21st Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 23rd 2015.
Jos 24:1-2,15-17,18; Eph 5:21-32; Jn 6:60-69
The Eucharist and true worship
“Do you also want to leave?” “Master, to whom shall we go?”
After close to three years of ministry and gathering a small band of followers as His disciples, Jesus risks it all in today’s Gospel in His difficult teaching on the Eucharist. He insists on His teaching even as their murmuring and complaining steadily increases, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know His Father and mother…? How can this man give us His flesh to eat..? This saying is hard; who can accept it?” He acknowledged that His teaching is clearly a shock to them, “Does this shock you?” He is even ready to lose the Twelve over this teaching. Upon the departure of many of His disciples, He boldly extends the same challenge over His teaching to the chosen Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Why doesn’t Jesus try to pacify His disquieted disciples, or compromise on His tough teaching about the Eucharist, or beg them to remain with Him, or claim that He was only speaking symbolically or metaphorically about His flesh being real food and His blood being real drink to be consumed for eternal life? Why is He willing to risk losing all His disciples over this hard teaching?
We must remind ourselves that Jesus did not come into this world just to save us from sin and eternal death. The full picture is that He has freed us from sin and eternal death and brought us into a right relationship with the Father so that we can give true worship of the Father by participation in His own worship of the Father in the Spirit. As stated in Zachariah’s canticle, “God has raised us for us a mighty Savior… to set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship Him without fear, holy and righteous in His sight, all the days of our lives.” (Lk 2:69,74-75) Our worship of the Father is true only when we enter into Christ’s own perfect worship of the Father and participate in His attitude before the Father and others.
It is in the Holy Eucharist, in our communion with His body, blood, soul and divinity and participation in His Spirit, that we participate in Christ’s own perfect thanksgiving, reparation for sin and self-offering to the Father that He offered in Calvary in a way that leaves us branded with His own attitude to the Father and to others. Jesus’ shocking teaching of the Eucharist cannot change because it is the way that we enter into His own offering to the Father, “Does this (teaching on the Eucharist) shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” To abandon the Eucharist is to abandon Jesus and to reject the means of true worship of the Father that He offers us. In short to abandon the Eucharist is to proudly say, “I can worship the Father perfectly on my own.”
Joshua convokes all the tribes and asks them to renew their covenant with the Lord just as they settle in the Promised Land, “Decide today whom you will serve.” This call to renew their commitment is a call to be faithful to the purpose for which they have been set free from slavery of Egypt in the first place, “The Lord said, ‘let my people go that they may worship me.’”(Ex 9:1) They were set free not just to become an independent nation with its own land and sovereignty; but they were set free for the sake of giving true worship to God and to be an example to other nations of true worship. The Israelites’ response to Joshua acknowledges this fact, “For it was the Lord, our God, who brought us and our Fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery…Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
In baptism, we too have been set free from the slavery to sin, death and the devil and have been brought into the Kingdom of God as His beloved children in Christ. But we also have been set free for the sake of giving true worship of the Father, to enter in and share in the worship that Jesus Christ, the only true Son, offers to the Father. In short, we have all been baptized for the sake of the Eucharist, so that we too unite ourselves freely to Christ’s perfect self-giving to the Father in gratitude for all that we have received.
But true worship does not end with our participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass; it is perpetuated in daily life when our attitude towards others reflects the attitude of the One who brings us to share in His own worship. St. Paul reminds the Christians in Ephesus that their mutual relations are to reflect their true worship of Jesus Christ, “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Jesus Christ was not repulsed by our sins and sinfulness but He “loved the Church and handed Himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her with the bath of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” His love for us makes us lovable and able to share in His own loving worship of the Father in holiness. This is all possible because we have come into living contact with Him in the Eucharist and have become “members of His body.” Our own worship too becomes true when we are not repulsed by the weaknesses and failures of others but choose to labor in humble love for their betterment and sanctity.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the truth is that the more we abandon the Eucharist, our worship becomes more self-centered, causing us to lose the reverence that we must have towards God, ourselves and others. One clear example of this lack of reverence is the atrocities performed by abortion giants Planned Parenthood and their accomplices in the brutal murder of the unborn, the casual sale of their body parts, and the wicked silence and even justification of such acts by many politicians and legislators, many of whom are professed Catholics. Body parts are harvested from sometimes live babies and casually negotiated for in transactions over a dinner table. Isn’t this a new, more heartless and more sinister brand of slave trade today in what is called the free world? There is no reverence for the Creator and definitely no iota of reverence for His creatures made in His own image and likeness.
How did we get to this point? How did we lose all sense of reverence for God and for others that many Christians can turn a deaf ear to such wickedness or even support it under the guise of freedom? Maybe we need to ask how true our worship of God is. What is our attitude towards the Eucharist? Are we so quick to conveniently take the words of Jesus about the Eucharist as mere symbolic language and ignore the over 2000 years of Christian tradition that has witnessed Christians in every age willing to risk all for the sake holding on to Jesus’ challenging teaching about His Real presence and the perpetuity of His saving and meritorious sacrifice at Mass? Have we abandoned the Eucharist for some of the numerous spurious reasons that others give for not attending Mass regularly? If we do believe in His Eucharistic presence, do we attend Mass regularly with a readiness to share in Christ’s own worship of the Father and to bring to this world His attitude to the Father and to others? Jesus Christ willingly risked losing all His disciples just to press home the point that we must participate in the Eucharist if our worship of the father is going to be true. What are we willing to risk to make His reverence for the Father and love for His creatures shine out in our world today?
The Mass is the remedy for the lack of reverence towards God and His creatures. Let us participate in each Mass with loving devotion. In the memorable words of Venerable Fulton Sheen, “We have been redeemed so that we too become co-redeemers in the One Redeemer.” We must see ourselves as participating in Christ’s act of painful reparation for the sins of this world. With Christ, we must give thanks to God for all His blessings and for our sharing in His life and redemptive mission. Our Eucharists must move us to stand to evil in all its form, speak the truth with boldness and without compromise, and do what we must do to put an end to all form of evil within and outside the Church. With Christ, we must petition God for the grace of conversion for those involved in the brutal destruction of lives and for healing for those wounded in any way. Like Christ, we must not get repulsed or vindictive with the failures of others. All these begins with the Eucharist. We cannot give true worship to the Father and bring Christ’s own reverence to this world if we choose to abandon the Eucharist.
In this Eucharist, may we hear the words of Jesus whispered to us today, “Do you too want to leave?” He repeats the same challenging question to us in all those moments and circumstances in which God is not reverenced in Himself or in His creatures and we are tempted to conveniently look the other way. Jesus’ question invites us all to give true worship to the Father by sharing in His own selfless and complete Eucharistic worship of the Father, “No one can come to me unless it is granted Him by my Father.” May God give us the grace to respond in acts that give evidence of Peter’s response, “Master, to whom shall we go?”
In Jesus, God has set us free for the sake of true worship. Come, let us begin to worship God in truth in this holy sacrifice of the Mass through Christ, with Christ and in Christ.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!