Saturday, August 1, 2015

Childlike Faith and the Holy Eucharist: A Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Reverend Kyle L. Doustou 
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

August 2, 2015
Childlike Faith and the Holy Eucharist

I’d like to share with you a beautiful and touching story about a Pope and a little boy. Mother Francis Alice Monica Forbes, a biographer and contemporary of Pope St. Pius X, tells the story of an Englishwoman who had the privilege of having a private audience with the Pope. Now Pius X had already earned for himself the reputation of being a great lover of children and so the woman brought her four year old son with her to receive the Pope’s special blessing. As the Pope and his mother were speaking, the little boy stood at a distance looking on – when the conversation was finished, the boy was brought over to the Pope to receive his blessing. Much to the horror of his mother, however, the boy went to the Pope, placed his hands on his knees, and looked up at him. Allaying the fears of the embarrassed woman, the Pope smiled at the boy, stroked his head, and then asked, “How old is he?” His mother said, “He is four, and in two or three years I hope he will be able to make his first Communion.” Just a short time earlier, the Pope had issued a decree lowering the age at which children could receive Holy Communion – he made it very clear that so long as children had reached the age of reason, which could be said to be around 7 years of age, they were to be permitted to receive the Holy Eucharist. The little boy expressed his own excitement about the prospect of receiving Holy Communion in just a few short years, and this sparked the interest of the Pope. He looked earnestly into the boy’s eyes and asked, “Whom do you receive in Holy Communion?” Without hesitating, the little boy answer, “Jesus Christ!” The Pope smiled and further asked, “And who is Jesus Christ?” Once more, without missing a beat, the boy responded, “He is God.” The Pope leaned back in his chair, looked over at the boy’s mother and said, “Bring him to me tomorrow – I will give him Holy Communion myself.”

This little boy, whose name has faded into the shadows of time, has so much to teach us. With the innocence and purity of a four year old, his understanding of the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist surpasses that of any scholar and his love for It rivals that of any saint. With eyes that have not been tainted by skepticism and doubt, and with a heart that has not known the darkness of sin, he looks upon the Eucharist with such holy simplicity and love. He literally throws himself on the lap of the Vicar of Christ on earth and articulates so plainly and beautifully what so many of us struggle to believe. For this little boy, there is no question…Christ is truly and really and simply present in the Holy Eucharist, and his little heart cannot help but desire so great a gift. The very next day, at the hands of the saintly Pope, his desires are realized. His Lord and His God comes to Him in Holy Communion, and, in an instant, the great miracle of God’s love is accomplished in yet another soul. Perhaps this is what our Lord is trying to convey to us when He says in Matthew’s Gospel, “Unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So much of our life is centered on growing up. We value maturity, wisdom, and experience over and above many things. And while we should never negate the importance of these things, we must keep in mind that God’s ways are not our ways. The Mysteries of our faith, while they baffle the learned and confound even the most diligent of theologians, are so often grasped and loved effortlessly by children. In their innocence and purity, children never try to be something they are not. Unlike those of us who try to mine our way through this dog-eat-dog world, children know their own helplessness…they instinctively cry out to their parents for their every need, and when we introduce them to Jesus, they so easily abandon themselves to Him. Life, experience, and growing up bring many good things for us, but sometimes, often times, we will learn to trust more in the obvious, ourselves, and less in God. This is where we have so much to learn from our children.

In our Gospel today, Jesus is inviting the crowds to leave the world of the obvious and to enter into the world of children, the world of faith. Last week we heard of the great miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, where Christ filled the hungry bellies of the multitudes with an abundance of earthly food. This was, of course, a foreshadowing of the greater miracle of the Eucharist, where Christ would fill their hungry souls with a superabundance of heavenly food: His own Body and Blood, His own self. But today, the crowds just aren’t getting it. Like hungry animals, they are chasing after Jesus in the hopes that He’ll give them more bread. They are fixated on the obvious, on the temporal, and on the earthly, and they are content to use Jesus to have these needs met. But as they focus on their bellies, they have neglected to see that the bread they hunger for is none other than the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. To see this, though, requires simplicity and abandonment…it requires a heart that can see beyond appearances and superficialities…it requires the heart of a child.  

The Holy Eucharist is, as the Second Vatican Council articulates beautifully, the source and summit of the Christian life. Because it is the Sacrament that makes present to us Jesus Christ Himself, It is the source of all grace. The heart of God beats for love of us in all the tabernacles of the world, calling us to adore and to feast upon the gift of His Divine love. And yet it is so easy for us to take this wonderful and holy reality for granted. We can become so distracted by all of our earthly concerns, entrenched in the world of the obvious, that we completely miss that the answer to all of our hungers and desires rests wherever the little red light of the sanctuary lamp glows. We can be like the crowd that harps on Jesus to give them more of the things of this world, or we can be like the little boy who knows simply and beautifully that the Lord will fill him beyond all measure in the Holy Eucharist.

Today, during this Holy Mass, perhaps we could pray for the grace to put aside all of our grown-up problems and desires so that we can “grow-down,” becoming more and more like little children. As you come forward today to receive Holy Communion, run up with childlike faith and allow your Lord and God to fill you with Himself. Savor His sweetness and feast upon His goodness. May we learn to leave the world of the obvious….carelessly abandoning ourselves to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament all the days of our lives. When we learn to do this, we know that we will not be far from the kingdom of heaven.

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