Pope Francis has Landed. I am in shock as I write this I didn’t think that nearly 40 years after the visit of Pope John Paul to Ireland I would be writing about another pope visiting Ireland with the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland for the world meeting of families. I remember as a 12 year old the anticipation of the visit and even now the excitement is there as the pope comes to Ireland. So much has changed in terms of faith and people and it would be easy to be critical and many are with good reason but we need to stop for a while and bask in spiritual sunshine that the world meeting of families and the pope’s visit bring to us and the world. There is much that has changed in my lifetime in relation to the faith that we profess and family life and I am sure that much will change if the future. But the words of Oscar Romero who will be made a saint in October sum up what we are about we are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future that is not our own. So as we go forward we thank God that we are at this point and we acknowledge that we are not perfect as the Church is not perfect as we look to the future that is gods not ours to own.
In this Sundays Gospel, Jesus puts the choice to His apostles of following Him, or of leaving Him. Many of the Lord’s followers had left Him because of His teaching that He Himself is the Bread of Life. After hearing Jesus’ teaching on the bread of life, many of the people find Jesus’ language intolerable. As a result of this intolerable language some of them choose to leave him. Today in a similar way so many people find the words of Jesus to be intolerable language as many Christians have got up and left their faith behind them and some may never return again. When Simon Peter answered Christ’s challenge—”will you too go away?”—he spoke not only for his fellow-Apostles that day with: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” but for all of us in our own time and place as well, people who really believe that Christ was the incarnate Son of God.
Peter made his act of faith before he was fully convinced of the divinity of Christ, but he was already convinced that Christ was close to God and spoke nothing but the truth. We have the proofs of Christ’s divinity which Peter and the Apostles later got. We have also the faith of two thousand years of Christian people whose belief in the bread of life as a sacrifice and sacrament was at the very center of their Christian lives. This belief was passed down to us through each generation. We have also the noble example of many martyrs who gladly gave their lives in defense of this truth. “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Lord we will go to you for you have the message of eternal life now as in the past and will lead us into the future by your grace and hope.
It is now just a week to the visit of Pope Francis to the World Meeting of families here in Ireland. It is against the backdrop of the recent abuse allegations against the retired archbishop of Washington and the grand jury report into the dioceses of Pennsylvania that the Holy Father will visit us. The sense of betrayal that I feel is awful each time I hear about these events is nothing compared to how the victims must feel. We pray in a special way for all the victims of those priests and bishops who have let the people of god down in doing such horrible deeds.
Our Gospel Reading for this Sunday suggests when we take Communion we really are taking real Food and real Drink. The receiving of this gift becomes the acceptance and acknowledgment of the Lord’s care for us and thus, ultimately, the nourishment we need to continue the journey. Sometimes it is not easy to put one foot in front of the other, let alone continue on the journey of faith.
In His book To Live Is to Love, Ernesto Cardenal says, “If in everything you fulfil God’s will rather than your own, every encounter in the street, every telephone call, every letter you receive, will be full of meaning, and you will find that everything has its good reason and obeys a providential design. To “live in love” requires us to be connected to the Love of God. There is one concrete way that the Lord helps us to make this connection that is by providing the Eucharist the bread of Life. In the bread and wine offered at the Eucharist, the risen Lord makes himself present. While the priest invokes the words of blessing (thus acting as the instrument of Christ or “in persona Christi”), the conversion of the bread and wine into the blood into the Body and Blood of Christ remains the initiative of God (specifically, the Holy Spirit). The offer to partake in the “living bread” is God’s offer of unity with Christ and his followers (his “body,” the Church). The attraction of the Eucharist or Blessed Sacrament is dynamic. Jesus is dynamic.
