Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Super Substantial Bread

Robert Barron - Super Substantial Bread

Robert Barron - Super Substantial Bread
TOPICS: Communion

Peace be with you. Friends, It's a delight to greet you on this wonderful feast day of Corpus Christi, The celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ. Now, here's what is on my mind today. This is the first celebration of Corpus Christi after the famous, or I should say infamous, Pew forum study from several months ago. I've talked about it a few times. The Pew forum study that showed 70% of Catholics, so, not just the general population, or religious people, but 70% of Catholics claim that they do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus. This has been on my mind all year.

So, now we come to this wonderful day where we celebrate the Body and Blood of Jesus. So I wanted to pay very careful attention to the readings the Church gives us for today. Because, you know, something pretty substantial has gone off the rails. Vatican II said the Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." That means, it is the beginning and the end of the Christian life. And if 70% of our own people don't believe in the Real Presence, something has gone seriously wrong. So let's, with that in mind, take a look at these readings for today. Let's start with the first reading, which is from the book of Deuteronomy Moses is speaking to the people, here, about their long sojourn in the desert.

Here's what he says: "He", God, "therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers." So, it's a reference to this famous food that the Lord provided for wandering Israel. It's called manna, they speculate, because the Hebrew Ma'n Hu has the sense of "What is that?" So when this mysterious food came down the people wondered what it was. Now, they ate the "Ma'n Hu", they ate this manna, this "what is this?" food for the whole length of their sojourn in the forty years journey in the desert. They stopped eating it just as they came into the Promised Land.

Now, the Church juxtaposes the Deuteronomy reading with this magnificent passage from John chapter 6. And we go back to that reading all the time. It's such an important meditation on the Church's Eucharistic faith, John chapter 6. But here's the quote now from the Lord himself. Listen: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; this is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." So, the Lord is explicitly comparing this bread that he will offer to the manna that fed the Israelites in their long journey in the desert.

So, with that juxtaposition in mind, we are now in a position to give this a powerful spiritual reading. We are meant to read the Eucharist through the lens of the Israelites' journey through the desert. So, Israel escapes from slavery in Egypt. They make their painful way through the desert in this long winding journey until they finally come to the Promised Land. This is an allegory. It's a spiritual metaphor, if you want. What's Egypt? That place of slavery. That stands for sin, addiction, self-absorption, the ways of death. It stands, listen, for all the ways that we are held captive. How beautiful, Origin said this long ago, that the Egyptian slave master stands for the power of sin; the Israelites, for all that is good in us.

Think of mind, and will, and creativity, and imagination. All of our spiritual and physical powers. The problem is they are held captive. And now, fellow sinners, you all know what I am talking about. We all know what this captivity feels like. Ok. They escape through God's gracious intervention. They escape from slavery. And now they are making their way to the Promised Land. What's the Promised Land? That's the fullness of redemption that we'll find in heaven. You know, the land flowing with milk and honey. It's not just describing a geographical place in the Middle East. It's a spiritual symbol for the total fulfillment that we will have in heaven.

Ok. What's in between? What's in between is a tough journey. Nobody said this was going to be an easy forty years wandering in the desert. That's not a place where you find great comfort. Well, it's a symbol, everybody, of our own spiritual journey. We've left behind, if we've embraced Christ, we've entered the life of the Church, we've left behind the slavery of Egypt. But we are not in the Promised Land yet. And so, how do we experience the in between time? It's a place of trial, difficulty; it's an uncomfortable place. What's the temptation? And you see it, don't you, really clearly in the book of Exodus, especially.

What's the temptation? To go back! You know, they say to Moses: Look, at least we had something to eat in Egypt! At least we knew what our lives were about! That's the permanent temptation of all of us sinners as we are trying to make our way toward the Promised Land. That we long for the flesh pots of Egypt, as the Bible says. We long for the old ways of sin and death. You know what I'm talking about, all of us sinners. The ways of addiction, the ways of self-absorption, the ways of sin. We want to go back. And Moses has to keep saying: no, no, no. Don't look back; keep going, even through the difficulty of the desert.

What do the people need, especially when they feel tempted? They need food. They need food. And that's exactly now what Moses says: He, God, let you be afflicted with hunger and then fed you with manna. This is every one of us making our way to the Promised Land painfully and with hunger. What do we need? We need the bread for eternal life. We need the manna from above. Listen now, again to the Lord from John 6: "For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day."

What's he saying? The bread I'm going to give you, and he's referring of course to the Eucharist, his own Body and Blood, is the bread that will sustain you for the journey, and will ready you for the fullness of the banquet of eternal life. It will fit you for eternal life, prepare you for eternal life. Stay with the image now of going through the desert for a bit. I remember when I was a young guy, I was in college, 18, 19 years old. I never ate breakfast. I used to wake up in the morning and I'd walk to class. I'd go through the whole morning of class, walk back to my dorm, and I ate for the first time at noon or one o'clock in the afternoon. Never bothered me.

Now, I couldn't imagine it! I would not be able to get through the morning without eating something. I would not be able to get to the rest of the day without lunch or without dinner. The older I get, the clearer it is how much I need food to sustain me in my work. How naive it is for us ever to think we can make our way through the desert, we can make our way on the spiritual journey, without being fed. You know what's going to happen? Trust me when I tell you: What's going to happen is we will long for the flesh pots of Egypt. The Lord is giving us in the Eucharist true food, true drink. Take it. Take it.

Now, one last connection I want to make. Take everything I've been saying and relate it now to the perhaps overly familiar words of the Lord's Prayer. That's a sermon for another time, just to walk through that prayer. But I want to draw attention to a particular line. And again, every time we say the Our Father, we say this line. I wonder how often we think about it. "Give us this day our daily bread." Now it's a complicated sort of exegetical problem around that phrase, but what's being used here, the Greek for daily bread, is ton arton ton epiousion. What does that mean literally? "Give us this day the supersubstantial bread."

Ousia means substance in Greek. Epiousion means super substantial. In fact, in the earliest Latin versions of the Bible, the word you get is super substantialem. It's a complicated reason why we say daily, I won't go into that, but stay with the Greek. Give us this day, we pray now, every day, Lord, give us not the ordinary bread that we need to keep our bodies going, but Lord, give us each day the supersubstantial bread that keeps our souls alive during the desert journey. What does the Church say about the Eucharistic bread? It has undergone a change so fundamental that it's no longer appropriate to refer to these elements as bread.

But rather we say they have been transubstiantiated. That just means: at the most fundamental level of their being, they've been changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Yes indeed, the supersubstantial bread. And what we say in the prayer that Jesus taught us: Every day, Lord, give me that supersubstantial bread. Because I would be supremely naïve to think I can make it through the long desert journey without that bread. Let me close with this. "Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."

Now, the Lord is not talking about endless life in this world I mean, in a way that would be a curse, wouldn't it? It's like the way a vampire lives. If I were to say, "I'm in my nine thousandth year as auxiliary bishop of Santa Bárbara"! I mean, we don't want endless life in this world. What we want is eternal life. That's the Promised Land. That's the Promised Land. That's the life on high with God. What gets us through the desert journey there, what sustains us in that heavenly place, is the supersubstantial bread. "My flesh is true food, my blood is true drink." Catholics: Don't fall into this trap of trivializing the Eucharist. "Oh well, most of us don't think it's the Real Presence." Then you are missing the whole point of it! We need this food to make our way on the journey. And God bless you!
Are you Human?:*