ILLUSTRATIONSCOMMENTARY

19th Sunday of Year B

BEHIND THE SCIENCE FICTION (1:30) – The film was shot in and around St. Petersburg, Florida: locations included the St Petersburg Shuffleboard Club, Sunny Shores Rest Home, The Coliseum, and Snell Arcade buildings. The film earned two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Don Ameche) and for Best Visual Effects.

INSATIABLE THIRST FOR ETERNAL LIFE

Cocoon is a 1985 American science fiction fantasy comedy drama film directed by Ron Howard about a group of elderly people rejuvenated by aliens.( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoon_(film). In the movie Cocoon,  a group of senior citizens experienced a return to their youth when they bathed in a swimming pool used by aliens from another planet. Their exciting experience prompted them to accept an invitation from the aliens to go back with them to their planet. The senior citizens were told that once they reached the alien planet, they would live forever.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises a fountain of eternal life claiming that those who eat the Bread from Heaven will live forever. Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies.’

STARVING TO DEATH DURING PLENTY

DRIVE THRU HISTORY (1:43) – The winter of 1609 was a starving time and only 60 of the original Jamestown settlers survived. That June, they decided to bury cannon and armor and abandon the town. However, the arrival of the new governor Baron De La Warr and his supply ships helped turn things around. The colony was reborn, but the suffering at Jamestown reoccurred for decades.

During the winter of 1610, the population of British immigrants to Jamestown, in the U.S. (the Pilgrims) went from about 500 people to about 60. While disease and American Indians took some lives, most of the settlers simply starved. There were plentiful supplies of fish, oysters, frogs, fowl, and deer all around them. But these settlers from the city were not accustomed to obtaining food from the land. Hence, they starved! [Cullen, Joseph P. “James’ Towne,” American History Illustrated (October 1972).]

We sometimes act the same way. God comes to us continually in the Person of the Holy Spirit to guide us. As a loving Father, God awaits the opportunity to meet our needs, but we are accustomed to meet our own needs, not to receive things from His loving hand. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises to give us spiritual Food, but we must prepare and choose receive the Heavenly Bread.

LIFE MESSAGE FROM FR. TONY

God’s Love for Us

St. Pope John Paul II (2003)

“The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Presence of Christ, who gives himself to us because he loves us.  He loves each one of us in a unique and personal way in our practical daily lives: in our families, among our friends, at study and work, in rest and relaxation.  He loves us when he fills our days with freshness, and also when, in times of suffering, he allows trials to weigh upon us: even in the most severe trials, he lets us hear his voice.  To celebrate the Eucharist, ‘to eat his Flesh and drink his Blood,’ means to accept the wisdom of the Cross and the path of service.  It means that we signal our willingness to sacrifice ourselves for others, as Christ has done” Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (Holy Thursday, April 17, 2003).

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

CLOTHED IN HUMAN FLESH

Next to the Bible, my favorite book is Harper Lee’s award-winning novel, To Kill a MockingbirdI love both the book and the movie. The main character, the one who tells the story, is a little girl named Jean Louise Finch, who goes by the name of Scout. Her father, Atticus Finch, is the town’s lawyer and a man of deep principles and integrity. I always wanted to grow up and be like Atticus Finch. One day, Scout came home from school and told her father about some problems she was having with the teacher and several other students. In an effort to help her get along better with others, Atticus gave her this advice: “First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

That’s exactly what Jesus did. Clothed in human flesh, Jesus felt pain as we feel pain. He suffered as we suffer. He even experienced death. Jesus climbed into our skin and walked around in it.

(Billy D. Strayhorn, Beyond Skin Deep)

AL AND BARBARA’S BANANA-NUT BREAD

During Operation Desert Storm, Al and Barbara Davis, a retired Virginia couple, read that soldier in the field weren’t getting enough potassium and protein. One problem was that banana, an excellent source of potassium, spoiled before they could get to the soldiers. So Al and Barbara had an idea: why not make banana-nut bread and send it to the soldiers overseas? Their bread-making operation became a daily task: they made 100 loaves every morning, which they mailed to soldiers in the Middle East. Since 1991 when they first began their bread-baking, Al and Barbara Davis have made and mailed over 35,000 loaves of bread to U.S. troops.

I thought of Al and Barbara when I read these words of Jesus. “This is the Bread that came down from Heaven . . .” When planes land in the Middle East carrying Al and Barbara’s banana-nut bread, it must have seemed like manna from Heaven to the soldiers there.

LIFE MESSAGE FROM FR. TONY

We need to accept the “Real Presence” of Jesus

Based on sound tradition and the centuries-long teaching of the Magisterium, the Roman Catholic Church has consistently held fast to the belief in the Real Presence.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique.   It raises the Eucharist above all the other sacraments as the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all sacraments tend.”   In this most blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist we receive “the Body and Blood, together with the soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained” (CCC  #1374). The Fathers of the Church explain that, while ordinary food is assimilated into man, the very opposite takes place in Holy Communion. Here, man is assimilated into the Bread of Life. Hence, let us learn to receive Jesus, really present in the Eucharist, with due reverence, true repentance, proper preparation and grateful hearts. Let us remember that Holy Communion a) increases our intimate union with Christ; b) preserves, increases, and renews the Sanctifying Grace received at Baptism; c) cleanses us from past sin and preserves us from future sins; d) strengthens the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, thus enabling us to be separated from our disordered attachments and to be rooted in Christ; and e) unites us more deeply to the Mystery of the Church.

