jesus is telling us to feed our hearts…feed our minds…feed our souls to revitalize our lives with his life until we are ‘turned upside down and inside out’ with the life of God.

“Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”  It is in breaking, blessing and sharing this bread with one another, the love of God does come alive for us.

In our celebration of the Eucharist when we receive the ‘bread’ he gives us to eat we become the body of Christ with and for one another…and when we receive his ‘blood’ of the new covenant he gives us to drink, his life of compassion, justice and selflessness flows within us, and we become what we have received…the sacrament of unity, peace and reconciliation. (Connections August 2003)

It is in our faith that we understand we are somehow changed by the experience we share as a community… “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them.”

Then as we leave this place and return to our homes…we are fully satisfied that it was the best meal we have ever tasted.

Homily # 5
Proverbs 9:1-6

Ephesians 5:15-20

John 6:51-58

Today the first reading is an invitation to us from Lady Wisdom. She invites us to feast at the heavenly banquet. In the second reading we are exhorted to replace wine-induced drunkenness with a different kind of intoxication: being filled with the Holy Spirit.

In today’s gospel Jesus tells the people something that makes them say, “WHAT?”

Let’s look into this a little bit. Have you ever noticed when you see an interview taking place in the middle east, no one has their legs crossed? Their feet are always flat on the floor. This is because to a Muslim, showing the bottoms of your feet is a great insult.

When the war in Iraq had reached its climactic point and the citizens of that country realized that they might safely vent their true feelings about Saddam Hussein, we television viewer were treated to a strange sight. People were seen throwing their shoes (or sandals) at statues of Saddam.

Some of the ever-helpful commentators noted that this shoe-throwing activity represented the “ultimate insult,” the deepest expression of scorn and reprobation. But they didn’t tell us why.

Perhaps the behavior ties into a biblical custom that we are familiar with: foot-washing. In that part of the world, the roads are perpetually dusty, the days are hot, and many journeys are still made on foot. That would make, one can imagine, for some nasty problems of foot hygiene—sights and smells that even Dr. School might hesitate to tackle.

That’s why Jesus gesture of foot washing was considered so servile and debasing. That’s why a sweaty sandal tossed in one’s direction is such an insult. But if we don’t know the culture, we can’t understand the behavior.

The same is true of today’s gospel passage. Why are the people so incensed at what Jesus has just said? Granted, the notion of “eating flesh and drinking blood” could, if taken literally, have gruesome, cannibalistic connotations. But for the Jews, it was even worse. They had a strict prohibition, rooted in Mosaic Law, against the consumption of any animal blood. The thought of somehow consuming human blood would simply have magnified the outrage in their minds.

I know the thought of blood soup is not very appealing to me. If I had lived in Jesus’ day how would I have reacted? I really don’t know. But knowing what we know now, his body and blood are the greatest thing we could hope for.

But to use our language, they simply “turned Jesus off” because his message was so offensive.

This might lead us to ask an uncomfortable question: What are the things in our own culture that lead us to “turn Jesus off”? Could it be our notion that might makes right? How about our idea that being “dependant” is a bad thing?

How about the belief that being “needy” is the worst thing that could happen to us? Is it our subtle conviction that worldly success must be a sign of divine favor?

Today’s gospel reminds us that we too might be blinded by our own cultural biases. These unspoken assumptions may lead us to hear the words of Jesus without getting the real message.

But are we really getting the real message? We can become so accustomed to receiving the Eucharist that we take it for granted. We fail to appreciate it and that is reflected in our attitude after communion.

We need to be aware that this is the banquet of life and appreciate it.

Are we really hearing and understanding Jesus message? Or are we “turning Jesus off?”

