Thursday, August 9, 2012

"And the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

We are continuing theme of the last few weeks on Eucharist, but in this week's gospel for August 12, 2012, our focus is on how the Eucharist points to the resurrection. Jesus says, "I am the living bread come down from heaven, whoever eats this bread will live forever." Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

They Murmured, They Grumbled

The people listening to Jesus were peeved by his claim. They knew his family and where he came from. So, the thought of his coming down from heaven made no sense at all. Obviously, they were thinking purely on the surface level. Thus, they failed to understand. They missed to see the hand of God unfolding a mystery about him. But unknown to them, Fr. Omer Prieto explains, the very thing they were seeking was right in their midst.

In some ways, perhaps in many ways, we act the same like those ancient Israelites. We murmur. We grumble. We forget that we have been gifted with the Eternal Positive. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino points out that the eternal Word has become one of us. He who for all eternity is in intimate union with divinity, shares His life with us.

The Father Makes the Offer

Today Jesus makes this statement, "I am the Bread that came down from heaven." Fr. Phil Bloom says this statement speaks to Jesus' purpose, what he intends to do for us. He comes with a purpose - to bring us into a relationship with his Father. "Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him, comes to me."

As the old saying goes: “Believe first, then you’ll understand.” You and I are created in the image of God with gifts of freedom and understanding. The Father makes the offer by drawing people to Jesus. With this initiative from God, people still have freedom to accept it or to reject it. But we have to be still and quiet to allow the words of Jesus to draw us to Himself. Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS says we tend to believe that people can be pushed into faith – or, at least, pushed towards it. But it doesn't work that way.

The Eucharist is God’s kiss. That’s an image for the Eucharist. prescribed by Fr. Ron Rolheiser. There comes a point, even with God, when words aren’t enough. God has to pick us up, like a mother to her child. Physical embrace is what’s needed. Skin needs to be touched. God knows that. It’s why Jesus gave us the Eucharist. So how can we respond? Fr. John Foley, S. J. says receiving the living bread in Communion is a beginning. Reflecting on the mellowness of God is another. And simply slowing down. Stop running away and let the Lord find you. God’s kindhearted and also tough love is quite worth the struggle.

Being the Bread of Life

Here, in this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus indicates two important moments of his being the Bread of Life. The first is the supreme sacrifice of himself in Calvary for the life of the world. The second is the Holy Eucharist, which he instituted at the Last Supper so that the fruits of His Sacrifice on the Cross would be constantly offered in the Church to all peoples for the life of the world. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB urges us to pray that our sharing in the Eucharistic bread and wine may transform us more and more into what we eat and drink, and that we might truly become living bread, broken and shared with all people.

"Eat my body. Drink my blood." is not just another metaphor. Fr. James Gilhooley explains that when Jesus said, 'I am the vine,' He didn't tell us to eat twigs. When He told us, 'I am the light of the world,' He didn't tell us to eat light bulbs. But when He said, 'I am the bread of life,' He said, 'Eat this bread.'

And this food which we receive, however insubstantial it seems, is a direct communion with our loving Saviour and more nourishing that anything we are ever likely to get elsewhere. Through it we find the inspiration and the strength and the fellowship to renew our Christian lives. So what was once for us an obligation, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS points out, is now a celebration and an inextricable part of our lives. But, Fr. Phil Bloom warns us, we must watch out for hasty familiarity. He says it can affect the way we approach Jesus in the Eucharist. Thus, Father Cusick reminds us, we begin eternity today by kneeling in worship of our Incarnate God present in all the tabernacles of the world.

And remember what St Francis de Sales famously said, "Only two kinds of people need frequent Communion - the not so good that they might become better and the good that they might stay that way."

Religious Freedom - the Struggle Continues

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, reiterated today that the HHS mandate is 'misguided' policy. He called on Congress to address the crisis in health care sparked by the Obama administration’s contraceptive-sterilization coverage mandate.

From the Vatican the pope sent a message to the Knights of Columbus assembled in Anaheim, CA this week. Benedict XVI once again united himself with the battle underway in the United States against the "unprecedented gravity of these new threats to the Church’s liberty and public moral witness:" Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Tuesday also addressed the same supreme convention of the Knights of Columbus, and took the occasion to praise the knights and their wives for the way they live the sacrament of marriage.

Meanwhile, Catholics in the Philippines are waging their own battle for faith and conscience. Despite protests from the bishops' conference, the Philippine Congress has ended debates on the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. While a final approval of the bill has not been reached, the move will allow for amendments of the bill to be enacted. The Reproductive Health bill would allow for universal access to contraceptives and birth control devices. The bill would also enforce "sexual education" on children starting at the 5th grade level.

And More on the Olympics

With the Olympics, we wonder who will win. With movies we wonder what will happen. With mystery novels, we have to know, “Who dunnit?” Just what can the Olympics coverage teach us about Evangelization? It is about grabbing attention. Often through emotional appeal. Then once you get them curious, you back it up with the facts.Too often, we want to lead with the facts. An evangelizing catechist knows the real trick is first convincing people they need what we’re teaching.

We share the stories of two Olympians. First is about newly minted Olympic champion Missy Franklin of Denver who is thinking about becoming Catholic. I have presumed she was Catholic and noted that one of her first comments after winning a gold medal last night was to thank God. For this, we have to thank her Jesuit high school which was primarily responsible for rousing her spiritual interest. And then we bring you the story of Mario Ancic. In 2006 he was already an Olympic bronze medalist, a Wimbledon semifinalist and Davis Cup champion. However, just when things looked brightest, in 2007 a mysterious illness took hold of Ancic, and he spent the next few years trying to overcome it. It was this Illness and injury that helped him realize identity as child of God.

And have you heard the story of how a Catholic Emeperor banned the Olympic Games? Here it is.

Saints, Italy and Online Distractions

The votes are in. And here are the saints Catholic Exchange readers nominated for being the most influential of their time—the results contained quite a few surprises. Check out the list.

For years Jennifer Fulwiler has been trying to figure out how to reap the benefits of new technology without having texting and internet use become black holes that suck in too much time and attention. She's been trying all sorts of steps to find balance in this area of life, and have stumbled across a few that have actually led to lasting, positive changes. Here are the top four that she found to be most helpful.

Spouses are supposed to serve each other and when Katie Sciba married Andrew, she vowed to make service to his soul her life’s work. The easiest and happiest parts of their life together have always been when they give of themselves freely and happily in sacrificial service. What she failed to consider until this point – amid the humming motors and the baby crying and the nag to go inside – was how important it is to let your spouse serve you. And this must be similar to the emotions Cheryl Dickow felt towards her husband. There were two places she has always wanted to travel to in her lifetime: Israel and Italy. Italy became a reality after years of saving; it was our 25th wedding anniversary destination. She shares the mixed bag of emotions she felt as she watched her loving husband prepare her for the trip.

Finally, Consider it your star-spangled bucket list. Think you know America's essential sights? Compare your past trips with Sean O'Neill picks for 20 domestic destinations every citizen should visit from pop culture icons to patriotic landmarks.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Half a Eucharist?
FEATURED BLOG: 20 places every American should see
PASTORAL HISPANA: La Eucaristia es el pan que da la vida

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