19th Sunday in Ordinary Time ‘B’ Fr. Rick Sherman, August 8, 2021
1 Kgs 19:4-8; Ps 34:2-9; Eph 4:30—5:2; Jn 6:41-51
Thank you for $616, Religious Retirement Collection last weekend.
We continue on today with Bread of Life Discourse. John Chapter 6.
Today I’m going to give more of a sermon than a homily. Homilies are expected to be driven by the Scripture readings for the particular Sunday and then during the prior week the priest discerns and reflects on the readings and listens for something in the contemporary world that relates to the Scriptures. This week I knew we would continue hearing about the Bread of Life, but I had mostly decided to talk about a current issue addressing whether or not President Biden should be ministered the Eucharist. He is a self-professed ‘devout Catholic’ but at the same time has been a strong supporter of abortion rights, same sex marriage and every woman’s right to artificial contraception.
This issue is widely covered in Catholic publications and public radio. Recently the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have considered writing a document to address when Communion should be refused in cases where there is a cause for widespread scandal and confusion to the rest of the laity. This issue may seem relatively ‘black and white’ to many people and on some level it is. Since abortion is considered a grave and intrinsic evil, anyone who participates or publicly endorses this practice is clearly not in communion with Church teachings, and therefore should not RECEIVE Communion. That seems straight forward enough. To me it stretches my imagination to understand why someone who so adamantly ignores the teaching of the Church would even want to receive Communion.
From the Bishops’ stand point, they have to consider the wider implications and effects of refusing the Eucharist to a President and other prominent Catholic leaders. About 30 percent of the U.S. Congress are Catholics and the majority of them are Democrats whose platform, for all practical purposes, doesn’t even allow anti-abortion candidates to participate in the selection process.
Given the structure of the Church, it’s not clear whether the larger Conference of Bishops has the canonical authority to instill a national mandate on restricting Communion to prominent Catholics. Each Bishop actually has quite a bit of autonomy given the enormous complexity and diversity of each Catholic community. The fallout from such a ‘mandate’, would be enormous and the Church would just look worse than before. Most people who have spent at least 5 minutes ‘Googling’ Catholic teaching know very well what the Teachings are on abortion, same-sex marriage, birth control and any host of other issues. The big problem is that people simply don’t believe what the Church teaches; they don’t trust the bishops or the pope. There are clearly great deficiencies in our teaching methodologies or pedagogies. That is in my view the biggest part of the problem.
Certainly our Bible Scriptures also have much to say about a stiff-necked, hard-faced, obstinate-of-heart and recalcitrant people. That of course would be the human species. Us. The faithful are often less than enthusiastic about exploring the deeper recesses of their interior lives and issues relating to sexuality require a deeper journey including relentless honesty. When we are committed to hearing God speak, we will hear the Truth. We tend to have a hard time letting God be God; letting the Creator be the Creator and we the creatures. This seems to be a perennial problem. That is why the first Commandment is, “I am the Lord thy God, thou shall not have strange gods before me.” WE ARE NOT GOD.
So we have the dual issue of extreeeeemly ineffective teaching and an obstinate people. Abortion was legalized in 1973. Artificial contraception has been widely used by Americans since 1965 despite the clear teachings of Pope Paul VI’s Humane Vite in 1969 which warns against such practices. So, if after 50 or 60 years of reaffirming the teachings, the people still don’t believe, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider our teaching methodologies. Mandating Church compliance would be about as effective as mandating vaccines.
Many of you may recall in last week’s homily we considered the implications of a recent survey by the Pew Foundation which indicated that 70% of Catholics don’t even believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist….and this is the ‘Source and Summit’ of our whole faith.(!) Again a drastic teaching deficiency. There is clearly a very close relationship between our understanding of the ‘becoming one’ of the Eucharist and the ‘becoming one’ of human sexuality.
At this point the homily is likely to get a little complex and intertwined, so I will refer the listener to a further consideration of a written form of this presentation on our website at: kanabcatholicchurch.org.
We’ll just jump ahead and consider more closely chapters 4 and 5 from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians from today’s second reading. These chapters ultimately flow from chapter one of the same letter where he implores the people to ‘see with the eyes of their hearts’ (Ephesians 1:18)
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…”
This is a different type of ‘seeing’ and can be a little more appreciated by a consideration of ‘Praying from the Heart’ from Chapters 2562-2564 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2562 Where does prayer come from? Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays. But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times). According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.
2563 The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.
2564 Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man.
“Seeing” has been a very problematic issue since the very beginning:
We see in the Book of Genesis 3:7 that after eating from the tree of knowledge Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened. They went from ‘seeing’ the world as God does in all its beauty and harmony to seeing things through the distorted, constricted and confused ‘seeing’ of human vision. They went from ‘seeing each other naked without shame’ to feeling threatened and covering themselves. They were afraid of each other and even hid from God. They began to see each other as units of production and consumption, objects of pleasure, manipulation and exploitation. Things went downhill really fast from there. Read Chapters 4 to 11 of Genesis to see just how quickly things deteriorated.
Recall too, that humans were made on the sixth day, the same day as the large mammals and wild beasts. We were, however, made in God’s image and likeness. We did not have to act just on our instincts and base urges. We had the power to say “Yes” or “No” to God. Then God gave us the seventh day, the Sabbath, to rest and remind ourselves that we are not God. If we indeed ‘keep holy the Sabbath’ we will never get completely lost in the distortion, fear and confusion of our fallen, wounded state. We still sometimes use the terms ‘dog eat dog’ and ‘survival of the fittest’, and “It’s a jungle out there, baby.” We have reverted back to morning of the sixth day.
It is to this fallen, wounded state that today’s second readings from Ephesians 4:30-5:20 speaks”
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ….So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love…”
God keeps calling us back. See today’s Psalm 34:
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly will hear me and be glad.
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD with me; Let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard, and from all his distress he saved him.
Throughout our tradition we can see the human tendency toward fear and confusion and all the violence and destruction that goes with it. At the same time we can hear the persistent voice of God calling us back to an ever deeper place of our ‘hearts’, the only true place of respite.
I say all that to say this: We are made for Union with God and each other. If we don’t ‘get’ marriage, we don’t ‘get’ Eucharist. It’s time to end the confusion. It’s time for the clergy and the laity to embark on a more authentic journey into the ‘heart’ where God awaits.
This weekend (8/13-15) consider checking out the EPIC Marriage Retreat: https://www.cardinalstudios.org/epic-intimacy-series-weekend-pass81321