Cyber-version of my homily for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time
QUENCH NOT THE SPIRIT
Rare is the person who does not enjoy the fragrance of fresh baked bread. The smell of bread fresh out of the oven implores one to take a warm slice and to taste and see that it is good. Our Bible readings today share that very experience as we are called to Christ, The Bread of Life and to taste and see that He is good. But that does not always seem to be the reality. What goes wrong? The answer can be discovered in the kitchen and in today’s Scripture.
Anyone who has made bread knows the importance of the yeast. It must be fresh and it must be activated by the right temperature of water when it is mixed with the flour. Water too hot can kill the yeast. Water too cold can hinder the yeast from growing and leavening the dough. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians said: “grieve (or ‘quench’) not the Holy Spirit…”, or in other words, quench not Christ, the Bread of Life.
Today also we have a very important letter in our bulletin from our Bishop Walsh about the recent new sorrow in our Diocese regarding Fr. Ochoa. In this candid letter Bishop Walsh shares how he erred by yielding to fear as he faced this new problem. Our Bishop experienced what we each has at times felt in our life, that of the Spirit of God being quenched, in this case by fear. As Scripture testifies it has happened before.
In our Old Testament reading we see the prophet Elijah in the depths of despair. He has just confronted and seen slain a number of false, demonic prophets. Now the idolatrous queen Jezebel hs set out to kill Elijah. He is afraid for his life. This is compounded by his simple physical hunger and exhaustion. So the Spirit-inspired prophet quenches the Holy Spirit in his flesh-fueled fear and despair. And so do we whenever we yield to the fears and very real needs of the flesh. What are you afraid of? The violence that is afflicting our world? The increasing ecological stresses in our environment? The pressure on your family life? Lack of financial security? Health issues? These are very real fires of fear that could quench the Spirit and Presence of Christ in our lives.
St. Paul in writing to the Ephesian church addressed other challenges to the Holy Spirit working in through Bread of Life. The young Church in Ephesus was beset with inner strife. Simply put the passions of the flesh and of pride were filling the lives of the Christians with jealousy, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. There was also a surge of finger-pointing, blame and criticism…sound familiar? In this elevating of pride and self the Holy Spirit was hindered from guiding healing, and empowering the people of Christ.
Finally in the Gospel we see the Jews balking at the Words of Christ as He taught and shared the Truth…He, His Body is the Bread of Life. This was not a figurative, symbolic truth. He clearly said: “my Body is real food, my Blood is real drink”. The listeners could not hide their unbelief. This chapter reports that this is the time when many of those listening turned away and left Christ. His truth was just too much for their minds to understand. They wanted to focus and accept only what they saw (His family) and what their silly futile intellectual pride could embrace. So…the Spirit was quenched and their love grew cold.
In our own day we see flesh, fears, money and pride all confirm the tragic reality that the Spirit of God can indeed be quenched. So do we despair? Should we just throw in the towel as Elijah was ready to do?
We must listen, seek, and yield to the Truth that sets us free. In yielding to Christ, God, who is Love, we can hear and know the truth of our own frailty and needs. We then can share the forgiveness and redemptive love and mercy that is Christ. Nourished by the true Bread from Heaven, Christ, we can clear away the clutter of stuff and bother that hinders the Holy Spirit from filling these temples with the power of His Holy Presence and purpose. Then in the strength of Christ we can share the sweet fragrance of of the Bread of Life to those who hunger. Our actions and our words will call out..”taste and see the goodness of the Lord”.
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