Ordinary Time 11, Year C/Sacred Heart
- All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23)
In his exhortation to a dying C.M. lay brother, St. Vincent de Paul affirmed that the Holy Eucharist shows love’s inventiveness even into infinity. Likewise, quoting in Latin the passage, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn. 6:53), the saint highlights the utmost importance of the Eucharist for salvation. St. Vincent points out that Jesus, afraid that human beings would not understand well this unbelievable mystery and strategy of love, made it their obligation, under pain of incurring eternal disgrace, not to fail to approach this sacrament.
The quoted passage from the gospel of John, in fact, represents Jesus’ reply to those who quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They were the same people who murmured about Jesus after hearing him announce, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” With regards, then, to the teaching that Jesus’ flesh is true food and his blood is true drink, Jn. 6:53 leaves no room for ifs, ands, or buts. Notwithstanding the murmurings and complaints on the part of his hearers and disciples even, Jesus stood his ground and insisted on participation in the body and blood of Christ as a condition without which salvation would not be possible.
And, indeed, there were disciples who did not relish at all Jesus claiming to be the bread and drink of life. Shocked by such a claim, these disciples decided to return to their former way of life and no longer accompany Jesus. Points out correctly the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1336:
- The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples,
- just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: “This
- is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (Jn. 6:60). The
- Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same
- mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will
- you also go away?” (Jn. 6:67): the Lord’s question echoes
- through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he
- has “the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68), and that to receive
- in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.
So, then, Jesus reveals himself as the sign of contradiction par excellence both upon his giving his body up for all and shedding his blood to seal the new covenant and upon drinking the cup of bitter suffering. And if the passion reached its peak in the cross, on the cross too is revealed the height of shocking foolishness, for there Jesus prayed, according to the gospel of Luke: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
The Sacred Heart’s love is crazy. The Sacred Heart does not settle for the axiom, “One good turn deserves another,” but goes beyond it and returns love to one who hates. Such a heart comes to the assistance of those whom logic would just as soon leave behind: the lost, the strayed, the injured, the sick, the weak. While worldly logic dictates one should cut one’s losses, and not risk losing the ninety-nine sheep left in the desert, by going after a single lost sheep, the Sacred Heart, on the other hand, will not let go but will look for the strayed, remaining restless until the lost is found. The Sacred Heart impels the person wherein it beats to forgive sinners, just as God, or Jesus—who died for us sinners—forgives us our sins that could very well be not altogether unlike those serious sins committed by King David and by that notorious sinner of a woman who anointed Jesus’ feet.
To welcome sinners and to forgive them time and again is one of those basic values that set us apart from the wise and righteous of the world and put us on the side of God who forgives us out of foolishness and by his grace. The foolishness and grace that forgiveness entails is all part of true love’s inventiveness. Such inventiveness leaves no room for ifs, ands, or buts. We cannot yield even an inch, even if has to do with the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter of the new law, and as hard, unacceptable and shocking as this new law may strike many of our contemporaries also.