Bottom line: "The Eucharist sustains us in face of hardship and discouragement. 'The only cure for sagging or fainting faith,' Tolkien says, 'is Communion.'"
You and I are on a journey - and we have a goal. As John tells us in the Book of Revelation we are headed to, "the holy city, a new Jerusalem". In that New Jerusalem, God will wipe away every tear, no more mourning or death. The old has passed away. We hear God declare, "Behold, I make all things new."
So that's our goal - the New Jerusalem, the holy city. To get to that goal St. Paul tells us that we have to face tribulation. There's no smooth road to the New Jerusalem. "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships," says Paul, "to enter the kingdom of God."
The question this Sunday is: What sustains us in the journey? To reach the New Jerusalem, God gives us a special food. A famous story can help understand the food God gives us. Some of you have read The Lord of the Rings or seen the movie. It's about a journey. Frodo, accompanied by Samwise, leaves his home, the Shire, to take the evil ring to Mordor, Mount Doom. There, a consuming fire can destroy the one ring. The journey seems impossible - so many obstacles, vicious opposition and suffering. What sustains Frodo and Sam on the journey? You probably remember - a wonderful bread called Lembos. A small piece gives renewed energy and strength.
So it is for us. Like the Elves gave the hobbits Lembos, God gives us a wondrous bread. It sustains us as the Lembos sustained Frodo and Sam. In a few minutes some people will bring some unleavened bread to the altar. I will then pray over the bread and wine. I will ask God to send the Holy Spirit so the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. When you receive this Bread, it unites you intimately with Jesus - and with his Church which has two dimensions: the visible Church governed by Pope Francis and the invisible Church. As we hear in the Eucharistic Prayer, the invisible Church includes Mary our Mother, St. Joseph, the Apostles, together with all the saints and angels.
This Bread unites us with Jesus and his Church, visible and invisible. It sustains us in our hardships. J.R.R. Tolkien - the author of Lord of the Rings - speaks about this Sacred Bread, the Eucharist. He actually received Communion daily. When his son was struggling with his faith, Tolkien 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....There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth..."
Tolkien describes how the Eucharist helps us in face of hardship and discouragement. "The only cure for sagging or fainting faith," he says, "is Communion."
During Easter time we are following Jesus' two-step program. First: faith, an act of trust in Jesus. Second, touch his Body. Connect with Jesus in a physical material way. I invite you to take home this word from Tolkien: The only cure for fainting faith is Communion. Amen.
Audio Homily: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C: 2016
From Archives (Fifth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru