Message: To have a relationship with Jesus requires faith: God's great work and our response of trust.
You may have heard the saying, "Give a dog a good name and he will live up to it." My previous dog I named "Samwise" because that Lord of the Rings character saved Frodo's life. Sam didn't literally save my life, but he was a darn good companion. Our relationship depended on a type of faith. I had to believe in his potential and to win his trust.
That's what this homily treats: faith, not just in God's creatures, but in God himself. Before talking about faith, let's recall last week's homily - the one that inaugurated this five week series on Jesus Bread of Life. That homily dealt with the Eucharist as food. We saw that food has three purposes: To heal, the greatest medicine is food. Food also brings people together. We saw some of the benefits of a regular family dinner. And third, food brings joy - something we all need, but something we receive not by being pleasure seekers, but by seeking God. God surprises us with joy. Food - especially the Eucharist - is a sign of that joy.
So the Eucharist is food. It also has the dimension of faith. In the Bible faith is more than an inner disposition. Faith is God's work in us. Jesus says, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent." As we will hear next week, "No one can come to me," says Jesus, "unless the Father draw him." Faith enables us to enter a relation with the Father through Jesus. Pope Benedict expressed it this way: "Faith draws the future into the present." Jesus came to give us eternal life. By faith that life begins now.
The relation of humans to God can be compared to our relationship to higher animals. I mentioned Samwise. I received him as a puppy and, by a process of mutual trust, we learned to live together. What I did for Sam is puny compared to what God does for us. He does everything, but we have to trust Him for us to have a relationship. We are saved by faith.
Faith implies a total change. St. Paul talks about the "futility" of our minds. We run after things that vanish like smoke. If you are like me you can barely remember what exercised your mind ten years ago - or even ten days ago. And at my age, ten minutes ago!
On the other hand, if we think about who Jesus is and what he has done for us, our minds would constantly turn to him. That's how it was with the early Christians. For example, they read about the manna, the food that came down from heaven - and they thought about Jesus. He is the bread that keeps us going in our present desert.
A man imbued with Jesus was J.R.R. Tolkien. He wrote, "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision."** When Frodo and Samwise struggle across that harsh landscape, what sustains them? That's right! Lembas, waybread - a small amount of this supernatural nourishment sustains a traveler for many days.
Tolkien not only received Communion regularly but he spent time in Eucharistic Adoration. In a letter to his son, he wrote, "Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament..." I put the full quote in the bulletin.**** Well worth reading - and following his example. You may not write the world's greatest novel, but you won't regret the time before Jesus -the true Bread of Life.
Like wholesome food, Jesus heals, unites and brings joy. To have a relationship with Jesus requires faith: God's great work and our response of trust.
Food and faith. Next week will see the third dimension of the Eucharist. To help remember it also begins with the letter "f". We are on a journey together. As today's Psalm says: he rains manna, the heavenly food in abundance and he brings us to his holy land. Amen.
*"Faith is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for, and this present reality constitutes for us a “proof” of the things that are still unseen. Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a “not yet”. The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future." See Spes Salvi
**20 Ways The Lord of the Rings is both Christian and Catholic
***"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament....There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, that every man's heart desires," From Quotes on the Most Blessed Sacrament
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From Archives (18th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
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