Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year C
Gen 14:18-20; 1Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11b-17
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’ Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong. It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand.
However, if readers like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar, it would be greatly appreciated by the author whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
The liturgy of the Word today is considered as the historical background of the Eucharist. The reading from the Book of Genesis describes Melchisedek, the Old Testament priest as offering bread and wine, saying: Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth (Gen 14:18). Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians makes mention of the words of Jesus at the last Supper: 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this in memory of me (1Cor 11:24).
Then the Gospel tells us the crowds followed Jesus to listen to his word. We can see hunger for the word of God urged the crowd to follow Jesus. When the evening came, the crowd felt hungry and they did not bring any food to eat. The apostles had only five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus decided to multiply the five loaves and two fish (Lk 9:16) to feed the crowd of five thousand men (Lk 9:14). Jesus showed his concern toward his people by satisfying their need of hunger for physical food.
As Jesus used his power to feed the crowd with only five loaves and two fish, so he would use his power to change bread and wine into his body and blood for our spiritual nourishment. What we need is to express our spiritual hunger. Our hunger for spiritual nourishment means hunger for the word of God, hunger for the bread of life, hunger for holiness and truth, hunger for justice and charity, hunger for freedom and peace. Today we need to ask ourselves: For what are we hungry? Are we hungry for wealth and honors, power, fame, or self-recognition?
On another occasion, Jesus teaches his disciples: Seek out instead his kingdom over you and the rest will follow in turn (Lk 12:31). Jesus’ word here means we need to find time to pray and worship him publicly, to seek those things of the kingdom of God, and all other things will be provided.
When we suffer from indigestion, making us feel not hungry, not wanting to eat, we have to take medication for the indigestion. In a similar way, when our soul is full of obstacles such as sins and vices: pride, conceit, fabrication, slander, hatred, vengeance, lying, deceit, greed, greedy for fame, money and pleasure, we do not feel hungry spiritually, making difficult for the word of God to enter our lives. In that case, we need to eliminate those obstacles from our lives so that we may feel hungry for spiritual food.
Since Jesus instituted the Eucharist, millions of people have sought to pray before the Eucharist as to find strength and comfort. They came to express their feelings, their worry, fear and despair. They came to offload their burdens of life, their sufferings in body, soul and spirit and their individual and family afflictions to the mercy of God. They responded to Jesus’ invitation: Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light (Mt 11:28-30).
There are numerous Christians around the world did come to the church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, even some non-Christians did. They knelt down and bowed down in whispering to God. They sat there by themselves in a corner of a church in the dark for hours and hours. They let their tears flow out due to suffering or joy. When Mother Teresa was asked how she got her strength to serve poor children of Calcutta continuously and enthusiastically, she answered she got her strength from the Eucharist. And she spent hours and hours praying before the Lord in the Eucharist.
To respond to God’s invitation, let us ask Jesus in the Eucharist to be our strength, our joy, our hope. Jesus is there waiting for us. We can come to him anytime, day and night if the church is open. We do not need to make appointment or knock at the door. Here in front of the tabernacle, we can speak to the Lord like Saint Augustine: Our hearts are restless, until they rest in God. Saint Augustine meant we could either be in despair or come to the conclusion that God is the only answer.
Prayer asking for hunger and thirst for spiritual food:
Oh Eucharistic Lord Jesus!
To be with humankind until the end of time,
you instituted the Eucharist for us to rely on.
As we are hungry and thirsty for physical food,
may we hunger and thirst for spiritual food
so that we may feel the need to search.
Be my strength, my hope, my consolation,
my reason to live, and my inheritance.
I ask you to satisfy my hunger and thirst. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trọng