The Banquet of Life
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 19, 2012 (20B)
By Fr. Alex McAllister SDS
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There is a story of a very poor family who emigrated to the USA from Europe many years ago on an old fashioned ocean liner. Coming from an obscure country there was no one on board that could speak their language. They were down below the water-line in steerage. Having no experience of a sea voyage they brought enough hard bread and cheese to last the journey. One meal time the youngest son was missing after a while he came back after having eaten in the large dining room upstairs. The family were shocked but he assured them that another young boy whom he had met had explained to him in sign language that the meals were included in the price of the ticket.
The world is full of people like them totally unaware of the incredible Banquet of Life that God spreads for them each day in the Eucharist.
Jesus says: I am the Bread of Life, whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.
The difference between ordinary bread and the Bread of Life that Jesus gives us is beyond comparison. When we eat other bread, that bread becomes part of us. It enters our body and changes into us. But when we eat the Bread of Life, the opposite happens. It doesn’t change into us, we change into it. It transforms us into the Body of Christ. That is why if we eat it we will live forever.
It is tragic that so many people go through life totally unaware of this great gift. But even more tragic is the fact that so many go through life aware of it but take it for granted and fail to really appreciate it.
It has been said: “When we look at the Body of Christ before receiving it in Communion, it is hard for us to see Christ in it. But when other people look at us after we have received the Body of Christ it is even harder for them to see Christ in us.”
The point is that after receiving communion we sometimes act as though we had not received it. We have taken it for granted and this is reflected in our attitude and behaviour afterwards.
The car parking is quite generous here, but in my previous parish there was only a very small car park and it was a very busy Church. Well after mass, with all the double parking, you should see the behaviour of some people. You literally could not believe that they had just come out of a Church having received the Body of Christ.
The message today for us is this; it is a tragedy that so many people go through life totally unaware that the Eucharist, the Banquet of Life prepared for us by God, is included in the price of the ticket; just as the meals were included in the ticket for the poor, inexperienced European family.
But it is an even greater tragedy that those of us who are aware of this wonderful truth and who come regularly to participate in this great Banquet, the foretaste and promise of eternal life, should go outside and behave as if they had just been given bad service in the local Burger Bar.
And of course the question remains: Are these two things not connected? Maybe there is some correlation between our words and actions after receiving the Lord and the fact that so many people do not recognise his presence here.
When you listen to this we can all reproach ourselves, priest as well as people, there are just as many grumpy priests in the world as any one else. But maybe going round feeling guilty doesn’t help us, it is easy to feel bad when we look at topics like this. The thing to do I feel is to wonder at the greatness of a God who can put up with us for so long. How patient he is with us, how slow he is to correct us, how generous is he with our short comings.
Feeling guilty will never change us, glorifying God and wondering at his generosity and love will.