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

View More Homily Starter Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

19th Sunday of Year B

THE HUNGER FOR SPIRITUAL SUSTENANCE

We are living in a world where people of all races and creeds hunger more for spiritual sustenance than for physical food.  In response to the spiritual hunger of people in his own day, Jesus, in today’s Gospel passage from John 6, proclaims Himself to be “the Bread of Life that came down from Heaven.”  It is through Jesus, the Bread of Life, that we have access to the Divine life during our earthly pilgrimage to God.  The sixth chapter of the Gospel of John which contains Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist begins with Jesus’ miraculous feeding of five thousand hungry listeners in a deserted place to satisfy their bodily hunger.

Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum a day after miraculously feeding five thousand in the wilderness.  During the discourse, Jesus reveals that he is the true Bread of Life that came down from Heaven,” to give life to the world.  “Manna” was God’s gift rained down “from Heaven” upon the Chosen People; Jesus, however, is the new and perfect manna as the Incarnate Son of God, literally “come down from Heaven.”  This means that the Bread we consume in the Eucharist is more than just a guarantee that one day we’ll have eternal life. This Bread actually gives us a share of that eternal life while we are still on earth.  But some of those who had just witnessed Jesus’ ability to supply them with earthly food turned away when Jesus identified His Heavenly Origin as the Divine Source of His miraculous powers.

The first reading describes the physical and spiritual hungers experienced by the prophet Elijah. In this reading, the Bread of Life Jesus speaks about is prefigured by the miraculous food with which the angel nourished the Prophet Elijah in the desert to which he had fled from the soldiers Queen Jezebel had sent to kill him.  After being nourished by the Lord, Elijah was strengthened for the long journey of “forty days and forty nights” to Mount Horeb [Mt. Sinai], the place where God had given Moses the Ten Commandments.

In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34) Refrain, the Holy Spirit has us sing, “Taste, and see the Goodness of the Lord,” the Goodness the Psalm verses themselves spell out. The second reading presents Christ Jesus, the “Bread of Life,” as a “sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.”

In the Second Reading, Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians that, instead of seeking satisfaction in anger, slander, bitterness and malice, they are to nourish one another with compassion, kindness and mutual forgiveness.  It is Faith that strengthens us to live in this way, doing the right thing in our relationships with others, in a world filled with terror and violence and in a Church marked by betrayal and disillusionment.

FIRST READING

First Reading – 1 Kings 19:4-8

King Ahab of Israel married a pagan queen, Jezebel, who imported pagan worship into Israel. The prophet Elijah challenged 450 of the pagan god Baal’s prophets, defeated them in a public sacrifice-contest and killed all of them.  The furious Queen Jezebel sent soldiers to kill the prophet. Today’s first reading expresses Elijah’s discouragement and frustration as he fled for his life.  Collapsed in the only available shade, Elijah fell into a sleep of exhaustion while awaiting release through a speedy death.  God heard His prophet’s prayer and sent an angel to feed him and strengthen him in his flight.  The miraculous food provided by God sustained him through a 40-day pilgrimage to Horeb (Mount Sinai), where Elijah would be commissioned again as God’s prophet to carry on the struggle and to anoint his successor.  Like Elijah, all of us learn to recognize our weakness and frailty and are able to experience God’s empowering grace which is capable of transforming our powerlessness and discouragement.  The lectionary compares God’s strengthening of his prophet by the miraculously provided food with His strengthening of us in our pilgrimage to Heaven by the Bread from Heaven, namely, the Holy Eucharist.

SECOND READING

Second Reading – Ephesians 4:30-5:2

The second reading contains St. Paul’s practical advice for peaceful, communal Christian living among former enemies, namely, the now-converted Jews and the converted Gentiles.  Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians that their discipleship must be guided by the virtues of compassion and forgiveness, avoiding “bitterness, fury, shouting, and reviling which would grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”  That is how they should live their lives, offering their sufferings as sacrifices pleasing to God, just as Jesus, “the Bread from Heaven,” offered himself as a “sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.”  It is Faith that strengthens us to live this way, doing the right thing in our relationships with others, in a world filled with terror and violence and in a Church marked by betrayal and isillusionment.

GOSPEL READING

Gospel Reading – John 6:41-51

Jesus’ Unique Claims

Jesus makes a series of unique claims in today’s Gospel passage: 1) “I am the Living Bread that came down from Heaven.”  2)”I am the Bread of Life.”  3) “The Bread that I will give is My Flesh for the life of the world.” 4)“No one can come to me unless the Father Who sent me draw him.”  5)“I will raise him on the last day.”  6) “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God.”  In short, Christ Jesus reveals himself as God and as the “Bread of Life from Heaven,” sent by the Father for our salvation.


