We will serve the Lord

By: Fr. Dominic Garramone, OSB

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 23

Joshua 24:1-2a,15-17,18b; Psalm 34:2-3,16-17,18-19,20-21; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69

A CLEAR THEME emerges from an examination of the three readings: commitment.

In the first reading, Joshua renews the covenant and the people of Israel commit themselves to living according to the Mosaic Law. Husband and wife commit themselves to each other in the Ephesians reading, and the two become one flesh. In the Gospel, Simon Peter, speaking for the other disciples, offers a commitment to Jesus that is almost reluctant but also heartfelt: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”

Our purpose over the past few weeks has been to renew our understanding of and appreciation for the Eucharistic by examining the Bread of Life Discourse from John. The Eucharist is the source and summit of life in Christ. Now, what practical things can we do to renew our commitment to be an authentic eucharistic community? Here’s a summary based on the readings and reflections of the past few weeks.

FIRST, WE can commit ourselves to being a living Eucharist. The Eucharist itself transforms us into the body of Christ: The Word became flesh and the flesh becomes bread and the bread becomes us and then we become the body of Christ. We must be bread for the world, allowing ourselves to be broken and shared, multiplying the bread of the poor, feeding the world’s hunger for food, but also for peace, for justice, for love.

We can commit ourselves to be reverent and mindful in all aspects of the Mass: to prepare by a regular, heartfelt celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation; to arrive on time; to take a few minutes to be recollected before Mass; to devote ourselves to full, active participation, to careful gestures and enthusiastic responses. We can answer the call when our parish community needs lectors, ushers, musicians, and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.

Knowing how a judgmental attitude can prevent us from receiving all the graces available to us in the sacrament, we can commit ourselves to develop the virtue of forbearance, bearing with each other’s weaknesses of body and behavior and acknowledging that Christ is present at Mass in many ways: in the bread and wine and in the word, in the priest and in the people of God, in me and in my neighbor.

The crowds murmured among themselves and wondered, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Being unable to comprehend or accept his teaching, they left him. By contrast, we can study the church’s sacramental theology and try to develop a greater intellectual understanding of the doctrine of the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist. By doing so, we can deepen our appreciation for the wonder and awe of the Eucharist.

Lastly, we can imitate Peter’s affirmation that Jesus is indeed the source of life and commit ourselves to spending time with the Lord by making a Holy Hour, or attending a longer period of adoration, and taking part in Benediction. We can make a weekly commitment to an hour in a chapel of perpetual adoration.

Such a commitment to adoration can have surprising benefits. Consider what Bishop Peter Sartain of the Diocese of Joliet has to say: “The Lord’s presence is always a loving presence. Whenever we’re in the presence of love, our love deepens. You can’t be in the presence of perfect love without being affected yourself — and also because the Eucharist itself is the fruit of gift of the Lord’s love on the cross. And so when we’re in the presence of the Lord and eucharistic adoration, we’re right at the heart of salvation. We’re right at the heart of the Lord’s death and resurrection through which we were saved.”

Take some time this week to deepen your love in the presence of Love itself, and rest in the heart of our salvation before the Blessed Sacrament.

Father Dominic Garramone, OSB, is a monk of St. Bede Abbey in Peru, where he serves as subprior and choirmaster. He also heads the religion department and serves as drama director at St. Bede Academy. He is currently working on several book projects, including a handbook for preaching the Bread of Life Discourse.

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