Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

The Rest of the Homily

June 24th, 2019, Promulgated by Diane Harris

It is not unusual to get calls from friends who have heard something preached (or seen something done) in their parish, wondering sincerely if it is “right” or “wrong.” It is not difficult for any of us to answer that the priest should “say the black” and “do the red” from the text in the Missal which lies upon the altar. But regarding what was said in a homily, it usually takes a few separate inputs to understand what was said if one isn’t present to hear it. So, although I did not hear the homily to which I now react, I have heard enough similar homilies to at least offer an opinion.

No, I am not claiming any “teaching” office by doing so; rather, I am simply inputting as a child of God who loves the Holy Word. As daughter of the most High God, washed in the blood of the Lamb, and a Temple of the Holy Spirit, I have a right to do so (and so do you), providing we do not contradict what the Church teaches. In that spirit, I offer a reaction to what was preached in a well known DoR church this past Sunday, by a guest preacher, in the general sense that “I’ve heard it before.” And, on one occasion, my response to the speaker’s false assertions was clearly unwelcome, thus even all the more necessary. I sense that those who were uncomfortable with the recent words from the pulpit, knew already in their hearts that “This isn’t Church Teaching.” I would much prefer to laud the sermon I did hear, faithfully preached, but that is not what I need to do at this moment. So, the homiletic words came in what, for the moment, is an unnamed church with an unnamed guest preacher (which I suppose partly mitigates the offense since guest preachers are like a box of chocolates, right? One never knows what one is getting!)

Corpus Christi

This past Sunday was the great Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the celebration of the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ in His Eucharistic Presence, given in the Upper Room at the Last Supper, given also upon the Cross, and given to us at the Mass, every day, as the Holy Sacrament of the Altar: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Lectionary prescribes the Gospel this year for Corpus Christi to be from Luke, Chapter 9, verses 11b to 17. It is the story of Christ’s multiplication of the loaves and fish. This particular miracle (a “sign” as John the Evangelist calls it) is recounted in all four Gospels, a unique repetition. Moreover, if one closely studies the words, it is not difficult to conclude that Christ did such a miracle more than once, hence any variation among those Gospels is easily accounted as due to multiple occasions in which the itinerant preacher (Jesus) taught, even on opposite sides of the Sea of Galilee.

How could a guest preacher mess up this familiar Gospel? By undermining the very perception of miracle, in attributing the feeding to Christ’s preaching skills, getting the crowd to share with each other from their own alleged picnic baskets, and “opening their hearts” to each other, implied as even being a so-called greater miracle. The guest preacher set that in front of his Sunday Morning Innocents as a seemingly valid interpretation and for their own discernment, while asking the manipulative question which was the greater ‘miracle?’ In other words, the alternate interpretation is much like a Protestant Church on a Sunday morning, all preaching (some of which is very good; some very poor) but devoid of the bread, empty of the Eucharistic Presence. What is the greater miracle? Not the rhetoric, no matter how tilted the question, but the TRUTH, the absolute TRUTH, through 2000 years of consistent and persistent teaching.

Testimony to the TRUTH

We look at other texts, buried within the miracle of multiplying the loaves and fish, to affirm the TRUTH of the four-Gospel narrative.  Consider these words from that aforementioned Lectionary reading of Luke,

“Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place.”  Does this sound like 5000 people with full picnic baskets? (Luke 9:12). See also Mark 6:35-37 for similar language.

 “… Jesus said to Philip, ‘How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?’ This He said to test him, for He himself knew what He would do.”  (John 6:5b-6) Jesus knew what He, Jesus, would do.  Notice that Philip doesn’t reply that the people have plenty of food, rather he confirms that there is very little food present. And that, my friends, is the point, they didn’t have any food or Philip would not have pointed to the lack of food. If they didn’t have any food, how can a “scholar” argue that they “shared.”

Further, Andrew would not have said: “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9).  Does this sound like a people with even half full picnic baskets?

Search the other Gospels to read the same kind of words in describing the miracle, yes miracle, of the loaves and fish: See Matthew Chapters 14 and 15. We especially note Matthew 15:32: “Then Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”  How can anyone, much less a serious scholar, argue from this text that the people had plenty of food to share?

What else can we point to besides the words reflecting poverty of rations to reinforce that Jesus Himself worked an incredible miracle? We certainly have the words in the miracle text itself, that Christ commanded them to be in groups of 50 (a very “Pentecostal” reflection of the Holy Spirit) and we have Christ’s words to the Father, thus a Trinitarian presence. Are we prepared to say that Christ’s powerful prayer was ineffective? That it was staged to be something it wasn’t? To deliberately deceive? Do we dare to demean the work of Christ as play acting to mislead about His Powers? Absolutely not! It is far beneath the Inherent Dignity of the Godhead to mislead souls about the TRUTH. It is, moreover, insulting to try to sell such a story to faithful Christians.

More Testimony

And, wait, there is more testimony from Christ Himself. The people who have just been fed travel to Capernaum to find Jesus, and when they find Him, they ask “Rabbi, when did You come here?” Jesus goes right to the heart of the matter: Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on Him has God the Father set His seal.” Then they said to Him, what must we do, to be doing the works of God? Jesus answered them: “This is the work of God, to believe in Him Whom He has sent.” It is ironic, is it not, that instead of believing in the miracle of the loaves and fish which Christ worked, that some would rather believe in themselves and full picnic baskets than in Him whom the Father sent!  (John 6:25b-29.)

And, as if this were not enough, there is further testimony by Christ to His own miracle. In Mark 8:14-21 it is reinforced that collecting the fragments after the crowd had eaten to its satisfaction was indeed part of the proof of Divine Intervention.

“Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And He cautioned them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, ‘We have no bread.’ And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?’ They said to Him, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?’ And they said to Him, ‘Seven.’ And He said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’”

Quite frankly, anyone who buys into the idea that the people produced their own feeding, that Christ was only a lecturer, an effective preacher, bows to what Satan said to Eve in Genesis 3:5 about her eating the forbidden fruit: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Those words are a warning about the weakness of humans to want to believe they’ve done it all themselves, that they too are ‘gods.’ Just so, the evil one sought to use loaves in the temptation of Christ in the desert: “And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’  But He answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’’” And here is a personal assertion: any scholar explaining away Christ’s miracles has already joined the foe, and is covered in foolishness, not in cleverness or insightfulness.

The loaves, in particular, are a key testimony to God’s care for His people. The manna was dropped in the wilderness to feed not 5000 for an evening but about a million people for 40 years and gives a true perspective of the magnitude of God’s protection of His people. The Holy loaves which David and his men ate (which only a priest could eat) is an incredible foreshadowing of eating what is holy for our own survival! Why, then, is the multiplication of the loaves such a target? Is it not because bread undergoes transubstantiation at the hands of the priest, to give us food for eternal life? The evil one must hate the very appearance of bread. For Christ words echo down through the millennia (John 6:50-51):

“This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

Shame on you, O Guest Preacher, for feasting on the uncertainty of souls.


7 Responses to “The Rest of the Homily”

  1. christian says:

    I would like to start out by clarifying that I wasn’t at a church this Sunday where a guest preacher gave the homily and did not receive the message that multiplication of loaves was Jesus’ motivating the crowd to share their resources with others rather than a supernatural event and provision brought on by Jesus.

    But I have heard that same homily message you have described by a guest priest preacher this Sunday, preached many years ago, probably by a different priest preacher at a different parish church. I believe this line of thinking with regard to the Gospel was taught from the latter 60’s onward and I can’t help but think there is a tie to the social justice movement; one that is based on Jesus Christ as a teacher, prophet, and social activist, but apparently leaving out Jesus Christ as the son of God, Savior, Risen Christ, and Redeemer.

  2. christian says:

    My sister has pointed out that the multiplication of the loaves and fishes being explained away as Jesus motivating people to share their resources with others, has its roots in Scottish scholar and theologian William Barclay who gained widespread fame and popularity.

  3. Diane Harris says:

    How interesting! Barclay was also the villain in this post:
    Would you be surprised if it were the same pastor / same church?

