HOMILY – 20th SUNDAY [B] 2018                                 [John 6:51-58]

Thank you!  Two small words.  But they can mean the world.  They spring from my heart today as I thank you for the great support I’ve received following recent hip surgery – and also for the way you have worked and stayed together to minimise the effect of our cathedral closure.  Thank you!  These two small words are the fruit of grateful hearts.

Gratefulness is both gentle and powerful.  It has a life-force that unites and consoles, softens what was hardened through neglect or oversight and can return joy that’s been stolen by pain or sorrow.

Gratefulness should be the main reason why we come together in worship.   We know that the word Eucharist means to give thanks, so our very presence here is a meeting with the wonder of thanksgiving.  God, through Jesus, says thank you to us, and we say thank you for the gift that is Jesus.

The last few Sundays have been taking us through the long discussion between Jesus and his Jewish audience over his claim to be the bread come down from heaven.  He is talking of himself as the bread of life and that unless this bread is eaten there is no life.  The teaching is difficult for his listeners, and even today there is dispute over what Jesus meant.

Our Catholic tradition is very clear that Jesus is truly present in the bread and in the wine that is shared among us.  Do you and I fully appreciate that reality? Our lives cannot but be changed through this encounter with the living bread and the cup of salvation.  Yet it remains mystery.  That’s why we should focus on thanksgiving – thanking God for being able to believe in this mystery; thanking God for the gift of Jesus and the nourishment he brings to our individual lives and to our community.  If we come giving thanks, we will leave with a joy strong enough to carry us through every challenge.

Last week I was in Auckland for the funeral of a niece – a sad and difficult farewell to a cancer victim of just 50 years.  A special moment in the service for Cheryl was the tribute given by her 13-year old son, Sam.  He spoke a beautiful thank you.  Thank you, Mum, for giving me life.  Thank you for loving me and making me feel special every day.  You are leaving me too soon, but I have a life full of memories and you are in every one of them.  I will love you forever.  Thank you, Mum.

The service for Cheryl was not a Mass.  But Sam’s tribute made it a powerful Eucharist.