Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1EX 32:7-11, 13-14
Responsorial Psalm PS 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
- (Lk 15:18) I will rise and go to my father.
Reading 2 1 TM 1:12-17
Alleluia2 COR 5:19
- Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 15:1-32
Homily for Nativity on the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 9/15/2019 EX 32:7-11; 1 TM 1:12-17; LK 15:1-32 (Prodigal Son hunger for the Eucharist)
There are three parables in today’s Gospel, but I’d like to focus on the third, a familiar story we often call the story of the Prodigal Son. I believe we can all put ourselves somewhere in the story, as one of the two sons, or as the father even.
Personally, I have spent a lot of time thinking about myself as the son who left and squandered the inheritance. In college, I wasted a lot of money so I usually think of my story from a possession standpoint.
But recently, I’ve started to think about this whole story from a food standpoint. Think about it, a life of dissipation most certainly included food and drink, probably a lot of drink.
When the money ran out and a severe famine hit, the younger son’s hunger is what brought him back to his senses, he couldn’t even eat what the pigs were eating.
When he arrived home, the father ordered the fattened calf to be slaughtered so they could celebrate with a feast.
When the older son objected to this celebration, his complaint was about the food given to his younger rebellious brother, and the father consoled him by saying, “everything I have is yours.”
Food runs as a central aspect of this story. The younger son only appreciates his father’s food after he is without it for awhile. The older son doesn’t appreciate the food which was always available to him.
When I went away to college, I stopped regularly going to Mass on Sunday’s. If I even went to a church service on the weekend, it was probably to an Evangelical Free or a Lutheran church, but I’ve explored a variety of churches, Baptist, Methodist, Non-Denominational, etc.
I enjoyed their praise and worship music, their hospitality, and the fact that they welcomed everyone for communion... at least that made my girlfriend happy because she didn’t feel excluded.
It was during this time that I hit my spiritual low… the lowest point of my life really... for context, the year was 2005. My father invited me back to Mass, and I would go with him when I was at home, but I would still go to other places when I wasn’t with my family.
My father invited me to attend a Catholic Men’s Conference in 2006. I told him no. He asked me again in 2007. I reluctantly said yes. At that conference, the keynote speaker talked about the Eucharist directly from scripture.
He did a deep dive into the Eucharistic discourse which is found in John Chapter 6. I had never heard it explained like that before, looking at the Greek words, how when Jesus said you “must eat my flesh and drink my blood,” He meant it literally, not figuratively or symbolically, He meant literally.
It says in John 6:66 that many of his disciples left Him at that point, they couldn’t accept this teaching, but Jesus didn’t back down from his teaching and say “I only meant it symbolically” no, he let them go. Like the loving Father in the story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus does not force us to do anything against our will, even today.
And in that moment at the Men’s conference, I realized I never understood what I left behind in the Catholic Church, my earthly father and my heavenly father had let me go to search for better food and drink, but in my hunger and thirst for the truth, I returned to my senses and realized what I had been missing. I realized I had probably missed a lot of other things about the Catholic faith along the way.
This realization brought me home very quickly, and I began to do a lot of research about the Eucharist. I examined scripture, I read what early church fathers said in the first few centuries after Jesus, I researched Eucharistic Miracles where hosts have turned to flesh and started to bleed.
For all of my life I had heard that Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist, but I didn’t really believe it, I didn’t honestly think it mattered one way or the other, whether it was a symbol like many Protestants believe, or whether the bread and wine was substantially changed into the body and blood of Jesus. Like Paul said in the second reading, “I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.”
But at this point after my research I became convinced that Jesus was truly present, and I realized I was home in the Catholic Church and there was nowhere else that I could be.
I started going to daily Mass and going to Eucharistic Adoration… if Jesus was truly present, the God of the whole universe is right there, why wouldn’t I receive His body and blood and pray with Him as much as possible?
