Homily – August 2018

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY, 12 AUGUST 2018
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B)
1 Kings 19:4-8, Eph 4:30-5:2, John 6:41-51

Jesus is forever the Bread of Life.  In the readings today we see how Jesus moves people away from a biological understanding of bread, to the bread that He gives us as food for eternal life.

The wisdom of the Catholic teaching often says that if you want to understand the real purpose, meaning and direction of life, it is best to start at life’s end.  What is the ultimate purpose of life?  Our Catholic Tradition says that it is to enjoy the, “Beatific vision.”  This simply means that God will draw us all into His Easter presence at the Heavenly Banquet, and in communion with the God of love we will be in His presence eternally.

With this wisdom of the “Beatific vision”, we can now work backwards in our life to see where we are at the present.  Are we moving towards and giving priority to, this ultimate destiny that awaits us all, through the Mercy of God?

I recall years ago listening to an experienced parish priest.  He was talking about his visits over some months to a dying man in his family home.  On his pastoral visits he always would bring Holy Communion and pray with the dying husband, his wife and their children who would gather.

Slowly but surely, this man’s life was coming to its natural end.  In his last visit, the dying man was finding it difficult to talk and was no longer able to eat food solids or liquids.

When his wife brought the priest into the bedroom, he smiled but was unable to engage in small talk.  Although he did say to the priest, “I’m so happy that you are here Father, but what you have brought with you is now the most important thing for me and the only thing I need for the next phase of my life.”

He was talking about Holy Communion.  He understood that the Communion he was about to be given would possibly be his final, “food for the journey…to eternal life.”

In our Catholic understanding we say this final Communion is called “Viaticum.”  This dying man certainly knew that his physical death was fast approaching but the door to eternal life was also fast opening.  He really knew his priorities by this stage!

In the First Reading today, there is a biological understanding of food, as essential for our earthly existence.

Elijah is travelling from the north of Israel to its south.  He is starving.  He has completely run out of energy.  He is depressed.  He “wished he were dead.”

He lay down hoping that he would die but the Lord gave him food and drink, not once but twice.  Once he regained some of his energy back he told him, “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too long for you.”  So he got up and ate and drank, and strengthened by that food he walked…”  If that is what happens with earthly food for our bodily energies, how much greater does this foreshadow the eternal food that Jesus gives us for life eternal.

This is the saving reality that Jesus was trying to share with the perplexed people of His time.

In John’s Gospel, we hear a continuation of last Sunday’s Gospel in regard to Jesus as the Bread of Life.  This theme in John’s Gospel will be continued over the next two Sundays.  Jesus makes the distinction between earthly food and heavenly food.  He says, “Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that a man may eat it and not die.”

Jesus then identifies himself with this food for Eternal Life.  Jesus sees himself as the food the soul needs for eternity.

In a most significant self-description, Jesus says, “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.  Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”  Even in these final words, He is starting to foreshadow His coming death on the Calvary Cross, which will be the gateway for the Lord’s saving action to bring us all into eternity.

Let us think long and hard about this basic teaching of Christianity. 

We particularly welcome today those involved in the Marriage and Family Apostolate in the Archdiocese.  We welcome all those organisations in the Archdiocese, who do what they can to involve the important teachings of married life in todays troubled world.  We particularly welcome engaged couples and newly married couples to this Mass.

For all of us, but in a special way for married couples and family life, the Eucharist must be the centre of our lives. 

It gives us the food for the wonderful but difficult life of marriage and family life, especially in our world today.

Yesterday I was down at Eden.  We had our second Archdiocesan pilgrimage in regard to Flora MacKillop, the Mother of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

She drowned off the coast of Eden.  The people of Eden at the time showed great respect for Flora’s body.  Mary MacKillop, herself, was so grateful to the people of Eden that she promised she would send Josephite Sisters to the town.  Two Josephite Sisters are still involved in pastoral work in Eden today! 

Mary MacKillop’s life would have been unthinkable without the centrality of Jesus, the Bread of Life.  Daily Mass, wherever she could, was always a priority.  Her closeness to Jesus, the Bread of Life in the Eucharist gave her a perspective to life that was Holy and Saintly.  Particularly in the way that she forgave people and wouldn’t allow anyone to speak harshly of people, who in fact, had harsh words towards her and caused her great difficulties in her life. 

