Homily 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Fr. Dan Meyer    

“Eat this bread, drink this cup, come to me and never be hungry. Eat this bread, drink this cup, come to me and you will not thirst.”  (text John 6 adapted by Robert Batastini)

The last few weeks we have heard from John’s Gospel on Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life.  “He who eats this bread and drinks my blood has life eternal”. Some of Jesus followers are struggling with this statement.  It is too hard to accept- we can’t buy into it. Jesus could have easily watered it down or said “Well I really meant something else.” Jesus tells them that this is the way it is.  But before we start judging the disciples, let’s be honest- we’ve been there. All of us have struggled with our beliefs – our faith – wondering where the Lord is at times.

I am a great believer that the Eucharist is not for those who have their act together, but for those who need healing and strength and hope from the Lord.  I would like to share two examples from my own life where the Eucharist has helped me through difficult times.

In my sixth year of priesthood I became very sick – not with cancer, not heart problems, but something still very hard at least for me. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I had lost a sense of hope.  I wondered if I would ever be a priest again. Let me put a little humor in this- my mom knew something was wrong- I wasn’t eating or talking.  Can you imagine me not eating or talking? With the help of therapists, friends, family, priests and the parish, I got better. I had taken 3 months leave.  During that time I didn’t preside at mass but I did go to mass – still that Catholic guilt. I would sit in the back of church. All I could do was just sit there-I couldn’t sing, couldn’t participate but just sat there. But I was there. Eventually, I moved up in the pews in Church. When I moved up to the front I knew I was ready to preside at Eucharist again.  In my process of getting better, it was the Eucharist that became my prayer during this difficult time. If it wasn’t for Jesus gift, I wouldn’t be standing here before you.

The second example is what has been going on in my life and in your life and that is the sexual abuse by priests and the cover-up.  I know Fr. Tim gave an excellent homily addressing this last week while I was on vacation, but I felt like you needed to hear from me, your pastor.  

So, what am I feeling? disgust? yes, outrage? yes? anger? most definitely.  On vacation, I was given an article written by a Jesuit priest, Fr. James Martin, who affirmed for me that it was ok to be angry.  Sometimes we think anger is a sin. We see in the gospels that Jesus was angry with those who desecrated His temple and at times when the disciples couldn’t understand his message.  Anger is an important part of our lives and even though this scandal only represents a fraction of the priesthood, it does cast us in a bad light. But my anger is not in vain, I don‘t think the anger that we might experience pulls the church apart.  I think it is good and healthy.

What I want to do with my anger is to move it to a more passionate level.  I want to be more than ever, with God’s help, a beacon of God’s hope for those who are hurting and experiencing this evil.  I have very good friends whose son was a victim of sexual abuse by a priest. Unfortunately, I don’t think he goes to church anymore.  But when he comes home to visit, I join him for dinner and hopefully I can still be a beacon of light for him.

The Eucharist right now is helping me in the midst of my anger.  It’s helping me in my own brokenness and fear and failure. But I know that God will be with me and with us. God’s love and hope will prevail.  My brothers and sisters, please pray for the victims of sexual abuse by priests, pray for the good priests, pray for Fr. Tim and I that we can serve you well. May this Eucharist help us in dealing with our own anger and pain, especially over this situation.  May we experience healing, may we be able to forgive, may we be a sign of hope in our Church. And so we accept God’s invitation to “Eat this bread, drink this cup, come to me and never be hungry. Eat this bread, drink this cup, come to me and you will not thirst.” (text John 6 adapted by Robert Batastini)

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