You have heard the saying before: “In other places people EAT TO LIVE but in New Orleans we LIVE TO EAT.” For New Orleaneans, eating is a ritual. Sharing a meal together is a source of nourishment; it is a source of strength; it is a source of building relationships. Because of our lived experiences, I believe all of us know what it means to hunger for God … to have this holy hunger, this deep thirst of the soul that can only be satisfied by God Himself. It is hunger pains that go much deeper than physical hunger. Our spiritual hunger can only be satisfied by the sacred body of Jesus; our holy thirst that can only be quenched by his precious blood. And when God touches you through His sacred Body and Blood, your entire life is transformed; your life takes on a new direction as a disciple of Jesus.
Obviously we get hungry a lot! But do we get hungry for that which will truly satisfy us? We know about physical hunger. But do we know about spiritual hunger? “Sir,” the people said in response to Christ’s teaching, “. . . give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” And that’s true. The greatest need that each of us has is to feed on Christ.
I want to ask you this morning, “What’s in your wheelhouse that you can offer Jesus?” Giving to His Kingdom isn’t just about giving material gifts. Giving to His kingdom is about giving yourself. Have you a specific skill that Christ can use for the betterment of the world? What’s in your wheelhouse that you can offer Jesus? A young lad had five barley loaves and two small fish that he offered the Master, and look what happened. Can you imagine how that young man felt when he got home? Can you imagine his excitement as he tried to tell others? You and I can know that kind of excitement. All we have to do is to give Jesus what is in our wheelhouse!!
Can you hear St. Paul testifying about what God had done in his life? “Look at me,” he would say, “I once persecuted the church. Look at me, a man who has to battle this humiliating affliction--this thorn in the flesh. Yet Christ has used me to plant churches all over the known world.” St. Paul was a man of tremendous intellect. He was also a man of unquestionable persuasive powers. Perhaps if it had not been for his thorn in the flesh, he would have leaned upon his own ability rather than the power of God working through him. And you and I would never have heard the name of Paul of Tarsus. That’s the way God works. St. Paul's weakness became his strength. His scar became a star. His hurt became a halo. And the same thing can happen to us--if we don’t give into our weaknesses, and if our weaknesses causes us to rely upon God.
On Wednesday, Americans will celebrate Independence Day, a day which affords us a great opportunity to consider the freedom we enjoy today – and may so often take for granted. How many men and women have given life and treasure to purchase for us our right to liberty? One of the most precious freedoms we enjoy as Americans is the Freedom of religion. Unfortunately, in the past decade, we have seen multiple assaults on religious liberty. We pray that we can proclaim Christ in Peace, but no one will prevent us from our mandate to proclaim the Kingdom of God! This Independence Day, that us renew our “eternal vigilance” before everything we know is taken away from us. Just as Jesus Christ died to give us true freedom, so many of our countrymen have died to give us the liberty that we possess and enjoy and dare I say, so often take for granted.
In one of the more remarkable moments of the Gospel, Elizabeth defied family tradition with one succinct phrase: “He will be called John.” As the Gospel indicates, the name is not an accident. It was pronounced by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah – and its meaning serves to send a message to the world. Some translations have it as “Gift of God” or “Graced by God.” But in one interpretation that I like, the name means “God is gracious.” And so it was, that before this child uttered a word, just with his name, announced the hope that would come with the Christ. God is gracious!
The Rule of St. Benedict, written by St. Benedict of Nursia 1,500 years ago, has instructions for a very specific role in the monastery—the porter in charge of answering the door. The porter’s job is to open the door to the monastery when someone knocks. Not much of a role, you say? It actually is. One contemporary Benedictine author notes, “The way we answer doors is the way we deal with the world.” God is calling us to the privilege of opening the doors of our lives to each other, to welcome each other as family. So open your door with reverence and love!
On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, we are summoned to deepen our faith in the Lord, present in the Eucharist and acting through His Sacraments. Routine may have dulling effects, but it cannot be such that we receive the Lord of glory each Sunday in any way that would be called mindless. Ask the Lord to anoint your mind so that you never forget your need for the Eucharist. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you (cf Jn 6:53). However, receive this great gift worthily and with a communion that befits the Holy Communion to which we are summoned. Be a MAN and not a MOUSE!
It is so beautiful that we can talk to God as our loving Father. That we can walk with Jesus as our brother. And that we can live by the light and the gifts of their Spirit of love. But, fear is our enemy. We need to know this. And many of us need to make a commitment to living boldly for Christ. Many of us need to start living out our adoption as sons and daughters of God. So in this Holy Mass and all throughout this whole week, let us pray for the grace to deepen our awareness of the Blessed Trinity’s loving presence within our souls. And let us remember the words of Jesus: "I am with you always, until the end of the age."
So the transition described by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles is complete. Christ has left the earth. Now the burden of the Kingdom is on the shoulders of the Church. But we needn’t worry. The Holy Spirit is with us and so we will witness amazing, miraculous events as long as we focus on His way, His will, and His time. Christ’s Kingdom is coming. And all who worship the Lord Jesus will one day share in the final victory. Praise be to God!