Homily from Life Teen Spring Retreat - Part One
Yesterday, Sarah talked about how the externals we use to sometimes hide ourselves do not amount to much. It's not the clothing or shoes we wear that matter. It's who we are inside that truly matters.
So its very appropriate to consider this as we approach this next Sacrament, the Eucharist. Because perhaps better than any other thing on earth, the Eucharist teaches us that its what inside and not outside that matters.
Thousands of years ago philosophers said that things are basically made of two components: accidents and substance. Accidents are those external qualities that can change without changing the nature of the thing itself. For example, my hairline and waistline are my "accidental" qualities. My hair has grown thin and my waist has grown thick, but neither of these have changed the person Andrew Budzinski. Who I am, deep inside, the "substance" of Andrew Budzinski has remained the same and will continue to do so.
The Eucharist however, is the complete opposite. In just a few moments, ordinary bread and wine will become the very Body and Blood of Christ. The "accidents" will remain the same: it will still look, smell, taste, feel and decompose like bread and wine. However, the "substance", what it is deep inside will change completely. The substance of bread and wine become the substance of Christ's Body and Blood. It's what inside, not outside that matters.
Today's readings talk about the need for us to have our "insides" changed; the need for internal conversion. In our first reading, the prophet Jeremiah communicates God's desire for this conversion of our hearts: "This is the covenant I will make... I will place my law within and write it on their hearts." (Jer 31:33)
And in our second reading, we hear that this conversion of heart takes place via suffering in imitation of Christ: "Son though he was, tea learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." (Heb 5:8-9)
We too are made perfect by suffering loss. God perfects us when we suffer the loss of being the center of attention, when we suffer the loss of our pride and ego, when we suffer the loss of anger, hatred, jealousy, envy, gossip, slander; when we suffer the loss of our attachment to material things, addictions, alcohol, drugs, pornography, popularity; when we suffer the loss of our superficial spirituality and lukewarmness; when we suffer the loss of the false notion that Jesus is just a good idea instead of a real person, the Son of God, with whom I have a real relationship and am called to follow in discipleship; and when we suffer the false notion that I am only what others think of me.
You must die to these false ideas and false loves. You must die to yourself so that Christ may live in you. This is after all what Christ did for us: he died so that we might live.
In our Gospel today Jesus says, "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." (Jn 12:24) This is what Jesus did. Like a grain of wheat, he falls. He, the Eternal Word, "fell" from heaven by becoming man and making his dwelling place here on earth with us. He died and was "planted" in the earth as he was buried in the tomb. And he rose to new life producing much fruit.
You are all "grains of wheat" And you must fall down to the ground and die to those things which are not you. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, "You cannot rise to a higher love without first dying to a lesser one." In a few moments, we will worship Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration and you'll be given the opportunity to come forward to pray with him, by kneeling in front of him and taking in your hands an end of one of the stoles that hangs from the monstrance. As you do so, and as you fall to your knees before him, bring to him those lesser loves you wish to die to. And as you hold his stole in your hand, as you pray hand in hand with your Lord, ask him for the grace to die to those lesser loves so that you might rise to the highest love which is his love for you and your love for him in return.
And as you fall before him, you will fall as grains of wheat, and die to those lesser loves. And you will become Rooted in Christ, the highest love. And you will produce much fruit.