Why Jesus Came

(Homily for Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B)

Bottom line: Jesus is the bread come down from heaven. He came for redemption - to freely give his life for us - so that we can enter into an eternal relationship with the Father through Jesus himself.

Before giving this homily, I want to recommend The Lamb's Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn. I will be using it especially in the concluding homily in this series.

This is the third of five homilies on John, Chapter 6. So far we have seen:
- The love languages that Jesus expresses perfectly and that we can learn by coming to Him, especially by prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and by receiving Him in Communion.
- Jesus' Identity: Heresy does not invent something new about Jesus, but focuses on one aspect (teacher, guru, business partner, ideal citizen, etc.) leaving much else out.* We know the real Jesus by paying attention to "I am" statements, such as "I am the Bread of Life."

This third homily will focus on what Jesus does for us. This obviously relates to Jesus' identity. What he does flows from who he is: God from God, Light from Light - only he can satisfy our deep hunger and thirst. That's why he can say, "Whoever comes to me will never hunger."

Today Jesus makes this statement, "I am the Bread that came down from heaven." This statement speaks to Jesus' purpose, what he intends to do for us. It's not that things got a slow in heaven so Jesus decides to come to earth for a while. Not at all; 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."

To come into a relationship with the Father, something has to happen. You and I are created in the image of God with gifts of freedom and understanding. Unfortunately, we have abused those gifts. We have pulled away from God, separated ourselves from Him. We need redemption. St. Paul uses that word in the second reading. He speaks about "the day of redemption."

The question is: What does redemption mean? Pope Benedict puts it this way: "Why does God require the death of his only Son?" (Jesus of Nazareth, part II)

We will never fully understand the mystery of redemption, but we can say this: it is not illogical. Pope Benedict writes about the logic of redemption, "God cannot simply ignore man's disobedience and all the evil of history; he cannot treat it as inconsequential or meaningless."

Think about the mass murder in that theater in Colorado. Any decent person would condemn that indiscriminate act of violence. No one can pretend it was no big deal. At the same time, God wants the salvation of the man who committed that crime. As Christians we pray for his repentance and salvation. But how could God allow him into heaven, the Communion of Saints, without trivializing what he did?**

God's response is this: He sent his Son. Jesus, who is true God and true man, bears the punishment for our crimes and sins. For that reason Jesus "came down from heaven."

Let me give an example even more extreme than the Colorado murderer. You may have heard about Rudolph Hoess. He was a Nazi Commandant at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, responsible for the mistreatment and murder of many thousands. After war ended, Polish police captured him. Condemned to death by hanging, he asked for priest. A Jesuit, Fr. Lohn went to him. According to one account: "Fr. Lohn then spoke several hours with Hoess. At the end of the conversation, the former commander of Auschwitz made a profession of Catholic Faith and officially came back to the Church. Then Hoess received sacramental confession. Years later, Fr. Lohn testified that he prepared this man, who had been condemned to death, for confession by speaking about Jesus' heart. On the following day, Fr. Lohn brought Holy Eucharist to the converted Hoess. On receiving Holy Communion, he knelt down in the middle of his cell and cried. He dismissed the priest with the words, 'God has forgiven me, but the people will never forgive me!'"

Hoess was right. What he did was so heinous that he does not deserve human forgiveness. No punishment could equal even a tiny fraction of the suffering he caused. A priest could not grant him absolution - except for what Jesus has done for us. The punishment Hoess deserved, Jesus accepted. That is redemption. Yes, redemption is beyond understanding, but you have to admit, it has an inner logic.

Jesus says that he is the Bread that came down from heaven. He came to give his life for us. No one takes it from him. He freely gives it. When we receive the Eucharist, we participate in his redemption.

From earliest times, Christians have spoken about the Eucharist as a "sacrifice." A sacrifice to take away our sins. We will hear more about the Eucharistic Sacrifice next Sunday. At that time, we will see why the Eucharist is necessary for salvation. I invite you to return.

For now, I hope you will take this home: Jesus is the bread come down from heaven. He came for redemption - to freely give his life for us - so that we can enter into an eternal relationship with the Father through Jesus himself. Amen.

************

*We see another example in today's Gospel, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother?" Jesus is the son of Mary and foster-son of Joseph, but they do not know about his virginal conception - by the Holy Spirit.

**What kind of heaven would it be with a Joker eternally smirking in the face of his victims? The salvation of sinners (including you and me) requires not only repentance, but redemption.

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for 19th Sunday, Year B):

2009: I Am the Bread of Life
2006: Not Despair, but Repair
2000: How to Receive Communion

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

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