So let us now allow the Mass to lead us to Jesus, in Holy Communion.

Let us receive Holy Communion today with great fervour knowing that Jesus has given us, not just Communion for today, but indeed food for the journey of life which will lead us, through the Mercy of God, to Life Eternal.


 

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY 5 AUGUST 2018
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B)
Ex 16:2-4, 12-15, Eph 4:17, 20-24, John 6:24-35

In today’s Gospel we hear of Jesus’s teaching on the significance of the miracle of The Multiplication of Loaves and Fish.  This miracle is linked to every Mass that is celebrated.

Recall, that last Sunday’s Gospel was the spectacular and perhaps most famous of all Jesus’s miracles: The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish.

Clearly, the people were astounded by this incredible miracle worked in the presence of thousands of people.

Some of these people now seek to walk in the shadow of Jesus more fully.  They follow him around.  When they finally encounter Jesus the next day we hear of their dialogue in today’s Gospel.  Here we find Jesus, the Chief Catechist of all of us, explaining the significance of this miracle.  He dispels superficial understandings and draws us to true appreciation of our Christian humanity.

In the Gospel today, Jesus challenges the people when they finally encounter him.  He says to them, “you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.”

To give them credit, the people would have seen in Jesus’s actions of this Gospel echoes of the experiences of their forefathers.

This experience is articulated in the First Reading today from the Book of Exodus.

Here the people of God are hungry in the desert.  They complain to God.  He sends them food from Heaven in the early morning.  It is explained as “When the coating of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was a thing delicate, powdery, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground.”

The people ask themselves “What is that?”

In biblical languages this expression “What is that?” is translated as “Manna”.

Clearly, the people now in Jesus’s time in today’s Gospel, see Jesus as like a new Moses.  Their bellies have been filled with food.  It’s just like what happened with their ancestors. 

Jesus takes them to a deeper level all together.

He brings out the dual reality of our humanity.  Our human reality isn’t just of the present with our hungers and present day desires.  It is this, but it is far more than this.  It is also food for the journey to eternal life.

When the people Jesus is encountering in today’s Gospel hear his explanation, they still have a very physical understanding of the bread that Jesus would offer them.  They say, “Give us that bread always.”   

Jesus answers immediately with one of the most beautiful passages of the whole of the scriptures.

He says “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.”

Jesus always brings us to depth in our humanity.

He shows that the deepest hungers of the human heart can only be satisfied in him, the Bread of Life.

We are just like those people encountering Jesus in today’s Gospel.  We too must truly believe that Jesus is enough for us in the journey of life.

For this to happen Saint Paul suggests that we need a “spiritual revolution” to see our life from the eyes of Jesus and not simply our own superficial eyes.

Saint Paul says to the Ephesians “Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way.”

The spiritual revolution Jesus is calling us, is to truly believe that what happened at The Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves is not simply a miracle anchored in time but it is a miracle anchored in eternal time.

What I mean is as follows.

The miracle of the Loaves and the Fish foreshadowed that which took place at the Last Supper.  That which took place at the Last Supper also foreshadowed that which took place the next day on the Calvary Cross of Jesus.  Here Jesus becomes both the Priest and victim.  He becomes the Bread of Eternal Life with his body broken and His blood shed for us as spiritual food for the journey of life.  This first Calvary is also foreshadowed in every Mass that we celebrate.  The Mass continues the sacrifice of Calvary.

So surely an aspect of this “spiritual revolution” is to see that when we come to Mass we are actually participating in the ongoing miracle of the Loaves and Fish, anchored in time 2,000 years ago but now ongoing in its re-presentation in the Mass and in every Mass until we meet Jesus face to face at the end of time.

What a wonderful Sacramental reality this is!  It is not just simply the Priest or the Bishop who is celebrating the Mass.  They are celebrating the Mass in the person of Christ.  It is Christ himself, indeed, who celebrates each and every Mass.  It is Christ himself who feeds us with not only food for the present but food for eternity.

This is why the Eucharist is always the central feature of our Catholic belief.

Let us now enter into the Mass with fresh eyes and ask God to give us this spiritual revolution we really need to believe that, indeed, it is only in Jesus that the hungry heart is fully satisfied.