Detailed Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY (Eucharist as Viaticum).
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka.
Homily for Sunday August 8 2021
R1 – 1Kings 19:4-8
R2 – Eph 4:30-5:2
GOSPEL – John 6:41-51
Alexandrina Maria da Costa (1904-1955), was a Portuguese mystic who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2004. Born in Balazar, a town 145 miles north of the renowned Marian pilgrim center in Fatima. She started working on a farm when she was only nine years old. Later she supported her family working as a seamstress. When she was 14, her former employer tried to molest her. She jumped from an upstairs window to escape from him, resulting in severe injuries, including that of the spine. Six years later, she became bedridden, and she remained that way for 30 years. Amid her suffering, she turned to Jesus and grew closer to him. In 1931, she had the first of several apparitions of Jesus, during which Jesus told her she would suffer for the salvation of souls. According to her diary, during the Holy Week of 1942, Jesus appeared to her and said, “You will not take food again on earth. Your food will be my flesh; your drink will be my divine blood.” After receiving this message from Jesus, she started an absolute fast that lasted for 13 years until she died in 1955. The only nourishment she received for 13 years was Jesus in the Holy Communion. During this period, she was subjected to rigorous medical observation in a hospital for 40 days to find out what was happening. After this medical observation, doctors certified that she was not taking any food and survived by Holy Communion alone. On one occasion, Jesus said to Alexandrina in a vision, “You are living by the Eucharist alone because I want to prove to the world the power of the Eucharist and the power of my life in souls.
Beloved in Christ, the Catholic Church has produced several holy men and women, like Rose of Lima, Catherine of Sienna, 1420), St. Ludwina of Schiedam (d. 1433), St. Nicholas Von Flue (d. 1486), St. Joseph Cupertino of Naples, etc., who lived and survived only on the Eucharist for several years in the history of the Church.
These devout souls were great men and women of faith. They truly believed in the words of Jesus.
In the lives of the saintly souls given above, this promise of Jesus in today’s Gospel, “I am the living bread who came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51), literally came true.
However, unlike these saintly souls, many “believers” in Christ still doubt the words of Jesus. Like the people who quarreled among themselves saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” these “believers” also continue to doubt the words of Jesus.
In the first reading we meet Elijah in the pit of despair, discouragement and frustration.
King Ahab of Israel married a pagan queen, Jezebel, who imported pagan worship into Israel. The prophet Elijah challenged 450 of the pagan god Baal’s prophets, defeated them in a public sacrifice-contest and killed all of them. The furious Queen Jezebel sent soldiers to kill the prophet. Here, we see Elijah’s discouragement and frustration as he fled for his life.
He flees to the desert but there a terrible depression overtakes him. He asks God to take his life. But instead of doing so God sent an angel to feed him and strengthen him in his flight. The miraculous food provided by God became a-go-with _(Viaticum)_ and food for the journey for the dying prophet, and sustained him through a 40-day pilgrimage to Horeb, where Elijah would be commissioned again as God’s prophet to carry on the struggle and to anoint his successor.
*THE EUCHARIST AS VIATICUM (Food for the journey)*
The traditional teaching of the church ascribes the Eucharist as a Viaticum.
The word Viaticum is a Latin word meaning “provision for a journey,” from via, or “way”. Viaticum can refer to an ancient Roman provision or allowance for traveling, originally of transportation and supplies, later of money, made to officials on public missions.
In Catholic tradition, viaticum is communion brought to the dying, food for the journey through death and new life. The Eucharist is seen as the ideal spiritual food to strengthen a dying person for the journey from this world to life after death.
Every Christian needs the Viaticum – God-with-us-as-our-nourishment-on-the-road. As far as we are all soujoners in this vale of tears and world of uncertainties, frustrations and disappointments, we need continuous strengthening with the bread of Life. When we are broken, like Elijah, due to threats and wounds of sin, the Eucharistic meal remains our source of healing and food for the journey, a-go-with; Little wonder, a popular Pentecostal Televangelist, Benny Hinn, said, “No church on earth records the kind of healing that takes place in the Catholic Church, because of the Eucharist they celebrate.”
So, what it means is that Christ is with us wherever we are, nourishing us with daily bread for the next steps in the journey of the weeks and months ahead. If we keep moving and do not settle for comfortable old ways and not blind ourselves to the suffering around us, God will keep feeding us, present and life-nourishing. That is why in today’s portion of the lengthy Bread of Life discourse, John, re-emphasizes the similarities and contrasts between the old “manna in the wilderness, which their fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead (Jn 6:49) and the living bread from Jesus and anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51).
(1) *OUR PARTICIPATION IN THE EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION GIVES US A SHARE IN THE LIFE OF CHRIST*
The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed that the Eucharistic banquet of Mass is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life,” because, the “Sacrifice of the Altar” is our participation in the entirety of Christ – his life, ministry, crucifixion and death for our sins, Resurrection, and Ascension to Heaven. So, it becomes inevitable for us to live a fulfilled Christian life without the Euchatistic life. It is our source of strength and nourishment. As we journey through good and bad times, joyful and sorrowful moments, smooth and rough situations of life like Elijah, we need the nourishing effects of the bread from heaven for vitality, renewal and rejuvenations.
(2) *WE SHOULD IMITATE JESUS IN BECOMING BREAD FOR OTHERS TO EAT AND DRINK.*
There is a saying that, “we are what we eat.” When we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, we become another Christ who went about doing good (Acts 10:38). “Thus, says _Fr K. Anthony,_ from Sunday to Saturday we will grow into Jesus, as Jesus grows in us, our lives will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we will become more like Jesus.” In this way, we become Bread for a hungry world, and Drink for those who thirst for justice, peace, fullness of life, and even eternal life. In other words, just as the wheat is crushed and burned in the ovum to serve as meal, the Eucharist challenges us to allowed ourselves to be crushed and burned for others to eat and be filled, just as Christ has done for each of us by sacrificing himself for humanity. And by so doing, we fulfil the injunctions of St Paul to the Ephesian Christians that they should live their lives, offering their sufferings as sacrifices pleasing to God, just as Jesus, “the Bread from Heaven,” by loving, tolerating and forgiving one another.
(3) *THE SICK, AGED AND DYING SHOULD NOT BE DENIED THE EUCHARIST*
One of the best promises of Jesus in his apparition to St. Margaret Mary between 1673-1675, to all those committed to the reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is to grant them the grace of
final perseverance; they shall not die in My disgrace, nor without
receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment. May we try our possible best as believers to always avail our our sick, dying and aged folks the opportunity to constantly receive Jesus, our Viaticum in the Holy Eucharist. It is indeed the food that prepares us for the last journey.
Finally, there was once a family that had fallen on hard times when the family business failed, and they lost everything. The father who could not bounce back to fame, revealed his next possible plan of travelling abroad with the family, precisely, United States of America and try and start again. The friends and well wishers worked on the fund-raising, and after a certain length of time they had sufficient money for tickets by boat to America. The family had never been away from home before, so they had no idea how to prepare for such a voyage of about 7 days. They bought bread and cheese and packed a few boxes with sandwiches. They gathered together in a single cabin in the boat, with no desire to mix with others, in case of finding themselves embarrassed or out of their depths. On the first, second, third, fourth and fifth days they ate sandwiches. From then on the sandwiches began to go bad. The cheese and the bread had blue-mold on them, and they began to smell. By now they were all in a bad way. They were sick, hungry and deeply discouraged. With a day or two to go before arriving in New York, one little lad begged his dad for a few pennies, so he could go up on the deck and buy a few sweets. The dad gave him the pennies and off he went. He didn’t return and after about half an hour, the father was forced to go up on deck to look for him. When he came up on the deck, he was totally amazed by what he saw. There were long tables surrounded by people, and they were all eating a beautiful dinner. There in the midst of them was his son, with a plate of turkey, ham, potatoes, and vegetables in front of him, together with a large beaker of Coke. The father came up behind him and whispered, “Why did you do this? You know rightly, we cannot afford this.” The young lad’s eyes lit up as he replied: “Dad, we could have had this every day. This was all included with the tickets!”
Beloved, you have your own ticket for the living food for the long journey of life (Viaticum). Make sure you utilize it properly without starving yourself and those around you because of ignorance, like the family in the epilogue story.
MAY THE LORD OPEN OUR EYES TO SEE BEYOND THE PHYSICAL TO ALWAYS YEARN AND APPRECIATE THE EUCHARISTIC MEAL, AS A ‘WITHOUT-WHICH-NOT’ ON OUR JOURNEY AS CHURCH MILITANTS. AMEN
*FR GERALD MUOKA*