VOCATION CRISIS IN HONG KONG—SOLUTION?
John 6: 41-51 August 17, 2003 19 Sunday Yr. B.
How are we to solve Hong Kong’s vocation crisis. Why are there so few seminarians in our diocesan seminary? There are many learned and well-researched answers. I think the answer lies in today’s passage from John’s gospel. Although we give notional assent to the doctrine of the Eucharist, we have lost the sense of surprise and wonder at this Eucharistic mystery. If we really appreciated the gift of the Eucharist, our St. Patrick’s community would break legs to insure that there would be sufficient priests to give us, Jesus, the Bread of life. At the same time, our young people would form long queues to get into the seminary. Today, we will remind ourselves of Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist.
WORD OF GOD “If anyone eats this bread…he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” John 6: 51. Notice in St. John’s gospel that the people found it difficult to accept Jesus’ words: “I am the bread of life.”
Jesus could have said: “Hey, folks, I was just speaking symbolically.” And the crowd would have kept on listening to him. Certainly, Jesus’ listeners could understand symbolic speech. For example, Belvedere is speaking symbolically when he says: “Bibiana, I give my heart to you.” Everybody knows that if Belvedere took a knife and cut his heart out and handed her the gooey organ, Bibiana would be horrified and vomit. Belvedere is just saying symbolically that he loves Bibiana so much that he would make any sacrifice to make her happy.
But Jesus doesn’t say: “I was just speaking symbolically.” Instead in verse 52 of next week’s gospel Jesus will repeat his statement in stronger and more concrete terms and makes the crowd even angrier: “I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” Jesus will say the same thing in the other three gospels at the Last Supper: “Take this and eat. This is my body. … This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out on behalf of many.”
CHURCH TEACHING: Many Catholics remember from their catechism that in Holy Communion they receive the “Body and Blood” of Christ. However, they overlook the most exciting part of the doctrine:
#1334 “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the
whole Christ (exciting part!)
is truly, really, and substantially, contained.’”(Council of Trent (1551): DS 1651). (Emphasis added)
The words “Body and Blood” may disgust non-Christians. These words might make even Catholics feel uncomfortable. Isn’t it disagreeable to eat someone’s flesh and drink someone’s blood—especially a dead person’s flesh and blood?
In the Semitic language, “Body and Blood” mean the WHOLE PERSON! In the Eucharist Jesus is saying something very beautiful and amazing: “I am giving you myself, my whole being, my whole divine and human person to you in the most intimate relationship possible in the form of FOOD. When I eat a carrot, the carrot becomes a part of me. When I eat Jesus in the Eucharist, he becomes a part of my life: both my physical body and my spiritual self.
#1413 “Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself,
living and glorious,
is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with
his soul and his divinity.” (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640;1651).
Recently I was sick in the hospital and feeling miserable. But when the Communion minister brought me the Body of Christ, I would remember that the whole Resurrected Christ, was now united with me spiritually and physically. I suggested that His physical self share with me some of His cancer fighting cells. After all His entire self, both spiritual and physical, was then in intimate union with my entire self. If for some reason He couldn’t arrange that at least we were in this thing together.
OUR RESPONSE: This morning as we receive this sacrament of the Eucharist let us remind ourselves that the whole person of Christ comes and resides in our whole person both physically and spiritually.
If our Hong Kong Christian communities were to appreciate the mystery of the Eucharistic Jesus, we would certainly be willing to break legs to insure that our seminaries would be sufficiently populated. And candidates would form rowdy queues to gain entrance into our diocesan seminary.
THEME: In the sacrament of the Eucharist the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.
“The Christ we receive is the risen Christ who is with now, alive and active in the Church and in the world.”
TEXT: “If anyone eats this bread…he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for
the life of the world.” John 6: 51.
“If anyone eats this bread…he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” John 6: 51.
1. Jesus gives a hint of the mystery of the Eucharist
2. Crowd misunderstands.
3. Jesus repeats and makes it even stronger.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH:
#1413 “Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity.” (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640;1651).
#1334 “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘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.’”(Council of Trent (1551): DS 1651).
“The issue here is not cannibalism but believe in God’s and Jesus’ power to give life by the means they choose (v. 63). This ‘believing’ (not e the dynamic form of the verb used throughout) is the master key that enables one to unlock and tap into God’s life imparted by Jesus, his envoy, through word and sacrament.” Teresa Okure, The International Bible Commentary, ed. by William R. Farmer (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998), p. 1474.
“…’body and blood’ is a Semitic phrase that means ‘the whole person.’” Mtch Finley, The Joy of being a Eucharistic Minister (Mineola, New York: Resurrection Press, 1998) p. 17
“The Christ we receive in the Eucharist is, indeed, the one who lived, taught, and died in first century Palestine. But the Christ we receive in the consecrated bread and wine is much more than that. The Christ we receive is the risen Christ who is with now, alive and active in the Church and in the world.” Ibid. p. 19.
“The risen Jesus is himself the Resurrection, therefore in Holy Communion we receive the power of Jesus’ Resurrection so that his Resurrection and our own future resurrection have an impact on us and on our life today.” Ibid., p. 23.
“….the flesh can also denote man in his concrete totality. ..By the term they can also denote the essence of a person…” Xavier Leon-Dufour, Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Chapman, London: 1967) "Flesh” p. 161.
Do Catholics believe in the Eucharist? In 1994 there was a survey taken up among Catholics in the United States. 63% of those surveyed said that the consecrated bread and wine are merely “symbolic reminders of Jesus.” Only 34 percent of these Catholics said that they believed that the bread and wine consecrated at Mass become the body and blood of Christ.
Now of these 34 percent who “believed”, I wonder how many were merely saying: “If the Church says so, I believe.” I wonder how many of these 34 percent (who said that they believe) have a real appreciation of what the Eucharist means. Would it make any difference to many of them if at Communion time, the priest passed out holy cards or rosaries as long as they got the same amount of grace? How many Catholics receive Holy Communion mechanically, without experiencing even a little bit of excitement, or joy, or peace, hope or intimacy with the Risen Lord?
CHEWING THE WORD OF GOD
August 17, 2003 19 Ordinary Sunday (B)
John 6: 41-51
1. Tell something that you remember about your first Holy Communion.
2. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, l_______ and gl_______s, is present in a t____, r____, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity.
3. In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist the w_____e Christ is t____y, r____y, and sub_______y contained.
4. When you are dying and Jesus comes to you in Holy Communion, write down something that you might want to say to him?
5. (Optional) (Write on back) Explain the relationship between today’s homily and the solution to the vocation crisis in the Hong Kong diocese? (Consult, if you wish, The Diocesan Synod Draft: “Group Seven – The Vocation and Continuous formation for the Diocesan Priests.”) (Two extra raffle tickets for those who work on this question.)
(Hints: substitutionally, whole, truly, rightly, glorious, liberty, really, living, true, real, religious, substantially, spiritually, symbolically, where, people)