United with Him in Our Hearts
Tuesday April 27, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 7:51-8:1a) Gospel (St. John 6:30-35)
In the Gospel reading, Our Lord makes a very clear distinction for us as the people, having seen Jesus multiply the loaves and fishes (not knowing, however, that He walked across the water; only His disciples had known that), ask Him, “What sign are you going to do?” He had healed the sick, He had cast out demons, He had now fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fish, and the people still ask, “What kind of sign are you going to work so that we can believe in you?” It is the same problem. It does not matter what somebody does; we are not going to believe anyway. That was the problem these people had. It would not have mattered what Jesus did; they were not going to believe because they were focused, as we saw yesterday, on the wrong place. Their focus was on themselves rather than on God, so they did not recognize the sign that Our Lord had worked. And that is precisely what He told them: “You’re looking for Me because you had your fill of bread rather than because you saw the signs of God.”
Then He says to them that it was not Moses who gave them bread from heaven, but rather it was God Who gave them bread from heaven, as only God would be able to do. The psalms even make that very clear: “Mere men ate the bread of angels.” If it is the bread of angels, it is not something that a mere man is able to do. Only God is able to send that bread from heaven. Moses certainly did not bring down manna from heaven to be able to feed a million and a half people everyday, but God alone is able to do such things. So too, God alone is able to continue for 2,000 years to give to His faithful people the very Person of His Son. That is not something any mere human being can do, but only One Who is divine. It would be one thing for us to suggest that we wanted to give ourselves as a gift, but it is very much finite. Once we had given even a small piece of our own body to someone else, after a while there would not be anything left. On top of that, all they would be receiving would be a piece of flesh and whatever blood was there. With Our Lord, it is something entirely different. Even though He gives us His Body and Blood, it is His whole Person; not just a piece of flesh and some blood, but it is His soul and His divinity, the fullness of the very Person of Jesus Christ. This is not something which is even possible for a human person to be able to do.
As much as two people can love one another and give themselves to each other, the fact is that on the human level, on a physical level, there is absolutely nothing that can express the depth of the love that is there. The closest, most physical point of physical intimacy becomes almost shallow for some married couples because their love far surpasses anything that can be expressed on a physical level. There is a desire somehow to give themselves to one another in an even more intimate way, which of course they cannot imagine how that can be done. If somehow they could give themselves to each other in such a way that they could almost climb inside of each other to live within the other person and have the other person living within them…but that is exactly what Jesus has done. What none of us would ever be able to accomplish, He has. And He has been able to do that for countless millions of people for 2,000 years.
So just as God fed a million and a half people everyday for 40 years out in the desert with physical bread, so now for 2,000 years He has fed millions of people with His very Person. This is not a human reality – it is a divine reality – and we have to recognize it for what it truly is. It is not a symbol of Our Lord. It is not just some little thing that happens that we believe in. It is the most extraordinary miracle that can ever take place. But because it is something that is there every single day, too many of us just see it as something ordinary, like it is no big deal: “After all, it’s just Jesus; and, after all, He does this everyday so it really must not be too important.”
We need to make sure that we look at the Lord’s intention and at what is really happening: that God Himself is truly present substantially in our midst in the Blessed Sacrament, and that He gives Himself to us in the fullness of His Person every time that we receive Him in Holy Communion. This is something that we cannot take lightly. It is the most serious thing and it is the most extraordinary thing in the world. For many, they have completely missed it because they do not see the reality. All they see are the external signs. They see bread and they see wine. But because their senses cannot grasp the truth of what is there, they assume that there is no truth beyond what they can see or taste or feel. But just like that married couple, the senses will never be able to grasp fully and express fully the love of Jesus, nor should they be able to express fully the love that we have for Jesus.
Therefore, the only way to be able to recognize Him there, the only way to receive His love, and the only way to return His love is not with the senses, not with the body, but with the soul. It is a spiritual reality, so we have to see beyond what we can look at. We have to be able to recognize something deeper than just what our senses are able to perceive. And we need to recognize the reality not with the body – but with the heart – and there to be able to know the love of Jesus Christ given to us in such a humble form so that He can do for us what our hearts desire to do for one another more than anything; and that is somehow to give ourselves entirely to another person. He has done that for us. He continues to do that for us. And with Him inside of us, we can do the same for Him – not with the body, but only with the soul – and to learn from this beautiful gift how to be able to love with the fullness of our person and to go beyond the senses to learn to love in a pure, perfect, and spiritual way.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.