Homily # 6

This is the third Sunday since we began to hear in our Gospel Reading what Jesus said about his Body and Blood in Capharnum.  Saint John left us these words of Jesus that form the basis for our belief in the real presence of the Lord in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

Jesus himself said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.  And the bread that I will give you is my flesh, so that the world will have life”.  When they heard the Lord’s surprising words, the Jews began to murmur and to argue among themselves.  Some said scornfully, “How can this one give us his flesh to eat?”  Nevertheless, Our Lord said to them, “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”

Listening to these words from the Gospel Reading, we should ask ourselves: If we eat his flesh and drink his blood, why do we continue to be spiritually weak?  This question should lead us to a serious personal reflection.  When I receive Communion during the Holy Mass, do I firmly believe that I receive, “the living bread that came down from heaven?”  Or do I think this is only symbolic?

Our Lord assures us that during the Holy Mass, during the consecration, the bread and the wine are changed into his Body and his Blood.  Receiving him we are strengthened, he gives us the spiritual strength and the faith we need to recognize that he is in this sacrament.  However, we have met Catholics who receive Holy Communion but who do not believe in this.  How can our faith be strengthened so that we can come to know the Lord better if we do not believe in this sacrament?  Christ asks us to have faith and to believe everything that he tells us in Holy Scripture.

Sadly, we must say that we have seen people who do not believe the words that the Lord himself said to us in the Gospel Reading today, “my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”  If we do not have enough faith to believe these words, we will not be able to be strengthened by this sacrament of life.  The problem is that some Christians do not want to believe the Christ’s words when he speaks about the Holy Eucharist.  They think that this doctrine is too difficult to believe.  They prefer to see Holy Communion as something merely symbolic.  That is the reason that we see so many people receiving communion with little faith.

It is also difficult to believe that some Catholics, who would not refuse an invitation to a banquet given by some important person, refuse to accept the invitation that Christ gives them to share in his Body and Blood.  They do not see the enormous need they have to receive this sacrament.  Not attending the banquet that the Lord himself holds for us is a great mistake that we will regret later on.

Since the beginning of our Church, Wisdom, in the Old Testament, has been identified as symbolizing Our Lord.  For that reason, it is very important for us to listen to the words that we heard in the First Reading when Wisdom says to us, “Come, eat of my food and drink of the wine that I have prepared.  Leave behind your ignorance and you will live, advance on the road of knowledge.”  Wisdom, meaning Christ himself, asks us to leave the mistaken road we have taken and look for the road of knowledge, the right road that will lead to happiness.

Only if we are humble and we have faith can we believe that Christ is truly present, in his Body and his Blood, in the Holy Eucharist.  May our attitude, when we receive the Holy Eucharist, show that we really believe in Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the living bread that came down from heaven.


20th Sunday Ordinary (B)/Living Bread from Heaven.
Prov 9:1-6/ Ps 34:2-7/ Eph 5:15-20/ John 6:51-58
by Fr. George Vargas
      When I was a young seminarian, I dreamed of going to Italy not only to see the Pope but to go a small town called Lanciano and see the bread that became “real flesh” and the wine that became “real blood.” History tells us that there was a priest-monk who celebrated a mass who doubted the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist and during the consecration the bread and the wine turns into a real flesh and blood of a human person. Many people then, and until now still ask many questions, how it happened. We simply answer … we don’t know. Only faith can explain it.
     And since these words of Jesus in today’s Gospel are very strong, they also create a lot of questions in the minds of the Jews:


During the time of Jesus, the people might be thinking, how can this man say, “I am the living bread … whoever eats this bread will live forever.” In the days of the Exodus, Moses gave them “the manna” from heaven, they ate it, but afterwards they still died.  In the sixth chapter of John, Jesus was providing them with bread which is forever.  In their minds, they asked: Can Jesus be greater than Moses our greatest prophet?


Furthermore, this strong statement also forced the Jews to asked Jesus, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” The very idea repulsed the Israelites. In the Hebrew tradition, the words “to eat flesh” meant “to persecute,” “to murder” the other person, “to be hostile” to someone. That’s what the prophets Isaiah (9:18- 20; 49:26) and Zechariah (11:9) told them; and, they read the same in the Psalms (27:1-2). And, drinking blood? To the Hebrew people, it was a shocking notion, forbidden by the Law of Moses (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17).


