Catholic homily outline for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – The Eucharist and mental prayer

Mental PrayerCentral idea and doctrine: The Eucharist, which is a scandal to some, is our daily bread and a pledge of glory to come. Practical application: Mental prayer.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

 This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 119, click here.

Central idea: The Eucharist, which is a scandal to some, is our daily bread and a pledge of glory to come

Reading 1 Prv 9:1-6

Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns;
she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
She has sent out her maidens; she calls
from the heights out over the city:
“Let whoever is simple turn in here;
To the one who lacks understanding, she says,
Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding.”

  • Who in his right mind could turn down this invitation? Beautiful wisdom has built a mansion, prepared a feast, and called us to partake.
  • But the invitation she sends her maidens to proclaim is for the simple, the ones who know they are lacking understanding, the ones who want to “forsake foolishness” in order to have life and to advance in understanding.
  • Seen in the light of Christ, this is a beautiful allegory of the Eucharist. Wisdom’s house is the Incarnate Christ. The feast is his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The maidens are the apostles. Those who hear the call are those who are simple enough to know their need for God and who want to have life.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.

Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.

  • Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Our Lord asked his apostles who remained when others left him over his words about the Eucharist: “Will you also go away?” He was making them and each one of us “a loving invitation to discover that only he has ‘the words of eternal life’” (CCC 1336). This psalm antiphon is the same invitation. Our Lord invites us to try him to see that he is good.
  • This psalm is also a perfect prayer for the Holy Mass. The celebrant invites us to taste and see God’s goodness. He praises God. He invites us to glorify God with him. He announces God’s good news to us and we who are poor are glad to hear it. We recall all that God has done for us to rescue us. And in receiving Christ our faces do not blush with shame because he has saved us. Instead, we are radiant with joy because he sanctifies us.

Reading 2 Eph 5:15-20

Brothers and sisters:
Watch carefully how you live,
not as foolish persons but as wise,
making the most of the opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore, do not continue in ignorance,
but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.
And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery,
but be filled with the Spirit,
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts,
giving thanks always and for everything
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

    • God’s wisdom calls to the simple who do not want to be simpletons.
    • This is a call to use the time we have to do good, not evil, because that is the will of God.
    • If we want to get drunk, we should not do so with wine—because that kind of drunkenness leads to sin—but with the Holy Spirit. We can never ‘drink’ enough of his grace.
    • Wisdom invites us to her feast. The Psalmist says we should look to the Lord to be radiant with joy. St. Paul says our hearts should sing thankfully to God. Our Lord says the feast of his Body and Blood will give us eternal life.
    • Paul says the way out of unhappiness begins with a reform of “how you live” and whether we making the most of the opportunity wehave right now.Therefore, if we are not happy, we should ask Our Lord in prayer why not? What will it take to have this happiness? 

Gospel Jn 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

  • Jesus’ teaching about what we call the Eucharist scandalized some of his hearers. He said they must do something shocking, revolting, and seemingly even sinful in order to gain the greatest good possible. The shocking thing was to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood.” The good to be gained was to have the life of God the Father, received through the Son, and consequently eternal life.
  • Jesus’ words “divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them.” The Eucharist and the Passion are “the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division.” His later words, “Will you also go away?” are “a loving invitation to discover that only he has ‘the words of eternal life’.” (CCC 1336)

Doctrine: The Eucharist is our daily bread and a pledge of glory

  • In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to ask, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The Catechism mines the richness contained in these words (CCC 2828-2837). You could fruitfully meditate on them during your times of mental prayer this week.
    • This petition is one of creatures looking up to their creator, of children looking up to their father and mother, of children of God looking up to God their Father. The look is one of need, and of trust, and of gratitude.
    • This petition pertains to our solidarity with every other person on earth who needs his daily bread and our own loving responsibility to help supply it if we can.
    • It pertains to our own call to help create a world in which these goods are supplied.
    • Give us our daily bread pertains to everything everyone needs, both material and spiritual goods.
    • This petition evokes the promise that God will give us everything.
    • It pertains to the daily work we do to get our daily bread.
    • It pertains to spiritual hunger: “Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” This Word is “the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist.” (CCC 2837) Man needs God’s Word. Man needs God.
    • “This day” pertains also to the day of the Lord, the feast of the kingdom, which is why the Eucharist is celebrated each day. Thus “the Eucharist is our daily bread” (CCC 2837).
    • With all this in mind, “Give us this day our daily bread” means most deeply, “Give us You, Lord,” which he does in the Eucharist.
  • Our daily bread, the Eucharist, is also the “pledge of glory to come,” an anticipation of the blessedness of heavenly life (CCC 1402-1405).
    • On the day that Christ returns, this world will pass away and he will wipe away every tear (CCC 1403-1404). Then we will see him as he is and will be made to be like him in the new heaven and earth.
    • But for now, in every Mass, “the work of our redemption is carried on” and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ” (CCC 1405).

Practical Application: Mental prayer

  • There is such a deep meaning in just one petition of the Lord’s Prayer. It takes time to “read” its meaning. We do so in silence in the presence of God, talking to him about it. The riches are there, but we may never see them unless we take the time to look.
  • In fact, in the reality of our normal lives, we are surrounded by an entire library to be read: about God, about our Catholic faith, about the people we are called to love and serve, about the meaning of marriage and the family, about civic life, about work, and about nature.
  • We can read this great book that God places in front of us through mental prayer. Each of us has a conversation with ourselves that is always taking place in our heads. Mental prayer invites God into this conversation, focusing it on something specific, like “Give us this day our daily bread,” or the Gospel reading for today’s Mass, or how my spouse is doing, or what my kids might need, or a hundred other matters that matter to you and to God.
  • God and wise human beings like order, so mental prayer should normally be done at a set time, for a set amount of time, in a set place.
    • It should be done at a set time so that it actually happens and becomes a habit. Based on our own schedule and knowledge of our mental energy level, we can determine what is a good time. Every time is good for God but not for us.
    • It should be done for a set amount of time because our time is limited and so is our energy. Fifteen minutes to a half hour is a good amount of time for many. Implicit in this decision is the declaration, “Lord, this time is yours.”
    • It should be done in a place conducive to prayer. Our Lord said we should go into our room and close the door. That room could literally be our bedroom, or some other place in our house, or while walking early in the morning, or in a chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
    • Conditions don’t always have to be perfect for us to have this conversation. If necessary we can do it in the car.
    • This conversation can be helped with the Scriptures in front of us or a good book or a journal we write in.
  • It is not good to give too many more “rules” for doing mental prayer, since this is something intimate between a person and God. It may be that God has a particular way he wants your conversation to take place, so let him lead you as you get to know each other better.
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