Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
July 29th, 2012
Year B

As a young man studying for the priesthood in Italy, I had many opportunities to travel. Between one free weekend per month as well as Christmas, Easter and the time between semesters, my travels took me all over Europe. I particularly enjoyed seeing a good portion of Italy. On one such free weekend, a group of us decided to make the 5 hour drive to visit San Giovanni Rotondo and pray at the tomb of St. Padre Pio. The trip back to Rome and to the seminary consisted in a stop in Lanciano. Lanciano is a small town located near the shores of the Adriatic Sea. It is believed that the Roman Soldier who had pierced the heart of our Lord was from this town – hence its name. It was here, in the Church of St. Legontian in the 8th century, that took place the first and one of the greatest miracles in the history of the Catholic Church – the transformation of the Eucharist into real flesh and real blood. The miracle took place during the celebration of Holy Mass in response to a Basilian Monk’s doubts about the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Various research and tests were conducted since the 16th century, the last one having been done in the early ‘70’s. The tests conclude the following: The Flesh is real Flesh. The Blood is real Blood. The Flesh and the Blood belong to the human species. The Flesh consists of the muscular tissue of the heart, complete in its essential structure. The Flesh and the Blood have the same blood-type: AB (Blood-type identical to that which is found on the Holy Shroud of Turin). The preservation of the Flesh and of the Blood, which were left in their natural state for twelve centuries and exposed to the action of atmospheric and biological agents, remains an extraordinary phenomenon.

Of all the miracles reported in the Gospels, only the Miracle of the Loaves and Fish is reported in all four Gospels. Today’s excerpt comes from St. John’s account. It is one of the most memorable events in Jesus’ public ministry. It was not only a meal but also a revelation of Jesus’ divinity and His messianic mission. The Church has recognized, since her earliest beginnings, that this miracle is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. In fact, the structure follows a similar pattern. After having instructed them with His word, He then feeds them. The miracle shows His divine power over matter. It shows His concern for the physical needs of His people. More so, however, as this miracle is an anticipation of the Eucharist, it shows His divine concern for their spiritual needs – His deep desire for communion with His people. St. Paul teaches us this in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation (communion) with the blood of Christ? The bread we break, is it not a participation (communion) with the body of Christ?” St. Augustine explains that as normal food goes into man to serve him, to build him up, this food is stronger than man. Consequently, the process is reversed. This special food is not assimilated by us, we are assimilated by it – taken up into it become one with – enter into communion with – Christ Himself.

We are ever mindful then, of what we bring to this table. Just as the followers of Jesus came to Him with their own sufferings, their need for healing, with their shame, sinfulness, anxiety, grief, ups and downs, joys and sorrows. So, we too, bring the totality of ourselves to this Heavenly banquet. We meet Him here. And for His part, Jesus knows what He is going to do for us. He takes what we have, He takes what we bring, and through the hands of His priest, offers it to the Father to be transformed into Himself. Jesus takes us up into Himself in this miracle of the Eucharist. He feeds us too with His own Body and Blood. We ought to have no doubts about this miracle, about what takes place on this altar. For truly, Our Lord comes to us, truly He feeds us. We must, however, strive for this communion. We must do our part. As St. Paul urges us in today’s second reading to: “live in a manner worthy of the calling you have received.” We have all received the call to communion with God. That communion – becoming one with Him – is manifest to us in the Holy Eucharist. As such, we must receive Holy Communion in a way that fosters that communion, that encourages our drawing closer to God. It starts by praying constantly – daily communication with our Lord. It continues by making visits to the Blessed Sacrament – a simply “popping-in” to say hello to a friend. We should be mindful of the state of our souls before coming to receive Holy Communion and refrain from receiving if we are in the state of mortal sin and thus avoid committing a sacrilegious act. We have to tap into those means of grace in which He communicates His forgiveness to us in the Sacrament of Penance on a regular basis. And of course, come to Mass receive Holy Communion as often as we are able. For the real miracle is not so much the loaves and fish, rather, the real, the most amazing miracle of all is the fact that God calls us to communion with Him – to be one with Him – through the means of simple bread and simple wine.

There can be no doubt about this – the Incarnate Word of the Father becomes food for us and makes us one with Him. Let us approach this sacrament with the greatest humility and with hearts longing for His love.



Fr. Jon Reardon




Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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