winnie-the-pooh

Winnie the Pooh and Thomas Aquinas

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In this homily, I’m going to try to tie together Winnie the Pooh, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the readings for this Sunday’s Mass.  So, see if you can keep up and pay attention with these thoughts.

I went to see the movie, Christopher Robin. It is a Disney movie that came out recently, and Disney always has a way of making us want to become childlike again – to return to our childlike state.

In the movie, Christopher Robin, who was a young boy with Winnie the Pooh, grows up and gets a job. He goes to be educated, and he has a job doing sales. He is now too important to do childlike things. He’s too important to play. He’s too important to be with Winnie the Pooh.

We discover how Winnie the Pooh and his friends go on this great adventure to rescue Christopher Robin and to teach him how to play again. They teach him how to become childlike once more.

The classic line that goes on throughout the whole film is Winnie the Pooh saying, “I’m a bear of a very little brain.” Whenever he doesn’t understand Christopher Robin and why he’s got to work so hard or why he’s forgotten to play, Winnie the Pooh just says, “Well I’m a bear of a very little brain.”

So, that brings us to the very first reading. “Let whoever is simple turn in here.” To the one who lacks understanding, she says “Come, eat my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!  Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.”  “I am a bear of a very little brain.”

Now, here is St. Thomas Aquinas who is one of the doctors of our church; one of the greatest minds of our church, and he wrote prolifically. In fact, Jesus came to him in a mystical vision and said, “Thomas, you have written well of me.” When St. Thomas was coming to the end of his life and the end of all of his education and writing, he wrote Suma Theologica, which is this complete discourse on theology. He is about to finish his writing, and he’s there at Mass. During Mass, he comes to realize that everything that he has written is all straw.

So, during Mass, he has this experience of the Eucharist that is so profound. He comes to realize and hears the words that everything he has written is straw, and so he quit writing. After that, he never wrote another word again because he realized how profound the Eucharist is at every Mass.  He would die just a short time after that.

Now that brings us to the gospel. Jesus says, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you.” And, the Jews begin to quarrel among themselves, and they say, “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 have no life within you.”  “I’m a bear of a very little brain.”

Now, I want you to think about that for a moment.  The Jews are supposed to understand this. Jesus came, and He was born of Jewish origin. The Jewish faith, our scripture, is pointed towards Jesus coming into the world – that this great prophet would come into the world. The Son of God would come into the world, and the Jews don’t get it.

Notice they say two things to Him that are wrong. They say, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” First of all, they don’t realize that Jesus is God. They only see a man standing before them. Secondly, they don’t realize that He can give whatever He wants to give. He’s God. The disciples must admit, “I am a bear of a very little brain.” It is often the simple people that believe it. It’s usually the simple people that really believed in the Eucharist.

The university here provides an education, but if students get through their four years here, to the end of their time here, and they don’t understand that this is truly the body and blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus, then we have failed.  This is really what it’s all about.

Finally, I want to talk a little bit about the scandal that we face in our church today. Priests, bishops, and even cardinals are causing scandal in the church, and again I say, “I am a bear of very little brain.” I think all of us are asking the question, “How could this happen? I don’t get it.”

There are two ways of asking a question. I want to parallel the Jews to see how they asked the question, and then see how a disciple and the disciple of disciples – how Mary – might ask the question. The Jews ask, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” What do you think about the tone of that question? “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” See, they already think they know the answer. They think it’s not possible. How can this be?

I want to give you that same question as said by Mary. The angel Gabriel comes to Mary in a dream and says, “You will bear Jesus. You will bear the Son of God in your womb.” What does Mary say? “How can this be?” Now there’s a little bit of a tone to that question, right? Mary is saying, “Help me understand. God, how can this be?” The Jews, however, say, “How can this be? It can’t be possible.” “I am the bear of a very little brain.”

Once more, I want to direct you to the Eucharist as we think about and reflect on this beautiful reading where we hear Jesus say, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you.”

Ultimately, we have to become like St. Thomas. We have to become dumb oxen. We have to become like Winnie the Pooh and admit that we have “little brain.” No matter how much studying, or how much research, or how much scripture, or how much theology, we all have to look at this bread and wine that are held up by a sinful human priest and are transformed into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. How can this be?  “I am a bear of a very little brain.”

In just a few moments, we’re all going to experience this. I invite you to truly try to ask that question to yourself. Try to really allow Jesus to present Himself to you in the Eucharist so that when we receive Him, we too will experience something that blows us away. Then we will have an experience like Thomas Aquinas where we think that no matter how much we understand it, we really don’t understand it all. We’re really just dumb oxen. We’re just a bear with a very little brain.

About the Author Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael was ordained into priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer.

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I'm Father Michael J. Denk, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. I am a contributor of content to The Prodigal Father Productions, Inc., a non-profit corporation functioning in accord with the traditions and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The corporation and I are separate, it doesn't speak for me, the parish, or on behalf of the Diocese of Cleveland, and I do not speak for it.