Many of the followers of Jesus who were deeply shocked said, “This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?” If that’s how his followers reacted then just imagine what the rest of the population thought! It is no surprise that because of this outrageous language, with its emphasis on eating flesh and blood, the first Christians were frequently accused of engaging in cannibalistic rites!
     But Jesus insisted, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). Christ openly revealed this truth, even they can not fully understand it then, but nonetheless they accepted it with faith.
The Mystery
      In our catholic faith today, we can not also explain to the full – the mystery of the Eucharist; in all its aspects. We also ask a lot of questions. But ironically, the more we asked questions the more it becomes too mysterious for us:


Why only priests can do that? Why he alone can consecrate bread and wine? Priests are as sinners like any body else, then what makes the difference? I do not know also. What I believe is the fact that when my bishop ordained me, I became “alter Christus” (another Christ). And whenever I administer the sacraments, it is not I who do it, but it is Christ, acting in me who does everything. And for Christ, everything is possible.


We know that the change happens in such a way that the substance of bread and wine becomes the real Body and Blood of Christ, which in theology we call the Transubstantiation. Usually, when the substance is changed its external appearance (the accidents) is change with it also. (Ex when a wood is burned and becomes ash, it becomes black and reduced to a size of dusts too.).  But why is it that all outward appearances of bread and wine remain the same: the taste, the texture, the chemical make-up, while its substance is changed into Christ. How this Metaphysical reality happens during the prayer of consecration? We simply do not know. It is a miracle beyond human imagination. We simply believe.


And when we reverently receive the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion we are transported to the room of the Last Supper, we are connected to the sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary. But how can you “make present” in the Eucharistic celebration the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross that happened two thousand years ago and benefit in its same saving grace here and now? How can it transcend beyond time and physical matter? We simply we do not know. But one thing I am sure of, it is a miracle of love and love transcends beyond time.
The Eucharist is a deep mystery. It is a profound truth known only to us because it has been revealed by God. Believing in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is every Catholic’s best test of faith.


 If this is indeed a great miracle freely given by God as a gift, we have to ask ourselves: Do we deserve to receive this great  miracle of love even though we do not go confession for a long period of time?


Now that many people live in fear for terrorists. Many children still believe that as long as their dad and their mom are around, they will never be afraid.
        God is “with us”, Emmanuel, in Christ Jesus our Lord who promises, “I will be with you always, even until the end of  the world”. He keeps this promise in the Eucharist. As long as the Eucharist is present in our midst, as children of God, we have to fear no one.
        Furthermore, Jesus is the Bread of Life he alone can satisfy the deepest needs of humankind. And the loneliest place is place without the Eucharist – the place without God


For this is Body-broken and Blood-poured-out for others. Accordingly, whenever we allow ourselves to be broken, I order to sacrifice for the people we love, slowly become like the Eucharist. And when we share to others our own brokenness, in other to love to the full, we do not only become it;
ultimately… we are it.


Word Alive

Not on human wisdom alone


August 14, 2009, 6:30pm

An elderly woman, accompanied by a young doctor, was being wheeled into the operating room in preparation for surgery. Visibly nervous, she blurted out, “Doctor, please be gentle with me. This is my first time to be operated on.”

* * *

The youthful surgeon glanced at her and said, “Don’t worry, madam. This is also my first time to do an operation.” (Dunno if the patient survived.)

When a doctor tells you not to worry your operation will be successful – even if it’s his first time to do it! – and you believe him, that’s making a leap of faith.

* * *

Similarly in this 20th Sunday’s gospel, Christ asks us to believe in the Eucharist, even though we don’t understand how His body can become our life-giving food and His blood our nourishing drink.

We have to have the eyes of faith to understand the mystery.

* * *

If only we would taste and see for ourselves the goodness of the Lord in the bread of the Eucharist, then we would experience His blessings physically and spiritually.

A true story is told about a lady named Brigitte Guerney. In 1985 while walking in a street of New York City, a construction crane fell pinning her underneath. For six agonizing hours, paramedics frantically struggled to keep her alive until she could be removed from the heavy crane.