Jesus’ Claims Challenged

Jesus’ Jewish listeners could hardly contain themselves when Jesus claimed to be the “Bread of Life” (v. 35) who “came down from Heaven” (v. 38).  They thought they knew his father and mother (v. 42) and saw him as just another hometown boy – a carpenter by profession without any formal training in Mosaic Laws and Jewish Scriptures.  They could remember when Jesus had moved from Nazareth to Capernaum with a band of unknown disciples, mostly fishermen.  Hence, they came to the natural conclusion: “either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse” (C. S. Lewis).


The Complaint Launched

In today’s portion of the lengthy Bread of Life discourse (49 of Chapter Six’s 71 verses), John re-emphasizes the similarities and contrasts between the old “manna in the wilderness” experience and this new notion of a “Bread of Life” that is directly tied to Jesus.  In verse 41, John’s noting of the Jewish identity of the “complaining” crowd, recalls for us their own unique history.  Those listening to Jesus began to “murmur” against Jesus and his gifts of Heavenly Bread, even as the ancient Israelites began to “murmur” or “complain” against Moses — first out of hunger (Exodus 16:2,7,12), then against the monotony of the manna diet (Numbers 11:4-6).  Like the Israelites, we, too, complain when God fails to meet our expectations. Many scientists think that these “flakes” were formed from honeydew secreted by a certain insect that fed on the sap of tamarisk trees (yum!). In the dry desert air, most of the moisture in the honeydew quickly evaporated, leaving sticky droplets of the stuff on plants and the ground. Since the Exodus, manna became the living symbol of God’s providence and love for the Jewish people.


Jesus’ Response

Jesus knew that the Jews were upset about the explanation that the multiplication of bread and fish signified that Jesus himself was the Heavenly Bread that gives eternal Life. Jesus challenged the Jews to take a journey of Faith by seeing, not “the son of Joseph,” but the “one who came down from Heaven.”  Saying, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me …” Jesus told his listeners, and tells us, that everyone who has become a disciple has done so because God the Father has called him or her to Jesus.  It is an act of God that has brought us to follow the way of Jesus.  Faith is a gift.  To follow Jesus is to live by Faith; to believe means to make those necessary changes to one’s lifestyle that being a believer demands.  Then Jesus offers the ultimate reassurance to every one of us who believes: “I will raise him up on the last day” (cf. vv.39, 40, 44, 54).  This persistent theme serves to remind the reader/listener that only Jesus, the true Bread of Life, can impart the gift of eternal Life to the faithful. Jesus is a source of life, giving himself to us by his own self-sacrificing love. Christ the Bread is the love, justice and compassion of God incarnate. As Jesus, the “Bread of life,” gave “life” to the world through selfless compassion and humble servanthood to others, we, too, can give “life to the world” when we look beyond our own needs and security to the good of others. Then we shall give, not from our treasure but from our poverty, all the gifts God has given us, using them to serve everyone in need, with the love, compassion, and selflessness of Jesus, revealed in the Gospels.


Faith in Practice

“Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” Here Jesus clarifies that listening to God and learning from God are essential in our search for Jesus and our growth into strong believers and faithful servants of Jesus.  The Good News is that God is willing to be present in our midst and to teach us.  Jesus asserts this point quoting Scripture, “And they shall be taught by God.”


The Holy Eucharist Foreshadowed

The dialogue with the Jews no longer deals with manna, but with Jesus’ very Person: the Revealer bringing us God’s salvation.   Although John’s Chapter 6 has no direct reference to the Holy Eucharist, Jesus’ words remind us of the centrality of the Eucharist as the primary source of our spiritual nourishment.    Jesus knows quite well that we need both spiritual and physical food for life’s journey.  He offers us both. Thus, the meal that we share at the Eucharistic table provides the Food for our journey (“viaticum”).  Furthermore, He tells us that this Bread from Heaven is His Flesh, given for the life of the world.  The Jews, as well as Jesus’ disciples, understood that the Teacher was speaking literally in telling them His Body was food, a statement that was outrageous and impossible to some hearers.  Jesus, however, insisted that His words must be accepted literally, and that His Father would draw men to accept them. Hence, let us accept Jesus as the Heavenly Bread, medicine for the sick soul, nourishment for a wounded spirit, light and strength for a weary mind and the Source of new and eternal Life.


The Bread from Heaven is also the Word of God

In the Bible, bread appears several times as an image of wisdom, or Divine revelation: Isaiah says “You who have no money, come, receive bread and eat” (55:1-3); Proverbs invites everyone, “Come, eat of my bread“(9:1-6), and Sirach says, “Whoever fears the Lord and holds to the law will obtain wisdom… She will feed him with the bread of learning.“(15:1-3). This should make a lot of sense to us, because we read books, watch movies and television, and consult the computer to increase our knowledge and, we hope, to learn about life and.  In the same way, we need to read, reflect and pray over the Word of God privately so that God can nourish our souls and be our true “soul food”.

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