6-18-2017, Corpus Christi
Why are non-Catholics not able receive Holy Communion? It seems non-welcoming, exclusive, and divisive that non-Catholics are not able to receive the Eucharist at Mass. And that would be true, if Holy Communion was simply about sharing a meal together. But Holy Communion is not just about sharing a meal together, rather it is much more than that. It is an expression that one is in Communion with Christ and his Catholic Church.
There were many times that Jesus ate with sinners, tax collectors, non-Jews. Jesus was famous for allowing everyone and anyone to spend time with him, to eat with him. But when it came to the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, the night that he gave us the sacrament of Holy Communion, it was only his closest twelve disciples there. When it came to the intimacy of Holy Communion, only those ‘in communion’ with him were present.
As Catholics, we were joined to Christ and the Catholic Church at our baptism or if we are converts, when we were received into the Church. That was when we entered into Communion with Christ and his Church. And the most true, the most beautiful expression of our communion with Christ is when we receive Holy Communion. Receiving Holy Communion is the consummation of our relationship to Christ and his Church. It is when, we make present, we enflesh, our communion with God. As deep, and as intimate, and as profound as the union is between husband and wife in the marital act…that is how deep, and intimate, and profound the union is between Christ and us when we receive Holy Communion. Holy Communion is a big deal!
But in the same way that sex outside of marriage, is inappropriate, it is a mortal sin. Because the man and woman are saying something untrue with their bodies. Their bodies are saying they are in communion with each other, but in reality they are not in communion with each other. They aren’t in communion because they haven’t been joined in the Sacred Covenant of Holy Matrimony.
In the same way if a non-Catholic receives Holy Communion, they are saying something untrue. The act of receiving Holy Communion expresses, it says that I am in full communion with Christ and his Catholic Church, when in reality they are not…So it’s not about not being welcoming or mean, it’s that, we don’t want them to express something that isn’t true. And in fact, even if we are at non-Catholic Church and even if we are invited to, we still shouldn’t receive the bread at their Church because we would be saying something untrue as well. Because we aren’t in communion with that Church.
But it isn’t just non-Catholics who are unable to receive Holy Communion. Catholics who are not in right relationship with Christ should not receive Communion. That means those who are conscious of mortal sin should not go to Communion. If we commit a mortal sin. An offense that rejects God’s love and life. Then we rupture our relationship with him. We are no longer in Communion with him. Therefore, we need to reconcile with God in Confession first before receiving Holy Communion. Otherwise, once again we would be lying.
If we could see what happens to the body and soul of a person who receives the Eucharist worthily, we’d be blown away. How it shines brilliantly as a sign of the love shared between God and us. The soul is filled with God’s very own divine life. We’d also be blown away if we could see what happens to the body and soul of a person who receives the Eucharist unworthily, how ugly and disfigured the soul becomes.
And this isn’t my teaching. I only preach the gospel truth of Jesus Christ. And I preach on this because it is important, our salvation rests on it.
This is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion” (CCC 1385).
And then St. Paul. He writes this in the chapter following our second reading. He writes, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29).
St. Paul would go on to say that some people because they were receiving unworthily, were getting sick and some were even dying. Listen to St. Paul again, “That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying” (1 Cor 11:30).
If we miss Mass, we are saying there is something more important than God. Or if we have committed another mortal sin, this breaks our relationship with God and we need to go to confession before we receive Communion again. We have the Sacrament of Confession available every day and before most Masses. So there is really no excuse for receiving Holy Communion in a state of sin.
And if for some reason we can’t make it to Confession, there is no shame in not going up for Communion, in fact it expresses a deep faith in the Eucharist not to go to Communion. It says, “Jesus, I believe you are here present in the host. I want communion with you, but I know I am not ready, so I will wait until I make a good confession.” It expresses a deep faith not to go to Communion, if we know we are not right with God.
I think knowing this teaching can help us. Because when we know that if choose to not to go to Mass, or if I commit another serious sin I’ll have to go to confession before going to Communion. Then when I’m tempted in such a way we’ll have a little more umphf, courage to stay faithful to persevere and not sin.
Many of you here have a profound faith in the Eucharist. Many of you spend hours in adoration. You cherish receiving the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. You relish that Communion with God. It is the most intimate and personal communion with God possible this side of heaven…But I want to share a story of one young Chinese girl’s extreme faith in the Eucharist.
When the Communists took over China, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory near the Church. After they locked him up in his own house, the priest was horrified to look out of his window and see the Communists proceed into the Church, where they went into the sanctuary and broke into the tabernacle. In an act of hateful desecration, they took the ciborium and threw it on the floor with all of the Sacred Hosts spilling out. The priest knew exactly the number of Hosts in the ciborium; thirty-two.
When the Communists left, they either did not notice, or didn't pay any attention to a small girl praying in the back of the Church who saw everything that had happened. That night the little girl came back.
Slipping past the guard at the house where the priest was imprisoned, she went inside the Church. There she made a holy hour of prayer, an act of love to make up for the act of hatred. After her holy hour she went into the sanctuary, knelt down, bent over and with her tongue received Jesus in Holy Communion.
