Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” John 6:53
These words are from Jesus. They are an invitation to believe, to believe that He gives us His flesh as true food and His blood as true drink. This is what He says. And when his audience questions the teaching (John 6:52), He does not retract or apologize. He repeats His teaching over and over and over again—no less than six times in this Gospel passage alone which we just read. What is the point?
The point is that Jesus is inviting us to believe. There will always be those who do not. But we are invited to believe, to embrace the teaching, so that, as St. Thomas will write, “What our senses fail to fathom, let us grasp with faith’s consent” (Tantum ergo). This is an invitation. The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ come to us under forms of bread and wine. The bread and wine are appearances. The reality is something else indeed.
A sacrament, such as the Eucharist, is an entirely new creation. A sacrament is like nothing else that God ever created before. It is entirely new. The Son of God wishes to dwell with us, and He promised this nearness in the Old Testament. God told the Hebrew people, “For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7). Now this nearness is fulfilled in the Eucharist. Jesus says at the Last Supper, when He took bread and wine, “Do this in remembrance of me” (I Corinthians 11:24). That great act of remembrance is the act of thanksgiving, which comes from the Greek word for Eucharist.
For this to take place there must be a Church. The Church insures the integrity, truth, and validity of the Sacramental presence of our Lord. So you see that the Church has a great responsibility entrusted to it. We in the Church cannot tamper with the reality for any reason whatsoever—not for the sake of fade or custom, not for the sake of trends or opinions.
Let us return to my original point. Jesus invites His listeners to belief. When one is invited to a banquet, one does not question the host. What kind of banquet is this going to be? Are you going to serve me the food I like? Will I be seated with my friends or with strangers? Why are you inviting me? No decent person asks these questions of the host. Instead, we accept the invitation. We say, “Yes, I am glad to accept. I will be honored to attend.”
Do we understand fully why we are invited? Not really. But we go, and we place ourselves in the hands of the host. We trust the host, and we entrust ourselves to the host. We do not act like some spoiled brat or finicky eater. We do not say like the crowd in the Gospel today, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat” (John 6:52). We instead say with St. Thomas, “What our senses fail to fathom, let us grasp with faith’s consent”, and we become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).
Having faith in the Eucharist requires a childlike faith. “Amen,” we say at communion. We accept the invitation, and we receive.