The Catholic Church calls the Eucharist “the source and summit of our faith.” It is the source, because it is Jesus himself who nourishes his Church. It is the summit, because we are receiving God himself in the form of bread and wine here at Mass.
And if I would have known that, if I would have done all the research and examined all of the evidence from an earlier age, I don’t believe there was any way I would have left my spiritual home, the Catholic Church.
A recent Pew Research Center study about Catholics in the United States found that “Only 50% of U.S. Catholics said that they knew the Church’s teaching that after the consecration, the bread and wine are totally changed into Jesus’ body and blood.
Even among that 50% of those who were aware of the Church’s teaching, a third said that they still regarded the Eucharist as a symbol, leaving only 31% who actually believe the Church’s teaching that the Eucharist actually is Jesus.”
These are heartbreaking statistics to me, but it makes total sense, in the light of my experience, in the light of the attendance in the Church today.
We all have people in our own families or know friends who have either left the Church, or only attend on Christmas and Easter, but in my estimation just they never knew what they had.
Many people, by the grace of God, still come to Mass without believing in the true presence, like the older son who never left, they haven’t truly appreciated everything the Father gives.
Belief in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist changes everything. The Church teaches it, they’ve taught it since the time of Christ. It’s either true or it isn’t, just like Jesus was God or He wasn’t. We should either all be here, worshipping Jesus, receiving His body and blood, or we should all leave together, because this is the biggest lie ever told.
Clearly, I believe it is true and I came home because my physical father and my spiritual father continued to seek me when I was lost. I realized my hunger and thirst could only be fulfilled here. Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Like the Prodigal Son, the Father welcomed me back and helped me realize what I once left behind, the food brought me back, the Bread of Life.
I believe that if everyone were to believe in this core teaching of the Church, we wouldn’t have empty pews, we would not be closing Catholic schools, no, rather we’d be building bigger churches and bigger schools even.
I am not under any false pretense, certainly according to the numbers, there are some people here that do not believe in the true presence. This is not cause to leave, rather it is cause to dig deeper, to pray, to grow, to learn.
If you’ve never read the early Church Fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch or heard about eucharstic miracles, learning about them along with scripture completely transformed my life.
Jesus gives us his body and blood out of love for us, to satisfy our hunger and thirst for Him on this side of Heaven. The Eucharist is food and drink that strengthens us spiritually so that we can become more like Him, to live like Him and to love like Him, unconditionally.
The Father loves us unconditionally and always welcomes us home. I pray that as we recognize God’s love for us we will also recognize Jesus’ true presence in the Eucharist.
Six main passages in the N.T. provide the Biblical evidence: Mt. 26: 26-29; Mk 14: 22-25; Lk 22: 14-20; John 6: 25-71; 1 Cor 10: 14-22; 1 Cor 11: 17-34. They are written out at the end of this paper for your use and study. Remember also, that not all Bible translations are equal. Although the King James Version will suffice, it is not the best translation (The Catholic Church tends to use the NAB and RSV.) John 6 contains a dramatic shift of emphasis in verse 52. Up to that point Jesus is using figurative language "I am the bread" (which gives rise to the Protestant "I am the door" argument), but then his language shifts to the literal with words like "eat," "drink," "flesh," "blood" and "real." In verses 54-58, His command to eat His flesh and drink His blood is given repeatedly, as they are in the synoptic gospels and in 1 Cor 10-11.One of the indicators that Jesus literally wants us to eat His Body is John’s deliberate switch from the phago, the Greek word for eating to trogon, the Greek word for chewing or masticating. It is used four times in verses 54-58. This confirms the Jews suspicion that He is speaking literally, not figuratively. But even the use of phago was literal in verse 49 when Jesus is comparing the physical eating of the food which cannot give eternal life (the manna) with the food He is going to give them. Hence to argue it becomes symbolic after this verse, as Protestants do, is not logical.
Church Fathers: St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr
Ignatius of Antioch
“I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ . . . and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible” (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).
“For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
Eucharistic Miracles: Orvietto, Lanciano, Santarem, etc.