St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading: “Do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery.” Persons who get drunk lose control of their senses: hands and feet get numb, speech gets slurred, and balance begins to stagger. Eventually the voice gets louder, words become vulgar and gestures become erratic. And if one does not quit, even the decisions that are made become stupid, touch becomes abrasive or inappropriate, black-outs happen and even choices can be made that can end one’s life and the life of others. The sad irony is this: all the while, the drunken person actually thinks they look sober, suave or in control. When, in fact, they are boorish, disheveled, rude and inconsiderate. Even if one were to get drunk by oneself, a person loses their own senses and can give into angry thoughts, lustful desires or despairing attitudes. In a nut shell, this is why drunkenness is a serious sin. And adults, even parents or siblings, who buy alcohol for minors not only break civil law, they break God’s law. God charges adults to protect minors from foolishness but providing alcohol to minors creates an environment for youth to cause themselves and others embarrassment, rivalry and harm. Like I used to tell students at Bishop Carroll, those who drink on Fridays are often the topic of gossip on Mondays. We are called to protect children from that hurt.
It is very frequently said that people drink heavily in order to let go of anxiety or to escape life. Timid people feel looser and social people feel highly interactive. But we must remember that there is a difference between revelry and joy. Revelry actually insults life, saying that life is not worth embracing but escaping. And the drunkenness that leads to debauchery, does make a person free but actually alters their personality, and makes them less like themselves.
Life is intended to be lived, not escaped. And the freedom Jesus calls us to is a freedom to be ourselves, not alter ourselves. Jesus himself said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). And again, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:1). Life is good and is meant to be embraced in joy. True joy is not found in revelry that comes from alcohol. Rather true joy comes from drinking, not from a bottle, but the Chalice of Christ, that gives us life in the Spirit. True life, is not meant to be escaped but, is to be lived in the Spirit. This is in fact the main point St. Paul was making, “Do not get drunk on wine that leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,” he says, “addressing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”
Sixteen hundred years ago St. Ambrose spoke about drinking in the Spirit, “Let us drink with joy,” he says, “the sober intoxication of the Spirit!... He who becomes drunk with wine staggers, but he who becomes intoxicated with the Holy Spirit is rooted in Christ. How truly excellent is this intoxication which produces the sobriety of the soul!” Did you notice how life the Holy Spirit is just the opposite of worldly drunkenness? Getting drunk on wine makes one stagger and fall, says St. Ambrose; but getting intoxicated on the Spirit makes on “rooted in Christ.” Getting drunk on wine makes one lose their senses; but getting intoxicated on the Spirit produces “sobriety of the soul.” Worldly drinking attempts to escape life; spiritual drinking causes one to embrace life to the full! As St. Augustine said, commenting on this very passage, “I like this kind of intoxication!”
Intoxication in the Spirit, being filled with the blood of Christ, is just the opposite of worldly drunkenness. Worldly drinking causes one to lose his senses, drinking in the life of Christ brings us back to our senses. Worldly drinking makes one loud, vulgar and erratic; being intoxicated in the Spirit leads us to sing “spiritual songs” and speak the name of Jesus. Worldly drinking causes one to black out, get injured or to lose one’s life; intoxication on the blood of Christ enlightens our minds, heals the soul and fills our whole being with life. Worldly drunkenness is foolishness; but our first reading tells us to drink in wisdom: “Wisdom,” it says, “has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table… come, eat of my food, and drink the wine I have mixed.” What is this table? What is this meat? What is this wine of wisdom? It is this Eucharist. The table is the altar, the meat is Jesus’ flesh and the wine is Jesus’ blood.
In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink, and he repeats himself several times:
• 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.
• 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.
Why did he repeat himself so many times? So that we can know that he is really serious. His flesh is true food, and his blood is true drink. Consider a parent who tells a child to do something four times:
• Unless you clean your room you cannot go swimming on the last day of summer.
• Whoever cleans his room can go swimming on the last day of summer.
• A truly clean room is the only way you get to go swimming on the last day of summer.
• Whoever cleans his room can remain at the swimming pool on the last day of summer.
Repetition is a form of emphasizing a literal teaching. You see, in 2010 a survey from Pew Forum showed that only 63% of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is real flesh and real blood. That means 37% of Catholics think that what we receive at Communion is some form of bread and wine, but not actual flesh and blood. But Jesus so explicitly repeated himself in the Gospel today so that we can know that when the Priest takes the bread and wine and says “This is my body; this is my Blood,” that what we actually receive is Jesus’ own flesh and blood. The bread and wine cease being bread and wine, what remains is only the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ himself.
So when we come forward in a few moments to receive Communion, we are actually being filled with Jesus own body and blood! We are being intoxicated with the life of Jesus. Our flesh, literally digests his flesh, our blood literally mingles with his blood, and we become inebriated with Christ. Pull out the missalette in your pew and look at the prayer called the Anima Christi. Notice what it says, “Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me!” So St. Paul says, and I almost want to cry it out loud, “Do not get drunk on wine that leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Do not try to escape life… embrace the life of Christ! Do not lose your senses… fill your senses with the vision of God. To not revel in foolishness… relish the joy of the Spirit. As our first reading said, “Forsake foolishness that you may live!” Walk away from the old life of sin, selfishness or foolishness. Walk into the life of holiness, selflessness and wisdom! If you have a problem with alcohol put down the bottle and receive the Eucharist, He is the real cocktail of life. If life is difficult or burdensome, do not try to escape by revelry, but run to the chapel and sing in Spirit. Come, and receive the flesh and blood of Christ which restores joy, fills you with true life!!! Come and, as our Psalm said, taste and see that the Lord is good.