Because of her faith and love of Jesus, the little girl continued to come back each night to make her holy hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue. On the thirty-second night, after she had consumed the last and thirty-second host, she accidentally made a noise and woke the guard who was sleeping. The guard ran after her, caught her, and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle. This act of heroic martyrdom was witnessed by the priest as he watched grief-stricken from his bedroom window.
My friends, this young Chinese’s girl’s faith should inspire us. This should inspire us to deepen our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It should inspire us to share our Eucharistic faith with others. It should motivate us to reject sin especially mortal sin, and most of all may we never again receive Holy Communion in a state of sin.
6.11.17 Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
In the early 1960’s during the Second Vatican Council, the bishops of the Church were discussing what should be in a document concerning Divine Revelation. It was titled, Dei Verbum. Latin for the ‘Word of God’. For many years, when a person thought of revelation in the Catholic Church, they thought of the content of the faith. The emphasis was on ‘what’ Christ taught us and what was passed on through the Catholic Church. Revelation had been focused on the ‘what’ of the faith. In the end, the bishops of the Second Vatican Council decided to go in different direction.
They did speak about the ‘what’ of the faith, but first and foremost, and the most fundamental point of the document Dei Verbum, was the ‘who’ of Divine Revelation. You all know how much I love the ‘what’ of the Faith. How committed I am to preaching the teachings of the Church. But more important than all the ‘what’ of the faith is the ‘who’. Because ultimately Revelation isn’t about what is revealed, but who is revealed. Divine Revelation is all about God revealing to the world who He is.
In just the second paragraph of Dei Verbum we read, “In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself.” And, “Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends and lives among them so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself.”
This is the reality we celebrate today on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, That God who is Father, Son, and Spirit, chose to reveal himself to us as Father, Son, and Spirit.
Why did God do such a thing? God by definition is perfectly complete in Himself. He doesn’t need us. Because if he did need us, he wouldn’t be God. So why did God choose to make himself known? Why did he reveal himself?
He revealed himself because of love! It is the nature of love for the lover to make himself known to his beloved. As we heard in our Gospel, “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son!” He wanted to unveil, he wanted to reveal himself to us.
Think of those movies or shows that have the Masquerade balls. Or maybe you have been at one yourself. And the woman is in love with this man and finds him at the ball. She knows who the man is behind his mask. But he doesn’t know who she is. So at the end of the night, she takes off her mask, revealing who she truly is. She wants to make herself known to him. Or think about your own courtship and marriage to your spouse. Think of the love you have for your spouse and how you want to make yourself totally known to him or her. You want to share with your spouse your fears, your desires, your hopes and dreams. That is the nature of love, for the lover to reveal himself to his beloved.
And then it is the case that the lover reveals himself to his beloved not only to make himself known, but also in hopes that they will share a life together. The lover wants to be with the beloved and have a life together.
In the book of Genesis, we hear “That a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife and they become one flesh.” Becoming one flesh is primarily about their bodies being joined, but the one flesh union more significantly represents that their whole lives are one. They are on an adventure together. That they are sharing a life together. That’s what lovers want. They want to share their lives together.
It’s the same thing with God. He reveals himself so that we will live with him. He reveals himself so that we will share life in the communion of the Most Holy Trinity. God wants us to be a part of his very own Trinitarian life.
St. John says, “Anyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God” (1 Jn. 4:15). Speaking even more clearly of sharing Gods divine life, St. Peter says, “Through grace, we may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). The Church Fathers, those earliest Christians called this divinization. They said, “God became man that man may become God.”
St. Catherine of Siena spoke of this sharing in the life of God similar to full immersion in water. She said, “You, O Eternal Trinity, are a deep ocean, into which the more I penetrate, the more I discover, and the more I discover, the more I seek you.”
Friends, God revealed himself and continues to reveal himself to us personally so that we may share in his divine life, the life of the Most Holy Trinity. He offers us his own divine, supernatural, eternal life. God offering us his divine life would be like us offering a cockroach our human life. It is absolutely extraordinary what is being offered to us, what is being offered to you. And he offers it to you because you are so worth it. He created you so good and you are so worth his life. Each and everyone here, you are lovable, you are worthy, you are good. And never believe anything to the contrary. You are so worth his love. He wants YOU!
Let’s not leave him hanging. Let’s respond wholeheartedly to his offer. Let’s ponder and meditate and reflect on what sharing in the life of the Blessed Trinity would be like. Let’s have it motivate us to race forward towards God. Let’s have it convict us to no longer be indifferent or lukewarm to the things of God but recommit ourselves to loving and serving him with all our heart, soul, and mind.
Most Blessed Trinity, we come before you as your sons and daughters. You reveal yourself to us out of love, as it is the nature of love to reveal oneself. You want us to know you and know you as a Trinity of Divine persons united in love. And ultimately you revealed yourself because you want to share a life with us, eternal life, your very own Divine and Trinitarian life. Help us to grasp the greatness of this offer, allow us to meditate on this profound mystery, and immerse us in the ocean of your divine love and life. Immerse us in the life of the Most Holy Trinity!
