Homily by Mother Delia+
In today’s Gospel, Jesus and the Jews he’s talking to are trying to have a discussion. Jesus is talking about eating his flesh and blood for eternal life. The Jews are hung up on literalism, which is unusual. Normally, Jewish scholars of that time period could move beyond the literal meaning of things and get to the metaphorical or spiritual or teaching meaning of things that they were discussing.
The problem was that they weren’t actually listening to each other. They were hearing each other, but their time is taken with waiting for the other to stop talking so that they can speak.
This seems to happen often in our time period. Discussions are people talking at each other and not to each other.
People spend their time waiting for the other person to stop talking so that they can talk, instead of listening to what someone says and responding to that.
Just witness our presidential debates.
In our political arenas people don’t listen to what other say. Each person has his own agenda and that’s all they want to talk about.
This is not how we should be treating each other. Listening is a skill that we as Christians should hone.
If we want to be listened to, then we should pro-actively return the favor -- learn to listen first.
Jesus was teaching something new to people who heard only one thing, and it wasn’t what he was telling them.
Jews had long been accustomed to put themselves in the place of their ancestors at Sinai and at the Passover. Not only did our ancestors celebrate that first Passover, but we ourselves feel that we understand it so well and feel so close to God we could say we were there.
Sort of like us with Good Friday and Easter -- we get so close to the event that we could say we are at the foot of the Cross and at the Empty Tomb.
So getting into Jesus’ new teaching should have been easier than getting hung up on literalism. Literalism often doesn’t work in religions. There is more going on than that.
If you see only the literal then there is no place for the poetic or metaphoric or the deep spiritual meanings hidden within the texts we read.
We’ve been reading Jesus’ dialogue on the Bread of Life for several weeks now and we’re not done yet. It’s that important.
But if we take it totally literally then we miss most of the point. Jesus is not saying he is made of bread and wine nor is he espousing cannibalism.
Here’s a better way to think of it: if we are what we eat then we should be eating the Bread and Wine that are Christ’s Body and Blood. We should become more Christ-like. We should become more Christ-like every time we receive communion.
The more Christ-like we become the more we are moved to eternal life in him. Not that we don’t physically die; we know we do. But we believe that in the communion of Christ’s Body and Blood we receive that life that is eternal in the heavens.
We also become more Christ-like in our day-to-day lives. It’s gone out of fashion, but the question “What Would Jesus Do?” is still a valid one to ask in the situations we run into in our lives. There are times when we should stop in what we are doing and ask ourselves that question.
What Would Jesus Do?
What should I do in this situation to be more Christ-like?
What action would show others that I am a Christian?
Because ultimately, that is what we are after. Showing through our behavior that we are Christian. Through our behavior throughout our lives.
We come to Eucharist for strength to meet the days to come as Christians. We come to meet Christ and bring him into ourselves. We come because of his pledge of everlasting life.
We get used to having Eucharist and we get lonely when we don’t have it. That tells us that it really means something to us. Eucharist isn’t just a memorial service. It feeds us and brings us close to Christ. It is our bread of heaven and cup of salvation.
Episcopalians do some of their best theology through their hymns. So let’s everyone get out their hymnals and turn to Hymn 335. . .