The Center Of Our Life – Fr. Viet Nguyen

Fr. Viet Nguyen’s Homily August 22, 2021

“In your life do you want things to change or do you want to change? Are you looking to be transformed in your life? Are you looking to be transformed? The Christian life is to be transformed into Christ to not have us live, but have the spirit of Christ live within us. There’s a saying that I kind of live by and I’ve heard it’s, ‘Whenever you’re disturbed quit looking outside for the problem and solution and start looking within.’ St. Pope John Paul II said that, ‘The battle between good and evil is not fought outside the world. The battle between good and evil is fought between every human heart.’ That means the battle between good and evil is fought in you, in you not outside of ourselves, but first it’s fought within here and that’s why we should look to transform ourselves and Christ gives us himself especially in the Eucharist. 

Today we continue on in John Chapter 6. Last week we had a break because of the Assumption of Mary, but what we missed was that the people said, ‘How can this be?’ And Jesus, he doesn’t back down. He doubles down in saying, ‘Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you do not have life in you.’ And then we get to today’s Gospel where they murmur and say, ‘This teaching is too hard.’ and does Jesus say, ‘Wait, I think you might have misunderstood me. Let me clarify this for you.’ No, he let them go and the people said, ‘This is too hard.’ and they left. It’s understandable that the teaching was hard because of the Jewish tradition. How can we eat his flesh and drink his blood? For to even eat the flesh or drink the blood of an animal was against the Jewish law as well as morally wrong in the Jewish culture. It’s thought that the life of the animal, the person, the spirit was in the blood. It was sacred. That’s why you don’t drink it and so when Jesus said this it’s understandable that they can say, ‘This teaching is way too hard for us.’ 

This teaching of the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist has always been in a sense a division that this is truly the body and blood of Christ, but it has been because it’s so crucial to our faith. It’s so crucial to our transformation into Christ to have Christ live within us. Now to understand the Eucharist we have to see that Christ is the word so let me go back. In the first chapter of John he says, ‘In the beginning…’ so in the very beginning ‘there was the word. The word was with God. The word was God.’ Right? In Genesis, the creation of the world, God spoke, that means the word, he spoke and it came into being. He said, ‘Let there be light.’ and there was light. ‘Let there be the Earth and the sky and the waters.’ and the sky and the waters were there. He said, ‘Let there be the animals and the crawling things on the Earth. Let there be the birds.’ and it came to be. The word, what He says happens. The words that we speak when you speak to each other it doesn’t affect reality. You wish it would so when you tell your spouse or your kids, ‘Do this.’ You wish it would affect reality, right? That if you said it they would have to do it. It affects reality, no. The words we speak is kind of descriptive. It describes reality. It influences others, but it does not affect reality as it is, but the word of God affects reality. That means when He speaks it happens. The word of God in the creation, now we have to look at the nativity- the word becomes flesh and dwelt among us. That means the invisible God throughout scripture in some ways it was the invisible God we could not see now becomes seen. The invisible become visible before us in Jesus Christ. Now the word becomes us, human, and dwells among us. Now this very same word which now is Jesus Christ, when He speaks things happen doesn’t it? He says, ‘Lazarus come out.’ and Lazarus who was dead, comes out of the tomb. He says to the evil spirit, ‘Leave this child.’ and the demons have to leave for his very words affect reality. He turns water into wine. Again, His words affect reality and now we get to the Gospel of John chapter 6 where He says, ‘You must eat my flesh and drink my blood for you will not have life within you.’ It is a hard teaching, but at the root of that teaching it is showing that this is not just a human. This is not just a prophet among us. This is not just a special man, but that this is God that this is truly God before us. So that’s why Peter who always speaks for his apostles, he says, Jesus already knew the 72 of his disciples, again these are people who had been following Jesus for some time now. The 72 disciples left because His teaching was too hard and so now in the Gospel Jesus turns to Peter and his apostles, the twelve, who were very close to him to say, ‘Do you want to leave as well?’ And Peter says, ‘Where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life. You are the word of eternal life. We have come to believe that you are the Holy One of God.’ Our whole faith comes down to a person. Yes, we have an ethic, a morality, all of this, but it has to first come through Jesus Christ. This is why the Eucharist which is Jesus is the source and summit of our faith. Everything in our life comes to it and everything should flow through that lens. 

And so now we get to the Mass, our Catholic faith. In the very sacrament you will see all the sacraments have the power of Christ, but it’s in the Eucharist that Christ is truly present there. In all the sacraments it’s not the priest that speaks, but it is the Word, the very word in the beginning that was with God, the Word that created the Earth, the Word that spoke 2,000 years ago, the Word now speaks in the sacraments. In confession it’s not the priest that absolves you of your sins, but it is the Word, Jesus Christ who speaks, ‘I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ and then now at every Mass and today I want you to listen very carefully. There’s a moment in time when you will see that it’s when the priest speaks and when Jesus speaks and I want you to be very attentive to this because it changes from the third person to the first person. That means, ‘At the night of the last supper, the night when he was betrayed Jesus took the bread, gave it to his disciples and blessed it.’ So again, describing, right? I’m describing it, but then it changes to the first person now, no longer the priest, but Christ speaking. ‘Take this all of you and eat of it for this is my body which will be given up for you.’ And then it goes back to the third person, now the priest describing to you the events. ‘In a similar way he took the chalice, blessed it, gave it to his disciples and said,’ now changing back to the first person, now Christ speaking- ‘Take this all of you and drink from it for this is my chalice the blood of the new and eternal covenant given for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins do this in memory of me.’ We speak of that instance as the priest in being in persona Christi meaning in place of Christ. Christ is truly there speaking into effect. Now the word that describes is ours, but the Word of God that creates affects reality that is why we can believe that now this bread that looks like bread is no longer just bread but is truly the body of Christ and same with the wine because it’s the Word that was with God from the beginning who is God who is Jesus Christ who speaks it into existence. It all comes down to, is Christ truly God? The communion we speak of again is not just to bring people together, but it’s a communion in the understanding that Christ is present before us. It’s the understanding that this is Christ and if this is Christ this is the center of our life, the source and the summit of life. If that is truly what you believe then now you are open to receiving Christ into your life. There’s a whole saying of you are what you eat isn’t there? Christ gives us himself to nurture and sustain our souls to go out and be Christ to others. We know how hard it is to love one another, even our own spouses at times the ones we say we love. We know how hard that is even to love ourselves is difficult. On our own we cannot, but with the grace of God we can and it’s truly through Christ himself which He gives to us in the Eucharist. So as you come before the Lord today where Christ is truly present before you in the Eucharist let us have the strength and the courage to not leave him to say this teaching is too hard, but to be open to look at it through the eyes of faith that yes, I believe that you have the words of eternal life and I’ve come to believe that you are the Holy One, the Christ. Amen.”