* * *

During the ordeal Brigitte was given blood transfusions, fluids, and painkillers. But she asked also for one specific thing and that was to receive Holy Communion. She was then taken to a hospital where doctors operated on her for another five hours. Eventually, she survived.

* * *

The crane accident was only one of the most recent of a series of mishaps Brigitte had suffered. At age 18 months, her son drowned accidentally. Her husband died of cancer. Her father was killed in an automobile accident. She had an operation to remove a cancer and she had suffered multiple injuries in a cable car crash in Switzerland in 1982.

* * *

One would say this woman was born unlucky (malas). But another would call her a “Bionic” or “Wonder Woman” because with her faith in the “living bread,” she had survived all those trials.

* * *

Faith in the Lord requires humility and openness. The Jews closed their minds to his teaching. Consequently, they missed their chance to receive the riches God had offered them.

But we are not any different like them sometimes, aren’t we? For instance, when the Lord teaches us to forgive our enemies, it’s not to make life difficult but it’s for our own good and that of society.

When people take revenge or take the law into their hands, there will be endless wars and bloodshed.

* * *

Or, if Christ’s teaching on marital fidelity is not kept, what will happen to society? There will be broken families and abandoned children living in misery.

Despite His teachings which redound for our good, why do people reject them?

* * *

Does it have something to do with human wisdom or intellectual pride?

In the case of Jesus and the skeptical Jews, the Eucharist is the issue.

It was a confrontation between human and divine wisdom.

When you encounter problems and worries about the world, your family, and society, don’t rely on your own wisdom alone but also on God’s. As Fr. Bruno Hagspiel, SVD once put it: “Swallowing one’s pride occasionally has never caused anyone indigestion.”


The food we eat

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:41:00 08/15/2009

THE STORY is told about a man who walked into a restaurant and told the waitress: “I’m so lonely. Give me a whole roasted pig, and a few kind words.” The waitress returned with the roasted pig, and as she turned to leave, the man said: “Hey, where are my kind words?”

The waitress leaned and whispered to his ears: “Be kind to yourself. Don’t eat the pig.”

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 6, 51-58) Jesus tells us to eat the right kind of food – the Bread of Life that makes one live forever. The problem with many of us is that we are eating the wrong kind of food – food that is not good for our bodies, and food that is not good for our souls. So focused in food that satisfies our palate and fills our stomach, we often forget the true food that satisfies our spirits and fills our hearts.

* * *

“A few moments on the lips, forever on the hips.” Indeed excessive food and drinks can make us heavy, physically. But the bigger load for us should be the realization that a lot of people around us are going hungry, and here we are, so insensitive and care-free, concerned only with eating, drinking and being merry.

* * *

“It’s not what you eat. It’s what’s eating you.” Next time you look at the menu or the wine list, ask yourself, even if you can afford it: “Do I really need this? Why am I so attached to earthly pleasures? Why am I so greedy and self-centered? Are there people who will benefit if I let go of this?” You may tell me: “Wow, I never thought eating could be that complicated!” It is. Especially when the bottom line is Christ’s challenge: “I was hungry, did you give me food to eat?”

* * *

Every second Sunday of the month, when I do my 6 a.m. TV Mass, I see a long queue of people outside the studio. Lined up for the TV Mass? No, lined up for a noontime show that gives out a lot of cash and prizes. They are there, sadly, just for the bread and not for the Bread of Life.

* * *

These days are days of remembering, rejoicing and renewing for the Society of the Divine Word as we celebrate 100 years of journeying in the Philippines. No less than Father Antonio Pernia, SVD’s first Filipino superior general, is here to join us for the celebrations. He pointed out that it is the spirit of self-sacrifice, the generosity of the people, abiding faith in God, and above all, grace, that made the journey of the past and the next 100 years possible. To those who have, and who continue to journey with us, we say thank you very much! Let us journey on, aware that the journey is not about going far, or fast. The journey is about going to the heart – to God’s heart, to people’s hearts, to our very own hearts.

