A Homily on the Eucharist from Fr Jerome
Jesus Himself is the Living Bread.
The people saw that Jesus was “not there”. Where is “there”? it is across the Sea of Galilee, to the east, outside, in the desert. There it was that Jesus fed the 5,000.
What is the “other side”? it is back in Israel, in God’s own country, and to be specific, in Caparnaum.
Jesus has gone ahead across the water. It is the same river system as the Jordan – like Joshua of old, Jesus walks dry-shod across the River to lead his people into the Promised Land.
But just as they grumbled in the days of Moses, so they grumble now. They want more bread, more fish. They look for Jesus “because they had all the bread they wanted to eat.”
They only want material, physical, benefits from following Jesus. How can He lead them to want something more?
They should have remembered that the manna stopped as soon as the Israelites crossed the River into the Promised Land. After that they had to work for bread.
What sort of work? Now it is not physical effort, not our own skill or ability, it is simply to believe in Jesus, to trust Him, to love Him, to surrender ourselves unconditionally to Him.
And then they ask Him what work will He do. They want a “sign”, as if feeding 5,000 was not enough.
Though now He feeds 1,000,000,000: a billion Catholics receiving Communion this Sunday all over the world.
The Bread is Himself: not an object he can hand over to us, not something we can buy or trade, not something we can hoard, not a “thing” at all – it is Himself.
When we think about the Blessed Sacrament in the Catholic Church we must get away from all ideas that it is just “a meal”, a “devotion”, an “ancient Christian custom”. It is not “it”, it is He.
When we come to the Blessed Sacrament we come to Jesus, alive, the beating Heart of our Church. Not your gifts, Lord, not even your teaching, Lord, but Yourself.
Until we learn to love Him, to welcome Him into our hearts, we shall never be satisfied. Only in Jesus do we find the fulness of life; only in the Blessed Sacrament are we fully united to Jesus.
Our Lord heals with a touch, with spittle, with clay: He uses physical matter because He is the Word made Flesh.
He is the Creator of Heaven and also of Earth.
That is why He uses material objects for His miracles, and for His Sacraments: water, oil, bread and wine.
The first Protestants objected to that because they believed all matter was evil, that only the spiritual was of any value – hence their extraordinary hatred of the Blessed Sacrament, more than anything else in the Catholic system, though they also hated and ridiculed all material aids to grace, palms, candles, ashes …
Indeed it was only in 1911 that King George V succeeded in getting the offensive reference to Transubstantiation take out of the Coronation Oath.
Our Lord did not consider matter to be evil – He created it and saw that it was good, He became Flesh, He gives us His flesh to eat.
Material creation can be the vehicle of grace: He says “My flesh is real food”.
The Blessed Sacrament is tangible, confected out of ordinary matter – not merely “spiritual food” but physically real, trans-substantiated.
If you will, you are at liberty to study the philosophy and theology of St Thomas to see what that means.
As Our Lord wills, you are invited to feel the reality of the touch of Jesus.
It is a healing touch. That is another point that so many heretics deny – they want the Church to be composed only of the perfectly pure, those who have succeeded in making themselves so holy that they think they are worthy to receive Communion.
There would be few in this church if that were so – but Our Lord calls us precisely because we are not perfect.
To quote St Thomas “I come like the sick to the physician of life, like the impure to the fountain of mercy, like the blind to the light of eternal clarity, like the poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth. I beg you to cure my illness, wash away my filth, lighten my darkness, enrich my poverty, clothe my nakedness, that I may accept the Bread of Angels …”
We come to be healed – but we must want to be healed. That is what Confession is for – showing that we want to be healed.
Then we surrender ourselves entirely to Jesus, and welcome Him into our hearts, that He may live and love through us.