20th Sunday in Ordinary time

You will recall that four weeks ago in our readings Jesus multiplied food for about five thousand people who had gathered to listen to him. They were so amazed by the miracle that they followed Jesus to Capernaum, a village on the lakeside. They found him in the local synagogue. The Lord started to explain and clarify the real meaning of his miracle. Today’s gospel is the final part of his discussion with that group of people.

At the first glance the words of Jesus seem to be clear. They may be summed up in one short sentence: “Take and eat my body, take and drink my blood, do this and you will have eternal live”. But these words weren’t at all simple or clear for the gathered people. They understood them literally. They thought he was talking about cannibalism. And, I’m afraid: not much has changed over the ages. When the Christian religion spread to the classical Greek world, many people tried to explain how bread and wine could become the body and blood of Christ. Christian thinkers tried to use classical philosophical terms to explain the mystery of the Eucharist. Their attempts were admirable, but remarkably pointless at the same time. The key to the Eucharistic mystery is faith, not precise tools.

Let me ask you something: how many of you really know anything about the technology that underlies modern inventions like television, the internet, and mobile phones? Does your lack of knowledge make these things impossible to use? Of course not. Sometimes people ask me something technical about my car – and I can’t reply. I know just what I need to know in order to use the car effectively and safely. What is really important for me is the certainty that everything under the bonnet works perfectly.

At every mass the priest says: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith”. In our reply we profess not our knowledge but our belief. When we receive communion we hear these words: “the body of Christ; the blood of Christ”. Our answer is simply “Amen”, which literally means: “I believe”. This is God’s wisdom: I acknowledge that Christ the Lord comes to me under these simple forms of bread and wine. Do you see what’s happening here? Faith is really quite simple to receive but it is powerful enough to change your life.