Fr. Mike’s homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: Heavenly Bread
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Sunday August 8 2021
Nowadays, we are very conscious of what we eat. We try our best to eat only the food that are healthy and nutritious. This is because we want to avoid illness and prolong our life. We all want to remain young. We even wish for a food that will make us live forever. Is it possible to live forever? In the sacrament of the Eucharist, yes, it is possible. In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus solemnly declares: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” And this bread is His own Body: “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
In our time, there are people who insist that the Eucharist only as a community meal. Pope Benedict XVI strongly disagrees: “It is not enough to describe the Eucharist as the community meal. It cost the Lord His life, and only at this price can we enjoy the gift of the Resurrection” (‘Feast of Faith’, p. 150). The Eucharist is more than just a meal. It is the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary being made present to us in the here and now. It is His Body and Blood that we receive.
Needless to say, the Eucharist is a very sacred celebration, more than we ever imagine. Unfortunately, however, owing to its simplicity and ordinariness, many are not giving enough reverence and honor to this infinitely august sacrament. We see this all the time: people coming very late into the celebration; cell phones ringing even during the solemn consecration; ladies dressed indecently and provocatively; and many others just cannot stop talking to one another during the Mass.
And perhaps also due to the mistaken belief that the Eucharist is only a meal, many of us take it in the literal sense: it’s just a meal! So, we approach Communion too casually: we fall in line and take Communion in the hand. This could evoke the image of people in a fast-food restaurant as they line up to get their burgers and fries. And eating with the hands may also connote that the food we are eating is of less value. We use our hands when we eat quick snacks such as hotdogs and burgers while walking on the streets, but not when we are seated in a fancy restaurant eating first-class steak!
Against this sad backdrop, St. Paul insisted that we need to seriously “discern” the Body of Christ: “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and the blood of the Lord…For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Cor 11:27, 29). So, when we come forward to receive Communion, we should properly dispose our minds and our hearts. We form a line as in procession to meet the Lord. We keep our hands reverently joined together. As the person in front of us receives Communion, we genuflect or at least, make a profound bow. Better still, as a sign of our faith that it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ that we are receiving, we kneel down in adoration. St. Augustine insists on this: “No one partakes of this Flesh before he has adored it.” Thus, Pope Benedict XVI said, “receiving the Eucharist means adoring the One Whom we receive.”
Furthermore, the universal practice in the Church is to receive Communion on the tongue. However, communion in the hand is already allowed in the Philippines, but only as an indult. According to the Dictionary of Canon Law, indults are “quasi-privileges, which the legislator benevolently grants for a time, either outside the law or contrary to the law.” This means, therefore, that this manner of receiving Communion, though allowed, is not the rule, but the exception, and only “for a time”. In fact, the Bishops’ Conference is required to garner a two-thirds vote to be able to petition the Holy See to grant the country this special permission or indult. The Bishops still need to ask permission. Clearly, then, it is not the rule. The Philippine Bishops tried to get the needed two-thirds vote, “and four times did it fail. It was only in January 1989, that the Conference managed to obtain the two-thirds majority vote required by law. The confirmation of the Conference decision was granted on February 27, 1989, by the Congregatio Pro Cultu Divino (Prot. N. 358/89)” (cf. Canon Law Digest of the Philippine Catholic Church, 1995, UST Press, Manila, p. 51).
With this permission finally granted, giving Holy Communion in the hand is already allowed in our country, but with the strong caution and reminder to the clergy and laity alike that supreme pastoral guidance and care must be exercised to preserve and deepen true devotion and faith in the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.
Let us be eternally grateful for this Gift of the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. And let us do our utmost to protect, defend and promote our devotion to this most august Sacrament, the key to our eternal salvation and happiness.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches