Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Tangible
Sally and Sam Jones made a parenting mistake that they deeply regret. They are really good parents, but even good parents make an error in judgment. What happened is that Kathy, their nine year old daughter, wanted to go to her first sleep over with some of her school friends. Sally knew the families of the friends and felt that Kathy would be fine. Sally forgot to inquire as to exactly what the children would be doing, and, if they watched anything, what they would be watching. And Kathy saw her first really frightening horror movie.
The nightmares started immediately. They continued for a week. Kathy would scream, scare her parents, and then beg to sleep with them. After a week of this, Sally told her that she needed to stay in her room and not climb into Mommy and Daddy’s bed at night. “You have your stuffed animals to keep you company. Better than that, pray to Jesus to watch over you.”
“But I need more than that,” Kathy complained. “I need someone to hold me.”
And so do we. We need the tangible. We need someone to hold us, protect us and give us courage. And the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became one of us. But that wasn’t enough. He gave us His Flesh and Blood. He comes into us, and we come into Him. And He holds us, protects us, and gives us courage.
The Bogeyman as Kathy feared might not exist, but there is so much around us that horrifies us. I have really felt a sense of horror this summer. Perhaps, you have too. ISIS and its affiliate organization regularly assaults young teenage girls selling them into sex slavery. Those carrying out these atrocities are encouraged to do this by their religious leaders. These religious leaders do not want the soldiers to be burdened by their consciences which would naturally tell them that what they were doing was grossly immoral. I cannot help but be in horror at what is happening in our world. By the way, I was speaking to Fr. Gregory Ogbenika about the 276 Nigerian school girls who a number of years ago were abducted by Boko Haram, an ISIS affiliate. Some of them were released, Fr. Gregory told me that all those who were released were pregnant. How can we learn about this and not be horrified?
I have been given the privilege to hear countless confessions of teenagers from all over the country. God bless these honest children of God who are putting up a huge struggle against not just peer pressure, but the pressure of an industry targeting them for addiction. What remains shocking to me is not just the huge number of teen boys and men of all ages addicted to porn, but the growing number of teen girls and women who are being particularly groomed to become addicted customers. For teens, peer pressure is difficult enough. Now they have to fight against a huge industry intent to destroy them for the sake of increasing their profit. Horrifying.
The revelations of Planned Parenthood’s mad grasp for money in the most terrible ways and the media’s depiction of pro-life objectors as being anti-woman, is also horrifying. This organization is responsible for a holocaust of females, destroying lives sometimes merely for being female instead of male, as well as the lives of women who have to spend the rest of their days bearing the burden of an abortion. Its claim to be the protector of women’s rights is as ludicrous as its claim that public money is not used for abortions. How can we learn about this and not be horrified?
There are bogeymen out there. Unlike Kathy, our nightmares are a reality. Like Kathy, we need something tangible to hold on to, and something tangible to protect us.
And He gave us His Body and Blood.
During these last four weeks we have dealt with high theology as we meditate on the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. It was tempting to continue the theological exposition today by developing the dogma of the Real Presence, but I, we, don’t need theology today. We need Jesus to be inside of us at communion. We need his protection against the nightmares of our times. We need His Strength to fight against the bogeymen.
We need to eat His Body and drink His Blood, and be so overwhelmed by His Love that our world view is transformed by His Presence within us, and our presence within Him. We need to chew upon Him, grind Him with our teeth. That’s what Jesus tells us to do in the exact translation of today’s gospel. We need to drink His Blood and feel His warmth through our veins. We need something tangible, Someone tangible, to hug us, to protect us and to strengthen us to join Him in the fight against the horrors of our world.
We need to receive communion. We need the Presence of Our Lord to protect us from the evil that attacks us and the death that has a grip on the world.
We need the Bread of Life.