Hungry for holiness
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 3rd SUNDAY OF EASTER, April 18, 2021:
In our Tuesday Night Bible Study this week, I was sharing a story from a little-known comedy from the 1990s with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep called Defending Your Life. In the story, Brook’s character Daniel has died, but before he goes to heaven, in a sort of purgatory called Judgment City, he has to literally defend his life before God’s representatives. A successful defense means entry into Heaven. But, my favorite scenes in the movie is an interaction between Daniel and Julia, who one night go to a restaurant in Purgatory. The wonderful thing is that in Purgatory, they serve only the best food; you can eat as much of it as you want; and you don’t gain any weight! So, as the camera pans the restaurant you see people devouring heaping platters of lobsters, steaks, pasta and desserts! Purgatory doesn’t sound so bad, now, does it?! Makes you hungry just thinking about it.
I mentioned this scene to the class because we were discussing a repeating theme you might have noticed in the post-resurrection stories we have been hearing. In every story, Jesus seems awfully hungry. When He encounters the disciples on the road to Emmaus, they stop to have a meal – and they come to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. Jesus then appears to Peter and others at the sea of Tiberius as they are fishing. Here, after a miraculous catch of fish, He sits down with them and prepares a breakfast.
And of course, we have the passage before us today. As Jesus appears once again, and asks the now-familiar question, “Have you anything to eat?” Jesus is hungry again and we’re told that they gave Him a piece of baked fish and He enjoyed it. We can only come to one deep, theological conclusion – rising from the dead makes you really hungry! I guess Defending Your Life was right! What Jesus wouldn’t give for a Country Buffet!
Now, of course, that’s not the point of these details. But, this focus on eating is there for an important reason. These stories don’t want to merely recall the encounters that Jesus had with His disciples after His resurrection, but they want us to know something important – that the man they encounter is real. The resurrected Jesus is a flesh and blood, breathing and eating human being – just like you and me. What the disciples encounter after the resurrection is not a ghost or a spirit; it’s not a mirage or even an angel. Just like before the resurrection, Jesus is a full human being. This is why we profess in the Creed that we believe in the resurrection of the body. Ghosts don’t eat baked fish. Angels don’t enjoy bread and wine. Spirits don’t get hungry. Humans do and that’s what Jesus is after the resurrection just as He was before.
This isn’t meant to be just an interesting detail for us to pick up. Instead, we are reminded that through our own baptism, we too are welcomed into a life that is eternal with God. That we too will be resurrected, body and soul, one day. We will not be ghosts; we will not be angels; we will not be spirits in the afterlife – we will continue to be human beings who need to eat and sleep, live and breathe, but somehow perfected or glorified through a life of grace in God’s Kingdom where sin and death are no more.
Have you ever thought about the tremendous intimacy Jesus invites into through the resurrection? The resurrection calls us to focus on the body – but not only the Body of Jesus raised from the dead, but, also the Body and Blood of Christ present in our midst at every Mass; the Body and Blood of Jesus that we take into our own bodies to mingle with us, unite with us, as we receive Holy Communion. As St. Augustine said, in the Eucharist “we become what we receive.” The Body of Christ becomes part of us and we are transformed, day-by-day, bit-by-bit, Eucharist-by-Eucharist into resurrection; into eternity.
My brothers and sisters, we keep encountering a Jesus who each week seems to be hungry because it is a reminder to us that we too should be hungry – hungry for the things of Heaven; hungry for the Body and Blood that do not merely nourish us for today, but fulfill all our hungers for eternity. There are many hungers in our lives – a hunger for closeness, a hunger for belonging, a hunger for happiness, a hunger for holiness. Jesus appears on our altar every day with an invitation: Receive my Body and Blood. Take Me into yourselves. Let Me be united with you in the most intimate way possible. Feel my body and blood coursing through your veins giving you life; giving you eternal life. Let Me fulfill your hungers to the full.
My friends, today and at each Eucharist, Jesus wants to be one with us; He wants communion with us through the Blessed Sacrament. Each time we gather, we are becoming more and more what we receive; more and more the Body of Christ together. We are alive today because the Body and Blood of Christ poured out for us; runs through our veins. Let us live in the resurrection Christ promised us at our Baptism and affirms in us at each and every Mass. We believe in the resurrection of the Body – Jesus’ body and ours – and we believe in life everlasting. Amen.
May the Lord give you peace.
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