Homily: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Readings of the Day

Han Solo wasn’t a trustworthy guy. When we first see him, he sitting at a table in a bar with someone, whom he shoots because the guy want him to pay off a debt. He only took on passengers without credentials because he needed money, and he needed to get out of Tatooine, little thing about an unpaid debt. He thought Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker were crazy, their androids irritating, and when Princess Lei arrived, wow! From the very beginning, he made it clear what his motivation was: he was in it for the money. After he’d gotten them to safety, he took his pay and left, right when they were undertaking a desperate battle to destroy the Death Star.

Then, when Luke was in Darth Vader’s sight, about to be blown from the sky, someone came out of nowhere to send Vader into a tailspin and give Luke his chance. Han Solo, who seemed to have no reason to come back. Or maybe his reason was the bond he felt with his friends, the attachment that kept him around when all his reasoning surely told him to leave. Maybe it was beyond reason, beyond what he could explain. He came back. He stayed, all the way through the Trilogy, because of what Luke and Leia meant to him.

At time, I’ve wondered why Jesus’ disciples stayed. Today, He says something that is almost impossible for the audience of his time to accept. Ancient Jews had a taboo against cannibalism, like we do, so for Jesus asked them to eat his flesh was beyond belief; Blood was sacred in ancient times, it carried the Sacred quality of life, and part of Kosher regulations was about how animals could be slaughtered so the blood drained out. Contact with Blood made someone ritually impure, so for Jesus to say “Drink My Blood” was an impossible concept. In the context of the Gospel reading, we shouldn’t be surprised most of the people present walked away. I imagine we would as well if a speaker was telling us to do something outrageous.

But Peter and the others stayed as we’ll see in next week’s Gospel. “You have the Words of everlasting life.” They recognized who Jesus was, and knowing who He was, there was no chance they’d leave. God Among Us, Immanuel, is something we shouldn’t walk away from. Jesus called all the disciples to follow Him, and they did in spite of all the crazy things they saw and heard.

Jesus calls us to follow Him, and just as he called the disciples publicly he calls us publicly as well. There really shouldn’t be anything like a Stealth Christian, if we understand Jesus right: He calls us as a people and He calls us to follow Him in broad daylight. He calls us to a special purpose, calls us to be a sign of His presence. That’s not easy, that’s not comfortable, that’s not even something we’d like to think about much. But Jesus comes to us today and asks us to eat His Body and drink His Blood. St. Augustine asked us to become what we eat and drink, and if we think about it, what happens anyway. We’re called to follow Christ at all kinds of crazy times, even when it seems embarrassing or difficult. Christ’s presence in His Body and Blood gives us strength to say: “Lord, to whom should we go?”

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