21st Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ Sunday, 22 August 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Joshua 24: 1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Responsorial: Psalm 34; II: Ephesians 5: 21-32; Gospel: John 6:60 – 69

“It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The Words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.”

So Jesus spoke to his disciples in the sixth chapter of John. As we have seen over the past few weeks our Lord ministers and speaks to the needs of the people. The chapter began with the miracle of the loaves and fishes as Jesus fed the hungry multitude. Then our Lord comes to the disciples in the boat, walking on the water, another miracle and exercise of their faith. What follows is the beautiful discourse of Jesus wherein he teaches that he is the Bread of Life and that we are to be nourished by his sacred, real Body and Blood.

This chapter in so many ways illustrates the journey of faith that is shared by Christ’s followers. Often Jesus will first minister to our human, physical needs, perhaps with provision, healing, or a special physical grace. Then as we start to trust and obey Christ, as we start to follow His will in our life, we encounter the real storms of life and the holy encounters of faith God brings to encourage us on our way.

And as we grow closer to God we, prayerfully, hopefully, are learning to listen. This was where Jesus had brought His disciples as He shared the living Truth of His Eucharistic Presence. While faith is needed in each of these places it is especially in listening to God we must grow and allow our faith to embrace His life in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has given the Church the Liturgies, the Sacraments by which we enter into and grow in our relationship with God. But every sacrament and especially the Blessed Sacrament is infused, deeply with the Words of Spirit and Life.

There is, in some circles, a great lament for the Church. Attendance of worship, at Mass, is down. Often bitter debates wrestle with issues liturgies, morality, political morass, and surprisingly even matter of health and safety. . Some would see the often smoke-filled skies as an illustration of the times in which we live. The souls of many are simply parched, much like the lands in the western United States, for the cleansing blessings of which St. Paul wrote in our second reading. The need for the “cleansing..by the bath of water with the word” of the Church. These realities, these exercises of our faith bring us, again to the words of Jesus and remind us how blessed we are, what exciting times in which we live as we allow our hearts to be cleansed, our souls and our faith communities to grow in God’s Spirit and Life!

In our Collect for today’s Mass we pray:

O God, who cause the minds of the faithful

to unite in single purpose,

grant your people to love what you command

and to desire what you promise,

that, amid the uncertainties of this world,

our hearts may be fixed on that place

where true gladness is found.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

God, forever and ever. Amen.

As followers of Christ, as people of faith, we are called to love what He commands. To be faith-filled listeners of God’s Word. We are called to be growing in our desire for what He promises. As we listen, as we seek God’s promises, we grow as people of His Spirit and Life. The life-bringing fragrance of holiness and merciful love fills our lives.

We have been learning of and celebrating the gift of the Real Presence of Jesus. His sacred Body and Blood are truly the source of eternal graces. But let us never forget how Jesus comes for us in the Mass. His Words of Spirit and Life call…

Us to repentance and contrition in the Penitential Act. We then bless God in the Gloria followed by prayer.

The Liturgy of God’s Word is our holy appointment to LISTEN to HIS WORDS of SPIRIT and LIFE! Many are concerned that some Catholics fail to realize the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Blessed Sacrament is seen and received in faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God [Rom. 10]. It has been said ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. When we fail to receive and nourish God’s Word of Spirit and Life we allow our faith to weaken. But when we listen, with anticipation, to Christ, THE LIVING WORD, and nourish God’s promises in our hearts we see His truth and Presence more clearly.

Following the Liturgy of God’s Word, we affirm our faith in the creed and share our prayers. The Holy Spirit frees us then to bring our gifts, ourselves to Christ. We are brought to the celebration of the Eucharist.

The Eucharistic Prayer is infused with the Spirit of God. When the priest holds his hands over the bread and wine and invokes the Holy Spirit (the epiclesis) we are at a most intense and blessed moment of prayer. As the Holy Spirit transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus we are involved in an embrace from the Holy Trinity. The Gift of the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, gives us the Body and Blood of Christ the Son as we share in His one and perpetual sacrifice of holy love.

Our sharing in Holy Communion brings us to hold in our hands and hearts, Jesus. Nourished anew by His Real Presence we are freed to grow closer to Him who always seeks to grow closer to us.

As Mass ends we are dismissed in the Triune blessing of God. But that is not the end. Not even close. For we are dismissed to go forth to share the Words of Spirit and Life, the Presence of Christ in our lives as we go out into the community. May the Holy Spirit always help us to be mindful of how we live and what messages we give. May we realize our message, our acts, may crush hope, cripple faith and quench love. Or our message, our acts may bring words of Spirit and Life….. That from the most hardened, unexpected place God’s gift of mercy and life may flourish.