Saturday, August 8, 2015

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: "He will give us his own Sacred Heart to nourish our hearts"

I haven't posted here in over a year but since I am preaching tomorrow in Spanish (and so had to write out my homily to translate it), I thought I would put the English version up here for those who are interested:

My brothers and sisters: The most difficult part of living the Christian life is not keeping God’s commandments, as many people think. Of course, keeping the commandments can be hard—each of us has areas in our lives where we struggle and fall short. Yet the most difficult thing is not this; the most challenging aspect of fully living out the Gospel of Christ is accepting that God truly sees us as beloved sons and daughters. Not merely accepting this as a fact in our minds, but truly believing it in our hearts.
We all find ourselves doubting the extent of God’s care for us. Even the great prophet Elijah in the first reading cries out to God, saying “Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” God however gives him the nourishment and strength to go reach the end of his journey. 
So often we look at ourselves in the mirror and, like Elijah, we see our imperfections, our sins and our failures: “I am no better than my fathers.” God, however, sees us as “beloved children” as St. Paul says in the second reading; “Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering.” He offered himself on the cross in spite of our sins and failures and he rose again on the third day as proof that his love for us is stronger even than death. Yet we find it hard to truly live in this love because we find it difficult to really accept that God truly desires to love us with his whole Heart.
There is an old story that in the 8th century a priest in the small town of Lanciano in Italy had doubts about the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. During the Mass, when he said the Words of Consecration ("This is my body. This is my blood"), with doubt in his soul, the priest saw the bread change into living flesh and the wine change into blood. This miraculous flesh and blood was taken to the bishop and preserved there in the church. It is still there in Lanciano today over 1300 years later.
That, by itself, is miraculous enough. However when scientists in 1971 were allowed to examine the miraculous flesh and blood, they made a startling discovery. Not only was the flesh and blood truly human; the round slice of flesh that had been the Host was a perfect cross-section of a human heart.
That is what we have in the Eucharist. Jesus giving us his very own heart. 
In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that he is the true bread come down from Heaven and that the bread that he will give is his flesh for the life of the world. All that is required is for us to believe and to come to him. He will raise us up; he will feed us with his own flesh and blood.
He will give us his own Sacred Heart to nourish our hearts.
Nowhere does he say that we must be perfect already. In fact, such perfection is impossible without His grace. He is the one who will raise us up. All we have to do is put aside our doubts and come to Him. He will teach us, nourish us and make us into the men and women he created us to be.
We need only to “Get up and eat” as the angel commands Elijah. Jesus will be our food for the journey. His Sacred Heart, made present in the Holy Eucharist, will sustain our own hearts though all of life’s difficulties and bring us, in the end, into the glory of His presence in the Kingdom of Heaven.
As it says in today's psalm, “Look to him that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush with shame. When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard, and from all his distress he saved him.”
My brothers and sisters, we are God’s beloved children, children to whom he offers his own living heart. May God grant us the grace, through the outpouring of his spirit, to accept this truth in our own lives. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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