Homily Number 1 When the Gospel opens, the Jews are murmering. Murmer grumble murmer. Lets all murmer. Murmer, grumble, murmer…
They murmer because they are upset at Jesus. They think He is puffing himself up and putting on airs, when they know He is nothing special, just the carpenter’s kid. They ask; “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” They want to puncture Jesus’ balloon and bring him down to earth. They even take glee in setting Jesus straight and deflating Jesus’ high-fallutin airs.
But Jesus is not doing this in a proud or haughty or boastful way. Quite the opposite. He says of himself “I am the bread of life.” Now bread is ordinary. Bread is common. Bread is humble. It is not something extraordinary and special. But it is vitally important.
Jesus could have said he was the standing rib roast of life, or the moist BBQ brisket of life, or the steak and lobster special of life. But no, rather he says, “I am the bread of life.” I am what sustains and nourishes you.
Jesus states simply but boldly, “I am the living bread that came 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.” Jesus gives us Himself, as bread, so that we might have His life, the life of God, in us.
Homily Number 2 Now put that over on the side for a moment and let’s change our focus and look at today’s second reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians, one of my favorite letters of St. Paul.
Paul tells the Ephesians, and us, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Who here has been sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption???
Well, if you have been Confirmed, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of God for the day of redemption. When a Bishop confirms, or when I confirm on Holy Saturday, we say “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Notice the wording. Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Sacrament of Confirmation is not something we do or accomplish, but is rather a gift given to us. All the Sacraments are gifts. We can not earn nor deserve them. They are grace, which means “free”. True, we make the high school confirmation candidates go to a number of classes, learn the gifts of the Holy Spirit, do a certain number of service projects, and generally treat the sacrament as if it were a merit badge that the teens earn by doing all that stuff. But that is our hang-up, not God’s. Confirmation is God’s free gift. We don’t earn it, nor deserve it, nor have a claim on it. It is gift. It is grace.
Anyway, those who are confirmed by God are sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. When Jesus comes in His glory, we will have our confirmation that we are members of His Body. Just like you need your confirmation number when you reserve a hotel or book a flight, so your Confirmation confirms that you are part of the Body of Christ, a member of God’s people.
But in the meantime, it calls us to live in a certain way. A very strange way. St. Paul tells us: “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.” Wow. How odd! Because you know what I thought of immediately upon reading
that statement as I prepared for this homily? What do you think it was? IT was our current situation in this country with politics and the public sector. All you seem to get today is exactly what we are supposed to get rid of: “all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.” How are we going to enter into any political or social discussion and debate without any of that stuff??
And yet, that is what we are called to. St Paul tells us: “And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” Oh my!
If we do this, the likelihood that we will be misunderstood, misinterpreted, misrepresented, deliberately skewed and mocked, is pretty much guaranteed. Civility and compassion will be misread for weakness, or simple-mindedness, or just plain stupid.
And that brings us back to Jesus in the Gospel, being misunderstood, mis-read, totally missed. That is what Jesus experienced.
It is tempting to NOT follow Him. To not follow such a foolish and difficult path. ¿Put aside all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling along with all malice? ¿Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ? That is a big challenge.
But it is the way to life. LIFE. Jesus is the bread of life. He tells us: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” You can’t do better than that.