* * *

On this our centennial celebrations, we echo the favorite prayer of our founder, St. Arnold Janssen: “May the darkness of sin and the night of unbelief vanish before the Light of the Word and the spirit of grace, and may the Heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all. Amen.”

* * *

President Cory Aquino, who all her life has partaken of the Bread of Life, has left to us this beautiful “Prayer for a Happy Death”:

“Almighty God, most merciful Father. You alone know the time. You alone know the hour. You alone know the moment, when I shall breathe my last. So, remind me each day, most loving Father to be the best that I can be. To be humble, to be kind, to be patient, to be true. To embrace what is good, to reject what is evil, to adore only You.

“When the final moment does come, let not my loved ones grieve for long. Let them comfort each other, and let them know how much happiness they brought into my life. Let them pray for me, as I will continue to pray for them, hoping that they will always pray for each other.

“Let them know that they made possible whatever good I offered to our world. And let them realize that our separation is just for a short while as we prepare for our reunion in eternity.

“Our Father in heaven, you alone are my hope. You alone are my salvation. Thank you for your unconditional love, Amen.”

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, remind us that the food we eat, eats us. Amen.


Word Alive

Without Faith, Eucharist Is Meaningless


August 17, 2012, 5:44pm

MANILA, Philippines — An elderly woman, accompanied by a young doctor, was being wheeled into a room in preparation for surgery. Visibly nervous, she blurted out, “Doctor, please be gentle with me. This is my first time to be operated on.”

* * *

The youthful surgeon glanced at her and said, “Don’t worry, madam. This is also my first time to do an operation.” (Dunno if the patient survived!).

When a doctor tells you not to worry your operation will be successful – even if it’s his first time! – and you believe him, that’s human faith.

* * *

Similarly in this 20th Sunday’s gospel, Christ asks us to believe in the Eucharist, even though we don’t understand how His body can become our life-giving food and His blood our nourishing drink.

It is not surprising why the cynical Jews grumbled, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:5). “Cannibalism,” one might say today. The Church calls it “transubstantiation.”

* * *

How can Jesus give His body and blood as our food and drink? Humanly speaking, we don’t know. But if He could use His power to feed 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread, if He could walk on water, if He could raise the dead Lazarus to life, then He could use His power to change bread into His body to feed thousands spiritually throughout the ages.

Ultimately, we are asked to believe, to trust in Jesus even though we cannot understand how it all can happen. Like Peter and the apostles who stayed on after the skeptical followers turned their backs on Him, we say: “Lord, to whom do we go; you have the words of eternal life.”

* * *

FAITH AMIDST TRIALS. Faith in the Eucharist should, likewise, inspire us to put faith in God in the trials and crisis situations of life, which are sometimes difficult to understand.

In his book Through the Eyes of Faith, Fr. John Powell relates about a friend George who had a coronary heart attack in his mid-thirties. He was so weakened that he co uld walk only short distances and had to live a sedentary life.

* * *

Then in his forties George had more than twenty operations for cancer of the face, including removal of his nose. Fr. Powell once asked George if he ever got discouraged or lost faith in God. His reply “which I’ll never forget,” wrote Fr. John was: “These are the cards God gave me which I lovingly play.”

* * *

The adversity or misfortune may not be a life-threatening sickness like that of George but could be the loss of crops, properties, and even a loved one resulting from the destructive floods wrought by the monsoon rains. It could also be the senseless death of one like the fatal hazing of a promising son, or the traumatic effect of children growing up from separated parents.

* * *

You may complain: “I can’t understand God’s love. Why do I experience all of these? It’s unfair when I’ve been trying to be good.”

If we can do something to remedy these problems, by all means let’s do it. If we cannot, then let’s hold on in faith and trust that God in His goodness has other plans. Remember: “When God closes a window, He opens another one.”

* * *



‘Pandesal mentality’

By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:09 am | Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Someone sent me this text message:  “If you eat  litson  baboy  (roasted pig), you eat pork. If you eat  litson  baka  (roasted cow), you eat beef.  So if you eat  litson  kawali… you eat a frying pan?!”