  4. raymondfrice says:

    I have heard many homilies over the years,some generated by Barclay’s thinking and others from the German critical thinkers group who termed their thinking to be accurate but more “grounded in reality” than other thinkers of the time. I once heard a “German” thinker say that Moses did not really see the burning bush but the setting sun shining behind the bush and giving the appearance it was on fire.
    An amusing solution to feeding the 5k might be that many shared the bread and fish they had with them but some did not, so they were short on these items, so Jesus made up for it. Doesn’t Jesus do this for us many times?? We do the possible and when it is not enough, Jesus makes up for it by doing the impossible??

  5. raymondfrice says:

    As a postscript of what is going on everywhere, someone told me that the American Catholic Church is the only Protestant denomination that recognizes the pope.

  6. christian says:

    I don’t know church what guest speaker spoke at this past Sunday for the Feast of Corpus Christi, but when looking at the bulletin of the parish connected with the church where I first heard that message many years ago, their on June 2, 2019 bulletin didn’t have the William Barclay quote wasn’t on front of their bulletin.

    Years ago, I heard a priest theologian pastor, also a guest speaker, retreat master, and professor of theology, give talks at a church which since is no longer part of the Diocese of Rochester as it had been closed and sold. The priest theologian pastor who traveled around giving talks and retreats, is also no longer part of the Diocese of Rochester.

    This priest pastor theologian earlier on, relayed that Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, was not a virgin after Jesus was born, but had other children by Joseph. There were some people who were disturbed by his proclamation as they relayed it had gone against what they had been taught as a child. I had heard this mentioned in years prior so I did not have the same reaction as some others who were hearing for the first time. He relayed it was new thinking of bible scholars and theologians, brought about research and study. I would have probably been more upset if he denied the virgin birth of Jesus, which he didn’t.

    One of his talks was attended by a group of religious sisters. In his talk, he stated there was no Hell. (I think he also said there was no Devil). He stated everyone goes to Heaven. The religious sisters all got up as a group and walked out when he relayed there was no Hell and everyone automatically went to Heaven.

    I am not a theologian or bible scholar, but I felt I had to stay after his talk to address his teaching and the subject matter in his talk. He relayed the theory of everyone going to Heaven as the work of certain theologians based on mathematical equations. I told him that it was probably upsetting to him to think anyone could wind up in Hell. I told him that it was upsetting to me to think of anyone being in Hell. But I told him Hell is a real place according to our Christian faith and teaching (and the Bible) and the Devil is real.

    No one likes to dwell on evil, Hell, or the Devil, but I thought I needed to point that out as a reality, otherwise people -everyone-all of us-wouldn’t recognize when we were being tempted and we would not be able to discern good from evil. We would not be able to keep choosing the better, more perfect way, out of love, dwelling on the spiritual, concerned with how our actions effect God, others, and our self, if we did not know that way leads to Eternity with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through God’s grace and saving power. We would not know to choose that Way if we didn’t know there was the Devil, know we could be tempted, and understand good from evil. Otherwise, we might choose the worse, more selfish way, out of lust, dwelling on the flesh and worldly desires, oblivious and unconcerned of our actions toward God, others, and our self, and its consequences, which leads to perdition -if one doesn’t see a need for repentance.

    So there is more than theologian William Barclay who spreads heretical teachings. I’ve heard reference to a school of theologians, a movement, and new thinking used to back some of this questionable teaching.

    And there is more speakers/priest homilists that teach questionable and heretical church teaching/tenets to the Christian faith than whoever was that guest homilist at whatever parish, this past Sunday, and the priest theologian pastor at a Diocesan church years ago.

    I think that’s why we need to discern what is being said by whatever is being said from the pulpit or other spoken teaching, and what is put in a bulletin in print or other teaching materials in print, regardless of the credentials of the person responsible for those messages. We were given the gifts of the Holy Spirit at our Confirmation -Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord -we should use those gifts for discernment and we should stand up for the Truth.

  7. christian says:

    Thank you for “The Rest of the Homily” -Well Done!

Leave a Reply

Log in | Register

You must be logged in to post a comment.

-Return to main page-