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Homily for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

One of my least favorite religious sayings is “What would Jesus do?”

By Bishop Larry Silva
August 19, 2018

[St. Ann Church, Waihee (Confirmation); Christ the King Church, Kahului (Spanish Confirmation)]

One of my least favorite religious sayings is “What would Jesus do?”  We see WWJD emblazoned on bumper stickers and wrist bands.  My objection is not that we should let the teachings of Jesus guide us in our moral decision.  That is clearly what we should do!  But the question seems to imply, “What would Jesus do, IF he were still here?”  It seems to put Jesus at a historical distance from us as a person of long ago and far away from whose life and teachings we can greatly benefit.  But the fact of the matter is that Jesus is still with us, not as a heroic person from the history books, but as the living bread come down from heaven.  Jesus is as close to us today as he was to his band of Twelve Apostles 2,000 years ago.  He is risen from the dead and has ascended into heaven, but in his own words, he is the “living bread come down from heaven.”

Jesus could not have thought of a more ingenious way to continue to be intimately present with us throughout history than to humble himself to become food and drink, which we all need.  He shocked his first followers by informing them that they would eat his flesh and drink his blood.  Perhaps they took it literally and were disgusted by the idea, thinking it cannibalistic.  Yet we know that he would, at the Last Supper, take bread, bless it, break it and give it, saying “This is my Body;” and wine, saying “This is my Blood.”  He was going to disappear from sight, but he was going to remain forever with those who believe in him.  To eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Savior of the world is an unbelievable blessing that is available to us every Sunday, indeed every day!  And just as good food and healthy drinks give us life, so his Body and Blood give us life in an even greater way.  He may be gone from our sight in his form as a human being, but he is not just long ago and far away, but right here with us physically.

Of course it takes a certain wisdom and faith to understand this reality, and so God gives us the gift of his Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge necessary to believe in such an unbelievable gift of love.  This is the Holy Spirit that will mark you as God’s own beloved sons and daughters, so that your hearts and minds can be open to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord” given to us in the Eucharist.

But there is still more amazing news about the Eucharist!  Jesus feeds us with his own Body and Blood so that we can become more and more members of his living Body, with his precious Blood flowing through our veins.  So we do not only speak of Jesus teaching about God’s love way back when, but we actually become the voice of Jesus so that he can continue to teach that same lesson of love today.  He reached out to the poor back then, and he continues to reach out to the poor today through us, who are members of his Body.  He healed the sick back then, and he continues to heal the sick through our prayers, our loving care, and our devotion to them.  In olden days, Jesus cast out demons, and he continues to cast out demons through us, the members of his Body, the Church.  In his name we can cast out the demons of loneliness by calling others into our community; the demons of violence as he strengthens us to love our enemies and pray even for those who persecute us.  He casts out the demons that lead us into all kinds of sin, by commissioning us, with the power of his Holy Spirit, to turn away from sin and believe in the Good News.

When one is given a lavish gift, it is important that the gift be used as it is meant to be used.  So when Jesus gives us the gift of himself, we are called to give of ourselves in service to others, so that we can become bread for them, and so that in the name of Jesus, we can bring them the joy in the midst of sufferings that comes from his sacred wine.

The question is not “What would Jesus do?,” but rather “What is Jesus doing?,” because he is alive and active.  He makes himself intimately present to us, and in this sacred banquet and by the power of the Holy Spirit, he calls us to share in his mission of bringing light wherever in the world there may be darkness.