When we receive communion or when we come to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, we don’t receive an inanimate object. We don’t kneel before a static entity. This is not a crucifix or a statue that reminds us of something. This is Jesus. The One Who Is who was and will be in the future. When we receive communion or come to adoration, we take within ourselves or we come before the dynamic, powerful Presence who speaks to us through the life He has given us. How great is our God. He has found a way for each of us to have continual, intimate encounters with Him. Let us pray, for those whose access to the Gift of the Eucharist or Blessed Sacrament is not so easy whether they have left the faith or perhaps they might be struggling with it or for many they may not yet found it as we remember that Jesus has said ‘I am the Bread of life he who comes to me will never be hungry.’
We are now in the final countdown for the world meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland. There are many voices out there saying many things with the southern politicians giving it the full measure of political cheap shots instead of trying to work with one of the world’s great leaders. However we have to get on with preparing ourselves for the great event and its hard to believe that it is nearly here.
The Gospel reading for this Sunday deals with a doubting audience, they were shocked and critical of Jesus’ claim to have come down from heaven as the Bread of Life. Despite the miracles they had witnessed, and the words of wisdom they have heard preached with such convincing authority, they could not take the extra step to accept His claim. We are able to take that extra step because our Christian faith has come to us from Jesus passed down through the apostles and many others who accepted the message for what it was and is God’s message.
we know where he came from, we know where we are going and we know how to reach that destination. Of all the knowledge a human being can acquire on this earth, the above facts are the most essential and important that through Jesus we hear god’s message of salvation. Our Christian faith and its message gives us certainty about eternity and our journey toward it. The personal faith that we have has passed down to us through each generation and this means that God out of the abundance of his love, speaks to us as friends and lives among us as the living bread which came down from heaven. The Gospel lesson for today tells us that we can’t do it by ourselves. We need Jesus. And we find Jesus through the teachings and Word of God. It is through our communion with him, in him, and through him in the eating of the bread of life that his flesh becomes the life of the world. It is in our relationships of love with each other and our listening to God and learning from God that we experience Jesus among us. In living simple lives of being kind to one another, compassionate, and forgiving one another, we are empowered to be imitators of God.
So, at the end of each day, when we give thanks for all of our blessings, most of all, we should give thanks to God for the presence of Jesus in our lives.
Here we are at the beginning of August in a few short weeks we will be welcoming people from all parts of the world to the world meeting of families that will take place in Dublin. We will also have the joy of welcoming Pope Francis for the closing events as we celebrate the Joy of the Gospel as the family of the Church in Ireland and the world.
Our Gospel reading this weekend has as its focus food, food for the body that is bread and food for the soul that is Jesus the Bread of life. Jesus tells the people that they are only following him because they have enjoyed the food that physically satisfies them; they should work, he says, for the food that leads on to eternal life. The one thing which earns this food is believing in the one God has sent. The Galileans promptly ask Jesus for a sign to aid their belief in him – a sign like the manna their fathers ate in the desert.
Jesus points out that it was God, not Moses, who supplied the manna in the dessert, he compares himself to the God who now gives them bread from heaven. Jesus declares that he himself is the bread of life, the bread come down from heaven. Whoever believes in him will never be hungry. Yet there are so many people in our world who suffer from hunger, physical hunger for so many do not even have a wee bit of bread to eat or water to drink. Also there is a great spiritual hunger, there are many people out there who have lost their faith and there are also many people searching for faith who have yet to find it. I think that in our day and age with all its possibilities for so many things both good and bad we need to be the bread of life for all those who are out there who have lost the faith or those who are searching and many people are . What does it mean for you and me to be the Bread of Life to others? It means two things:
(1) Feeding the hungry through our donations to organisations that bring physical relief to the people who need it in the world whoever they are wherever they might be.
(2) It also means that we are a light to others showing that God the Father has sent Jesus from heaven to be our food, our strength, our hope, and our joy as we live our lives as Christian people who believe in God.
There are so many people in the world that are hungry for the bread of life that Jesus tells us about how will you and I feed their hunger in the days ahead will they make the choice to accept this great gift of God ?