“Imported!”, By Brian Flanagan, Fiat Ventures

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

What comes to mind when you hear the word “imported”?  For me the word “fancy” comes to mind.  Someone who’s got some money in the bank might wear fine Italian fashions imported from Milan.  If you go to a fancy dinner-party, they might have a platter of imported French cheeses on the coffee table.  Even George Costanza on Seinfeld took on a fake name and told people he was an “importer-exporter” to sound fancy.

Something that’s imported can have a “fancy” quality, because it’s not your average home-made variety.  I do enjoy a good Hershey’s bar, but there’s just something about imported chocolate that puts it in a different category.

Or maybe you’ve had someone bring back a special candy or treat from a vacation in another country.  A friend of mine recently gave me this coconut pastry she brought back with her from the Philippines, and it was amazing.   I would have picked some up at the supermarket, but you can’t get those around here!

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus talks about another “imported” food; the Bread from Heaven.  His hearers at the time might have been a bit puzzled, because this was the first time they were hearing these teachings.  But for you and me, we benefit from 2,000 years of Church history, and we know precisely what Jesus means by the Bread from Heaven; it’s the Eucharist; that which looks like bread and wine that we receive every time to go to Mass, but which is so much more than that.

When the priest holds up the bread during Mass and says, “This is my body”, a heavenly reality transcends time and space and is made present right in front of us; namely Christ himself.  We can look around the Church at that moment and know where everything came from; we can see fancy marble tiles imported from Italy, and even the altar server’s light-up sneakers that were Made in China.  But on the altar at this point in the Mass, we see the Bread from Heaven.

When I think about that reality, it’s very striking because I normally think of heaven as something far away, intangible, and invisible.  But when I’m in the presence of the Bread from Heaven and see it with the eyes of faith, it all seems a little more real and concrete to me.

And just like when a family member brings us home a souvenir from their trip, it makes us want to go there!  It should be the same with the Eucharist.  Whenever we receive Communion, it should be a reminder to us that one day when our earthly life is done, our tickets are already booked for heaven.  Jesus says, “I am the bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  And we can either accept that or reject that by how we live.  So let the Eucharist be for us a reminder and an inspiration to live for heaven and strive for holiness like the saints before us, so that we can eat Filipino coconut pastries with the Creator of the Universe for ever and ever.  Amen.

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