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 6, 51-58), Jesus speaks again about food, saying that He Himself is the living bread from heaven and that whoever eats this bread (Himself) will live forever. As you can imagine, and in fact, as it is clear from today’s Gospel, the Jews quarreled among themselves over this issue. But Jesus stood by His words. A man of lesser stuff would have been sidetracked or altogether folded up.

* * *

The “Bread of Life” discourse was not an easy issue then. It divided the people, and it made many of Jesus’ followers abandon Him. Even now, it is a difficult topic to discuss in a world that would rather talk about simple bread for hungry stomachs. I personally find it difficult to write or talk about this mystery, but I hold on to its importance, hoping that I will understand it more eventually. Why? Well, if Jesus insisted on its truth and importance, then I believe that it is true, and important.

* * *

There are many things we cannot explain and understand in this life. This is where belief and faith come in, and maybe that is all that the Lord asks of us many times as we go through life. As it were, faith is an invitation to go beyond what is quantifiable and seen to that which is unknown and unseen. Faith is by no means a downgrade. It raises us up, and it helps us “see” more clearly, widely, deeply.

* * *

Did you notice how Jesus put forth “bizarre” teachings as He went about His public ministry? He said many “out of this world” words which confused and inconvenienced many of His listeners. For Jesus, truth has to be said and proclaimed in season and out of season. The challenge for us is to cling to His words, and in doing so, cling to Him. In other words, faith is not so much a doctrinal as a personal relationship. We believe in His teachings because we believe in Him, the way, the truth, and the life.

* * *

Someone noted that we should go beyond our “pandesal mentality” (bread) and go into our “pandasal mentality” (prayer). Naturally, we hold on to what is visible, quantifiable, and controllable. But we are called by Jesus to wider horizons and as such cannot be confined to that which meets the eye. As Mother Church has taught us, yes, grace builds on nature, but nature is perfected by grace.

* * *

Our “pandesal mentality” can weigh us down as we journey on. On the other hand, our “pandasal mentality” can uplift us as we journey on. We need to strike a healthy balance of work and faith as we journey on.

* * *

We join our Muslim brothers and sisters in their celebration of Eidul Fidr, the end of Ramadan. Fasting from earthly food and pleasures is something that lifts up the soul and frees the spirit. It is a source of tremendous renewal. Let us ask ourselves today:  Am I eating too much? Look around you.  There are so many people who have no food!  Let us also ask ourselves today:  Am I eating the right kinds of food? Think health.  Think food for the soul as well.

* * *

August 22 is the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. May we not belittle or ignore this simple woman with great faith. Here is a simple prayer I pray to her every day: “Oh, my Queen, oh, my Mother, remember that I am your very own. Defend and protect me as your personal possession.” Amen.

* * *

As we commemorate Ninoy Aquino Day on August 21, let us ask our government leaders today what they have given up, what they have sacrificed for our country. We tell them: Payback time! This country has been good to you. Stop stealing and start serving to the max!

* * *

Think about this: There are people who eat and drink Jesus’ flesh and blood every day, but seem not to assimilate His spirit. They eat the living bread but do not have life in them. There are people who are prayerful, but are so selfish, proud, and deceitful. Yes, it’s not what you eat, but what eats you.

* * *

Sharing with you again this beautiful and meaningful prayer:  “Lord, help me to live the rest of my life, the best of my life.” Amen.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to go beyond my “pandesal mentality” toward “pandasal mentality.” Amen.


