18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 2, 2020
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Its 2:00 in the Morning, you’re sound asleep,
and suddenly you’re woken up by the distinct sound of a baby crying.
And the next night the same thing and on and on for months.
An experience that most new parents are all too familiar with.
But the babies aren’t crying because the want to hear themselves.
They’re crying because they’re hungry.
And no matter how many times they cry out–night after night, week after week
–the good mother and father gets out of bed to feed them.
Their crying in hunger does not stop the parents from loving them
–instead, in many ways, it deepens that love
and provides the opportunity to show that love.
But it doesn’t stop there.
My Dad once told me the story of how one night when we were little
…he came home after working 2 jobs (abusive boss)
…night school, walking in rain
…to find that we had all already eaten without him
and had all gone to bed.
He was pretty upset wondering why he put himself though all this
just to eat a cold dinner alone.
But when he looked in on the faces of his 5 sleeping children,
he remembered why–he did it because he loved us,
and so he had to work hard to care for us–to feed us.
Nothing could separate us from the love of my Mom and Dad.
In today’s 2nd reading St. Paul reminds us that nothing
“can separate us from the love of God, that comes to us in Christ Jesus.”
And the 1st reading and Gospel remind us that God, our loving Father,
loves us too much to let our us go hungry.
So He gives us the greatest food of all: Jesus, His Son, in the Eucharist
–the bread of life, and the cup of eternal salvation.
Sometimes, people will ask how we can believe
that Jesus could really come to us
in what looks like ordinary bread and wine
–why would He do that?
They can see how it could be symbolic of Him feeding us spiritually.
But to think that He really becomes physically present,
so that what appears to be mere bread and wine,
is really completely Jesus Himself, body, blood, soul and divinity
–that they have a hard time with.
Why does Jesus come to us under the appearance of food?
God is our Father, and like every good father,
He realizes that we need to eat and drink to live.
In fact, God realizes this better than any earthly father
because He hears not just one or two babies crying in hunger
–but all His children in the world.
But more importantly, He knows this because He made us
as creatures who need food and drink to live.
But food and drink can only give us this limited form of life on earth.
And He also created us to have another kind of life
–life with Him forever, eternal life
And the hunger for that life is the truest and deepest hunger we have.
Still, He made us physical beings,
who experience and learn through our physical natures.
So to communicate to us both kinds of life
—to satisfy both our earthly and eternal hungers—
He uses physical means.
Just as He gives us physical food to give us life on earth,
in order to give us a share in His own eternal life
He also gave us the physical presence
–the incarnation–of His Son as Jesus Christ.
This is the same Jesus that the apostles and early disciples
physically followed all around Israel.
Who they saw physically die, and physically rise from the dead.
But its also the same Jesus that they saw physically Ascend to heaven,
taking His physical real presence with Him.
Yet, here we are, 2000 years later, physically present on the earth
and still grasping reality mainly through physical perception.
And God is still giving us eternal life
through the physical means of the real physical presence of Christ.
But how can he do this when Jesus is physically in Heaven?
Well, there’s several ways He can do that, but the most perfect way He does it
is in the Eucharist,
where He uses the physical sign that positively screams out to us
as the source of life: the sign of real food to eat and drink.
The absolute basic human need for food to sustain life is universally understood:
the crying baby understands it,
moms and dads, the homeless and the starving
—they all understand it.
And Jesus Christ Himself intimately understands it.
As a baby in Bethlehem, He cried for his Blessed Mother’s breast.
After a hard days work as a carpenter to feed Himself and His mother,
He had a truly manly hunger.
As an itinerate preacher He knew the hunger which is even deeper
when you have to rely on the generosity of others.
And finally, on the Cross of Calvary where He cried in a dying voice
Today’s Gospel also reminds us of our Lord’s keen awareness
of the fundamental human need to eat.
Scripture tells us, “When He… saw the vast crowd His heart was moved with pity.”
But this crowd had followed Him to this deserted place not for physical food
but because they hungered for the spiritual food
that they longed to receive.
And with and through His physical presence
He did feed them with spiritual food,
revealing to them the life of the kingdom
—giving them a taste of heaven.
But as they sought to be in His physical presence to fill their spiritual hunger
they eventually grew physically hungry.
What a prefect time for a miracle.
And so Christ connects the reality of His physical presence
with both their spiritual and physical hunger
and satisfaction of that hunger with life giving food.
As Scripture tells us today,
“Taking the loaves …and looking up to heaven,
He said the blessing, broke [them],
and gave them to the disciples.”
Almost the exact same words the Gospels use to describe the Lord’s actions
on the night of his Last Supper, when before Jesus says “this is my body”
Scripture first tells us:
“He took bread and looking up to heaven,
blessed it, broke it and gave it to the disciples.”
The same words of Christ the priest pronounces in persona Christi
during the consecration at every Mass.
In the Eucharist He gave His apostles, and He gives us, the food of eternal life
–the Bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.
In the Eucharist Jesus gives us Himself physically in His real presence
–body blood soul and divinity—
under the mere appearance of bread and wine.
He uses the symbol of earthly life–food—
to bring us the source of eternal life–Himself.
The God who cried in hunger in the manger and in thirst on the Cross
knows that we will recognize Him present in this physical food,
which nourishes us and fills our deepest hunger
–our spiritual hunger for life and love with Him forever.
Today mankind is not only spiritually hungry,
but spiritually starving, literally, to death.
And just as so often the child today tries to feed his hunger
by stuffing his stomach with all sorts of quick and tasty junk food,
too many people of this age
stuff themselves with every sort of strange spiritual junk food
that’s easy to prepare and gives them some immediate pleasure or relief,
but will never truly satisfy or give them true life.
Whether it’s pseudo-psychological programs, bizarre new or old religions,
or drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever,
they’re crying like hungry babies in the night,
but wind up feeding themselves on garbage.
We also come here today like babies crying in the night.
But God our Father loves us so much,
He doesn’t leave us to feed ourselves on garbage and junk,
but He comes to us and feeds us the perfect spiritual food,
the physical food, which by a spiritual miracle has become
the real presence of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we receive the Eucharist today,
as Jesus truly enters into us and remains with us, as this heavenly food,
let us recognize that God is fulfilling the deepest hunger we have,
the hunger to be united to Him
and never separated from eternal life and love with Him.
So that in this Holy Communion we understand
the meaning of the words of St. Paul:
“Who can separate us from the love of God,
that comes to us IN Christ Jesus.”