daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 20th Sunday of the Year, August 19, 2012
Prov. 9:1-6, Ps. 33, Eph. 5:15-20, John 6:51-58

"I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (John 6:51).

Jesus Christ is the living bread that has come down from heaven to give us eternal life, a share in the very life of God himself that never dies, so that when we die, we will continue living with God in joy and light. This divine life begins now in this present life when we believe in Jesus Christ, eat his flesh, drink his blood, and do his will.

This life of God within us will last forever, for Christ vanquished our death with his death as a criminal condemned to die on a cross. We die because we sin. Death is God's punishment for our sins (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12). Christ came to conquer death, this punishment of ours, by suffering it himself in our place so that we would not have to die. The Son of God made man served our death sentence for us for our sins instead of us, as our substitute. He died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3) so that we would not have to die for them. In this way he frees us from death.

Of course, all die physically, but because of the death of Christ our death is changed for us. It is not eternal death for those who believe in him. In fact, for those who believe in him our death is transformed into a portal of eternal life with God. He bore the curse of the law-which is death for our sins-for us (Gal. 3:13), for God placed our sins on him (2 Cor. 5:21), and he took them on himself to the cross and died there for them (1 Pet. 2:24), suffering their punishment. God condemned them in Christ's flesh on the cross (Rom. 8:3) instead of in our flesh by our eternal death. Thus he served our sentence, fulfilling the law for us (Rom. 8:4), and so expiated our sins by his death and conquered our death, so that we would not have to die, but could continue living with him after our physical death if we believe in him. At the Parousia we will even become physically immortal, when we receive our risen and glorified bodies (1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-52). Then Christ's victory over our death will be complete.

But faith in Christ not only saves us from death for the sake of the life to come, but also transforms our present life, so that henceforth we live because of Christ, drawing new, divine life from him (John 1:16). Jesus says today, "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me" (John 6:57).

And what is this living because of Christ like? It is living without sin and without guilt, for Christ expiates our sins and takes our sense of guilt away from us by his death on the cross. The sin-expiating merits of his death are communicated to us through our faith in him, especially in the sacrament of penance (John 20:23). He paid our debt for sin and served our sentence for them, thus freeing us from our sins and from our sense of guilt for them. "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who ... offered himself without blemish to God purify your conscience from dead works" (Heb. 9 14). "By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). "When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:12). Every time that we sin, we must invoke Christ's saving merits again.

When we eat Christ's flesh and drink his blood with faith, the light of Christ shines upon us, lighting us up from within (2 Cor. 4:6; John 8:12; 1 Pet. 2:9; Col. 1:12; 1 John 2:8). When we receive the Eucharist, God pours his love into our heart through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5; John 15:9; 17:23, 26). He fills us with spiritual joy (John 15:11; 17:13; 1 John 1:4; 2 John 12). He causes rivers of living water to flow within us (John 7:37-39) and a fountain of living water to spring up within us (John 4:14). Christ himself dwells within us. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (John 6:56). "In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you" (John 14:20).

In all this we are united to God through the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. He fills us with his light and love, he divinizes and illuminates us, giving us his peace, filling us with his divinity, and transforming us into new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), thus renewing the face of the earth. He makes us the seed of a new humanity, of a world illuminated by the light of Christ. Through the Eucharist, the kingdom of God manifests itself in the world in those who are saved and renewed through Christ dwelling in them in love.

Christ wants us to abide in his love. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love" (John 15:9). We abide in his love by believing in him, eating his flesh, drinking his blood, and doing his will. We need to receive Christ in the Eucharist to have his divine, illuminating, and transforming life in us. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53). Together with our faith in Jesus Christ we also need to eat his flesh and drink his blood to experience his life in us and henceforth live because of him (John 6:57).

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