EAT AND LIVE! : Reflection for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B – August 19, 2012

Sabi ng isang kantang ginawa namin sa isang Musicale: “If you eat you’ll die. If you don’t eat you’ll die. You will die just the same, so why not EAT and DIE!” Puwede rin itong gawing motto ng mga taong ang tanging kahulugan ng buhay ay “kumain.” Ang kumain ang isa sa mga mahahalagang gawain natin bilang tao. Lalo na tayong mga Pilipino, ang pagkain ay bahagi na ng ating kultura. Halos lahat ng pagdiriwang natin ay may kainan: binyag, kasal, blessing ng bahay, fiesta at di mabilang na mga okasyon malaki man o maliit. Kahit nga ang huling lamay ng patay ay hindi rin pinapatawad, dapat may bonggang kainan! Kung ito ay mahalaga para sa atin nararapat lamang na ito ay ating bigyan ng kaukulang pansin. Alam mo bang kakaibang nangyayari kapag ikaw ay kumakain? Ang pagkain ay isang “psychomotor activity” kaya’t marahil ay hindi natin lubos na pinag-iisipan kapag ating ginagawa. Subo lang tayo ng subo. Lunok lang ng lunok. Kain lang ng kain. Kaya tuloy, palaki tayo ng palaki, palapad ng palapad, pataba ng pataba. Pataas ng pataas ang ating bilbil hanggang umabot na sa ating kili-kili. May parang “magic” na nangyayari sa tuwing tayo’y kumakain. Nagiging kabahagi natin ang ating kinakain. Pinapasok natin sa ating katawan ang isang bagay na patay at binibigyan natin ito ng buhay! Kaya nga kung nais mong maging malusog ang iyong pangangatawan ay dapat na masusustanyang pagkain ang kainin mo sapagkat nagiging kabahagi ng ating katawan ang ating kinakain! Alam marahil ni Hesus ang prinsipyong ito kaya’t ginamit niya ang simpleng halimbawa ng pagkain upang iparating ang kahalagahan ng pakikiisa sa kanya. “Ako ang pagkaing nagbibigay-buhay na bumaba mula sa langit. Mabubuhay magpakailanman ang sinumang kumain nito. At ang pagkaing ibibigay ko sa ikabubuhay ng sanlibutan ay ang aking laman.” Sa unang pagkarining ay parang kahibangan ang sinasabi ni Hesus. Sa katunayan, marami ang hindi nakaintindi sa kanya. Maging sa panig ng kanyang mga tagasunod ay may umalis at tumiwalag dahil sa bigat ng kanyang mga pananalita. Para nga namang kanibalismo ang nais niyang ituro sa kanila: “Ang kumakain ng aking laman at umiinom ng aking dugo ay nananahan sa akin, at ako sa kanya.” Ngunit alam nating hindi ito ang kanyang pakahulugan. Mapalad tayo sapagkat ngayon ay alam nating ang Sakramentto ng Eukaristiya ang kanyang tinutukoy. Tunay na katawan at dugo ni Hesus ang tinatanggap natin sa Eukaristiya at hindi lang simbolismo. Kaya nga’t kung naniniwala tayo sa prinsipyong “nagiging kabahagi natin ang ating kinakain” ay dapat maunawaan natin ang ibig sabihin ng pananahan ni Hesus sa atin bilang Kristiyano. Sa tuwing tinatanggap ko si Hesus sa Banal na Komunyon, naniniwala ba akong nagiging kabahagi ko Siya? Ako ba’y nagiging mas mapagkumbaba, mas mapagpatawad, mas maalalahanin, mas matulungin sa aking kapwa? Marahil ay “marami pa tayong kakaining bigas” sa pagiging tunay na Kristiyano. Ngunit ang lahat ay nagsisimula sa unang subo. Maniwala tayo na ang ating tinatanggap sa Banal na Komunyon ay ang TUNAY NA KATAWAN ni KRISTO! Tanggapin natin siya at magkakamit tayo ng “buhay na walang hanggan!” Hindi ibig sabihing mabubuhay tayo magpakailanman. Ang buhay na walang hanggan ay ang “Buhay-Diyos” na ating tinatanggap kapag nanatili tayo kay Jesus. Isang buhay na masaya, mapayapa, walang inaalala sa kabila ng maraming kaguluhan at alalahanin sa buhay. Kaya nga sa pagtanggap natin sa katawan ni Jesus sa Banal na Misa, hindi tayo “eat and die!” Sa halip “we EAT AND LIVE!”


See today’s Readings:  Cycle B

Back to: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

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