Mass of Twentieth Sunday of the Year
16 August 2015
St. Macartan’s Cathedral, 12.30pm
My dear friends,
The first reading of today’s Mass is a piece in praise of Wisdom, taken from the Book of Proverbs, and it advises us to walk in the way of perception, in other words, to live wisely. The second reading is taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and continues the same line and offers a few suggestions. One piece of advice Paul gives us “do not drug yourselves with wine.” Some of you will be glad to note that he does not tell us not to drink wine. What we have to avoid is any misuse of it – don’t drug yourselves with wine!
The Gospel reading is not quite as easy to talk about. It is a continuation of that Chapter (Chapter 6) of John’s Gospel which we listened to over the past few Sundays where Jesus is telling the somewhat bewildered listeners that they should eat his flesh and drink his blood, that this is the bread that has come down from heaven and that anyone who eats this bread will have eternal life. Not the easiest part of the teaching of Christ to understand. Let’s take it from a different angle.
You may be a parent, trying to live out your Christian faith in a conscientious way. You go to Church regularly, pray and try to live a decent moral life. When they were young, your children followed you and generally shared your conviction and your practice. But at a certain stage they stopped going to Church, stopped sharing your views, especially perhaps those on sexuality and, maybe defiantly they began to live in a way that was opposed to your lifestyle and practices. One of our deepest bonds was weakened and strained. We might have felt a sense of loss and rejection. The pain caused is very common and very deep. How should we react? What can we do? Well, we can continue to live out our own lives in accordance with our own convictions and hope that we can love and challenge our children more with our lives than with our words. If we love someone and hold them in our heart and mind, they are not cut off.
We believe that Christ came and lived among us. Without fully understanding how, we believe that Jesus Christ was both human and divine. He came to teach us the meaning of life and death, to teach us how to behave towards one another. He gave us directions to enable us to find our way to where we were meant to be going. He showed us how to live a productive life and make our way home. He showed us how to understand and cope with death, a crossing we all make at some point.
The message that Jesus brought was that love is key, love of God and love of our neighbour. “I myself draw life from the Father,” he said “so whoever eats me will draw life from me.” He talks of bread. Now we know what bread is. Most people slice it, butter it and eat it. We also know that bread can mean nourishment, that which gives us life. And we know from our experience that we need all kinds of nourishment for the body, the mind and the heart. We have, most of us, studied the teaching of Christ, and while he often cured the bodies of the hungry we know his message was perhaps primarily for the mind and for the heart and only secondarily for the physical body, although you cannot really break up the human being like that. Still, it may help us understand what he is saying about the Eucharist. It may help us to stay and listen rather than run away. It is when a child is wounded that she most needs the embrace of a mother and father. Frequently, many adults run away from God too when they need him most.
A four year old Jewish boy called Mortakai refused to go to school to study Hebrew and the Torah. His parents tried every form of persuasion and threat but nothing worked. He stubbornly refused to stay in school. Eventually they took him to a psychiatrist but that proved futile. In desperation, they took him to a Rabbi, an old and astute man. He listened to the parents’ story. Without speaking, the rabbi lifted the child and hugged him and held him for a short while. There was no further problem.
What can we do when words are inadequate? What do we do when we feel unable to cope with the complexities an ambiguities of our lives and loves? Where do we find a love, a wholeness and a peace which we cannot give ourselves? Some get depressed and frustrated, some despair and run away. The woman in the gospel touches the hem of Christ’s cloak and was cured. Christ himself told his followers to wash each other’s feet and he then gave them the Eucharist. The Rabbi held and hugged the child and that was it. Power can be transmitted through love that goes beyond rational understanding. The Eucharist is a timeless embrace. Like love, it is something that we can never fully understand or explain. At the Eucharistic table, we gather in liturgical celebration, to be challenged by God’s word and to be nourished by his body.
To the children who closed the gate, temporarily we hope, between us and them and between them and God, he speaks to them in today’s Gospel if they care patient and listen. “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Amen
+Liam s. MacDaid
Bishop of Clogher
16 August 2015