Message: As Pope Benedict says, the Eucharist is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being.
Last weekend we had a treat: Deacon Patrick Sherrard visited us and preached a fine homily on the Eucharist. Today we pick up that same theme as we enter the fourth dimension of the Eucharist. The first three dimensions are: food, faith and forgiveness. You notice that each begins with the letter "f". Same with the fourth dimension, but unlike food, faith and forgiveness, it is not a word found in the Bible. It might surprise you. The fourth dimension is: fission.
Pope Benedict used the word "fission" when explaining the Eucharist to young people at World Youth Day. He asks: How can bread become Jesus' Body given for us? How can wine become his Blood poured out for our sins? Pope Benedict answers: "To use an image well known to us today, this is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being."
In high school science we learned about fission. It involves unleashing the energy inside matter. When I did research for this homily, I learned that one kilogram of uranium can produce as much energy as 1500 metric tons of coal. What looks like a an humble rock has enormous power inside.
Just so, says Pope Benedict, Jesus' death "on the outside is simply brutal violence - the crucifixion - from within it becomes an act of total self-giving love." Jesus renews that self-giving in the Eucharist. When the priest lifts up the host and says, this is my Body given for you - and the chalice, this is my blood poured out for you - Jesus draws us into his self-offering. By his cross he takes us to the Father in the Spirit.
You might protest: But I am a sinner. I am terribly distracted. So were the disciples at the Last Supper. Soon they even started dozing off!
Jesus takes us to the Father with our sins. Last week St. Paul gave us a list of common sins: bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling and malice. Those failings afflict us, but you know Jesus still wants to take us to the Father. The forgiveness - the acceptance - we experience in the Eucharist can remake us. The Eucharist is the great sacrament of forgiveness. You may get down on yourself, maybe even feel worthless and miserable, but God does not see it that way.
Think about this: If God put so much potential in a rock, how much potential has he put in you? A kilogram of uranium can give light and warmth to an entire city. Consider what God can do with you.
Some of you, like me, are astronomy fans. You know the New Horizon spacecraft is discovering amazing things about Pluto, the solar system and the universe. But we have something more amazing much closer. The American physicist, Michio Kaku, said, "Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe." God has put enormous potential in bodies, especially the part we least utilize - our brains. (smile) To unlock that potential God wants to give us something even greater - the Body of Christ.
Jesus tells us today that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. It only makes sense when you think about. You and I are composite beings: matter and spirit. Jesus who is God from God entered our material reality. He did not take up a human body, then discard it. No, he rose bodily from the dead. He gives us his body so we might have eternal life.
Before I conclude I would like address a painful question. What about those who long to receive Communion, but are presently unable? The Synod of Bishops in October may address this issue, but I want to say this. As a priest these people who long for the Eucharist inspire me. Often you and I can become casual about receiving Communion, take it for granted. These beautiful souls have so much to teach us.*
For sure we can treat Communion as simple bread and wine. We need to look deeper. As Pope Benedict says, the Eucharist is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being. Food, faith, forgiveness and fission. Next Sunday we will see the fifth dimension of the Eucharist.
For now let's remember those beautiful words of our first reading. "Wisdom...has spread her table." Yes, "taste and see the goodness of the Lord." Amen.
*We can learn from Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta) who said: "The Lord is present in the tabernacle in His divinity and His humanity. He is not there for Himself, but for us: for it is His joy to be with us. He knows that we, being as we are, need to have Him personally near. As a result, anyone with normal thoughts and feelings will naturally be drawn to spend time with Him, whenever possible and as much as possible." (Gesammelte Werke VII, 136ff.)
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