The Bread of Wayfarers

John 6:51-58

I saw a commercial this week for Quaker Oats cereal. In the commercial was a boy of about 12, I’d say, sitting at his kitchen table, eating his Quaker Oats cereal, staring dreamily out the window. He is envisioning a journey on his bicycle, from his house, up a trail that leads to a nearby mountain range. The scene then morphs into his trip up the mountain as he overcomes the elements and the steep climb, and then showing his moment of triumph atop the mountain, arms raised just like Rocky Balboa on those museum steps in Philadelphia. The tagline at the end of the commercial says, “Nothing gets you going quite like the power of Quaker Oats. Today is going to be epic. Quaker Up!”

 

In the Gospel, Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

 

The Quaker Oats commercial that I cited reminds us that nothing gets us going like the power of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is our true and necessary food that helps to sustain us through our epic journey. Our mountain is heaven and the journey we face is the drama of our lives through the hills and valleys of the world.

 

Each of us are wayfarers on a journey. We can use the imagery of being on a bike to remind us that, though we may have others who help us or hold us back from our destination, the journey is ours to make.

 

Back in 2007, Pope Benedict did an Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist entitled, “the Sacrament of Love.”  In it, he proclaimed that the Eucharist is God's most amazing gift to us. Through the incarnation, Jesus, the Word of God, lowered himself to our level out of love by taking to himself our human nature.  Through the Eucharist, he raises us up to his level, by nourishing us with his divine nature.

 

But the expression of his love goes even further. Not only does Jesus offer himself as food for our souls in Holy Communion, to nourish and replenish all the virtues we need to resist temptation and continue on in the great battle for the Kingdom, Jesus also stays with us, 24/7.

 

As you may have noticed before the end of each Mass, we reserve the remaining consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle, so that throughout the week we can come and pray in the presence of Jesus. 

 

It's as if Jesus were saying to us: "I will never leave you alone. I want to be with you. Whenever you need me, you will find me here. Come to me and I will give you light, strength, comfort, and guidance."

 

This reminds us yet again that Jesus is not just some historical figure who walked the dusty streets of Palestine centuries ago. He is seeking a personal relationship with each one of us today, right where we are. He wants to guide us and strengthen us as we attempt to make our epic journey up the mountain to the Promised Land, in heaven.  

 

In preparing for this homily earlier in the week, this imagery that I was led to of us as wayfarers on a journey up a mountain on our bikes and Jesus’ commitment to strengthen and guide us when the road gets rocky was at least somewhat of a help to me as the news broke on Tuesday of the grand jury investigation. And I hope, as we continue, that it can provide some measure of comfort to you as well.

 

In a time when it seems nothing and no one can be counted on, we must hold on to the only sustainable hope that we have, in our relationship with Jesus. God has promised to never leave us. In Joshua, we hear, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” In Hebrews: “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” And upon his return to heaven, Jesus said to his grieving disciples, “No, I will not abandon you as orphans- I will come to you.”

 

I was among the recipients of a Facebook message the day after the news broke from someone who was, like most of us crestfallen. I’d like to share that message with you because I think that it encapsulates a lot of the sentiments that many of us have, and the resolve that we must have to overcome through our relationship with Christ. His message was addressed, as he says, “To my non-Catholic friends, as he asked, please pray for your Catholic friends & family!”

 

He writes, “The most recent revelations of horrific abuse in our Church are gut wrenching. Right now, we don’t want to have to explain our faith or our religion because we ourselves are extremely vulnerable and raw. And most of us are asking the same questions that you are when seeing the headlines. Thousands have been physically and emotionally violated. Some of us are friends with or related to victims. Millions of us have been spiritually violated by the scandal of it all. We are enraged at those who were supposed to shepherd us. We are devastated for the victims. And now we will have to try to root out the filth and rot that has been lurking in the shadows of our hierarchy since they failed in doing so years ago.

 

You might ask...why don’t you just find a new church/home and be done with it?

But it’s not that simple for us. Home is where the heart is and our hearts are devoted to the sacraments, scripture, and the tradition we hold dear because they are where we encounter a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Right now our spiritual home and our hearts are broken. We know our Church to be one that endures the sins of the ages and triumphs for the sake of Christ in spite of the broken humanity that surrounds us. Right now we are trying to figure out how to be like the saints who faced evils in centuries past...but it is gut wrenching, and this is why we need your support!

 

Thank God, like many of you, our hope is in Jesus Christ...not clerics...and so we know that better days are ahead, but first we have to endure repentance, shame, anger, extreme reform, and hopefully justice! It will be a purge long overdue, but it will leave our Church better than what we inherited. So please...pray for us, pray WITH us, and support us in this uphill battle.

 

To my Catholic family & friends...saddle up y’all! It’s time to take back our Church and it ain’t going to be easy. No more apathetic Catholics. No more lukewarm Catholics. No more “cafeteria Catholics.” Entrench yourself in prayer and scripture. And be bold in your parishes and dioceses! And the message ends with the hashtags #RebuildMyChurch #RestoreTheBride

 

The call to action here to “saddle up”, just like the call, “Quaker Up” in the Quaker Oats commercial, reminds us that our faith isn’t a spectator event or something we engage in without purpose. Mountains by their nature are, as he said, uphill battles, but we know that we have the bread of life at our disposal to sustain us for the journey. Our call: stay hungry! Stay hungry when we win, stay hungry when we lose, when are fat and happy, and stay hungry when we feel like we just don’t have an appetite anymore.

 

And so we pray, Lord Jesus, we know that you are the bread of life, and you are the same today as you were yesterday, and will be tomorrow. Help us in our brokenness. We are no more than wayfarers on a journey up the mountain, but we are confident that with your guidance our journey will be epic. Continue to strengthen us in our resolve to keep pushing our pedals. We seek a more intimate relationship with you, because we know that it is only through that relationship that we can manage the long and difficult trip ahead to our ultimate destination, the Kingdom of Heaven!

 

Amen!          

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