Homily for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
All homilies posted here or elsewhere are written to be delivered orally, and thus do not represent careful writing technique. Please excuse any blunders and typos you may find. Any foolishness is exclusively my own.
Have you ever been truly amazed by something? I ask this question, because I think it’s easy for all of us to use that word causally: we might say we were amazed by a television show, or a movie, or a book, or a great meal: “that was amazing.” But was it really? Did it really bring us into amazement?
The word is a little less casual than we often make it out to be. To be amazed by something is to be awed by it, to be left not fully comprehending what we’ve seen, heard, or experienced. Many people find this sense of amazement in travel: it’s hard to look at the Grand Canyon or at a great mountain and not be moved into awe by the grandeur of God’s creation, and so we go and visit these things to take in what is beyond our Midwestern notion of flat, plain landscapes. I recently travelled out west to Glacier National Park, and in 31 years it was the first place I’d been that left me with a sense of profound awe at the Order of Creation.
But it’s not the first time I felt awe, not the first time I was truly amazed by something. I remember back when I was twenty years old, right around the time that I began seriously studying Christianity, when I encountered the Scripture passage we just heard. I was awed by it for a number of reasons, the first of which is that Christ tells us plainly, without parable, without metaphor, what this bread is. Christ didn’t say that the True Food and True Drink he’d give his followers was a symbol, didn’t say that this True Food and Drink pointed toward a larger reality. He made it simple: the True Food and the True Drink you consume is me.
It’s me. When you eat and drink the Bread and Wine from Heaven, you truly eat my Flesh and drink my Blood. Not a symbol. Not something pointing towards those things. You eat and drink me.
That, in and of itself, is amazing. As we look back at the Garden of Eden, where God walked and talked with Adam and Eve, it’s easy to see what we have lost. But here’s Jesus Christ, God Himself, taking it up a notch; true, God no longer walks among us in the material world, but what God now offers to those gathered around him that day, and to all of time, is something so much more intimate, something much more profound: he offers us a return to unity, where our flesh might be one with God’s.
That, in and of itself, is amazing.
In our first reading, we receive an invitation from Wisdom. Wisdom invites us all to eat and drink of the food and wine prepared for us. It’s a beautiful parallel to the Eucharist, a place where we can see the Old Testament intersecting with the New. And what we see is that when we consume the Body and Blood of Christ, we’re receiving the immensity of what God is. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive Wisdom Itself; we receive the Creator, the one who fashioned the entire universe; we receive God in his Fullness, in His inexhaustible goodness; in the Eucharist, we receive everything. Every single thing.
And that’s why we cherish it so. You know, I can’t help but get at least slightly annoyed when I hear about somebody who quits coming to Mass because they “don’t get anything out of it.” Certainly, the music might not always be great, the priest might stand up and croak out his chant like a bullfrog in July, and you might even have to sit through an insufferable homilist like myself; but the one thing you can’t say is that you don’t get anything out of it. By going to Mass and receiving Our Lord, the Church gives you everything, everything of this world, the world to come, and the immaterial we cannot quantify with mere words.
So think about it. Better yet, let us spend the rest of our lives thinking about it. Let us think about a God who loves us with such completeness that he desires to enter in to our bodies and become one in flesh and blood. Nothing else we will encounter in all of our days is more amazing than that.