6.4.17 Pentecost, Year A
Yesterday, scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post by a young man from my old parish, he’s twenty-five years old or so. He posted something expressing a very common attitude and belief these days. An attitude that we can call religious relativism. He said, “I may hold true to the faith I was raised with as a spiritual foundation, but I will never claim I have the answer, and I will never doubt someone else's beliefs. I am but connected to a world of unity.” It sounds good and nice, 99% of the world would agree, but it isn’t true. And he isn’t holding true to the faith he was raised in, because the faith he was raised in doesn’t hold that position. The Catholic Church doesn’t teach that one religion is as good as the other. She doesn’t teach that we are all connected to a world of unity.
Because it is only the Holy Spirit that brings true unity. The Holy Spirit is the unifying force in the world. It is only the Holy Spirit that truly unites men and women.
We heard in our first reading that, “there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.” And because of the Holy Spirit, “Each of them heard the apostles speaking in their own language.” These Jews from the twelve tribes of Israel scattered and divided since the time of King Solomon, they were baptized and once again united. But it wasn’t just the Jews who were reunited. God desired all men to be united, and so we hear that “there were travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,” as well. They were among the three thousand baptized that day. It is the Holy Spirit that brought them together as a people.
Listen to St. Paul speak from our second reading, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” Only God himself, only the Holy Spirit is capable of uniting people of different nations and languages. There is only true unity through the Holy Spirit received through baptism.
St. Irenaeus uses the image of dry flour and how it becomes dough. He says, “Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. [The Holy Spirit]” So while all peoples can be said to share the same human nature, we are all made in image and likeness of God, true unity though, we only become part of the same family of God, sons and daughters of the Father, that only comes when we share the same Spirit received through baptism. So it’s not enough to be content and complacent when there are many who aren’t united through the Holy Spirit in the one Body of Christ. It’s not good enough to just live and let live.
So this annual feast of Pentecost is not just to remember the original gift of the Holy Spirit two thousand years ago, but rather a call to us to continuously beseech God to pour out the Holy Spirit upon us and the world so that there will be true unity. The Solemnity of Pentecost is a reminder that we must continually open ourselves up to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. We must constantly call on the Lord to give us his most Holy Spirit. “Come Holy Spirit.”
In 2008, during his Apostolic Journey to the United States, Pope Benedict called for a New Pentecost for the Catholic Church in the United States. He said, “Let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!”
He continued, “This is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centeredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people’s hearts.”
We need a new Pentecost in our Church. We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit here in our parish and in our souls. Stained glass windows are a beautiful representation of what it means to be Catholic. Look at our very own beautiful stained-glass windows here.
From the outside, they look dark and dreary, but from within the Church, they are vibrant, colorful, and alive. The same goes from the Church. From the outside, the Church can look legalistic, oppressive, and dead. But from the inside, it is an experience of joy, true freedom, and life. We must witness that joy, hope, and goodness. “Come Holy Spirit.”
And it starts with each of us individually. St. John Vianney said, that if you ask the saints in heaven why they are there, they will say because they obeyed the Holy Spirit. And if you ask the damned in hell, why they are there, they will say because they resisted the Holy Spirit.
This tells us how important our relationship with the Holy Spirit is. It’s fundamental. It’s essential. Each of us must strengthen our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit must become alive and active in our lives.
How does this happen?
1st and obvious enough, we must be in a state of Grace. We must have the saving presence of the Holy Spirit within us. If we have unconfessed serious sins on our soul, then we are resisting the Holy Spirit, we have put up obstacles to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So, we need confession, we need to have the saving presence of the Holy Spirit within us. This is what Jesus speaks of in our gospel. The Sacrament of Confession. It’s not good enough just to tell God our sins, no Jesus gave the power to forgive sins to this first disciples which was then passed on down through the ages to the priests. We must be in a state of grace.
2nd we must want the Holy Spirit to be present in our lives. The Holy Spirit is the soul’s most welcome guest. We must invoke him, we must prepare a place by removing even small venial sins from our lives. We must beseech him to enter more fully into our souls. As much as the ‘Hail Mary’ is prayed and rolls off our tongue as much should the prayer, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.” As well as shorter bursts of prayer, “Come Holy Spirit! Come Holy Spirit!”
My friends, on this Pentecost, we acknowledge the disunity in the world, but we also know the solution to the problem. The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the unifying force among all peoples. He will bring all peoples into the one Body of Christ and the confession of the one true Catholic and Apostolic faith. But we need a New Pentecost. And it starts with us individually. To implore, to welcome into our souls the grace of the Holy Spirit so that we can then bring others to Christ and his Church. “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth!”
4.30.17, 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A
What came to mind when you heard our gospel today? What did you think of when you heard what Jesus did with these two disciples? Remember what we read. We heard that “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. So, he read the Scriptures and then spoke on them. Then when they arrived at Emmaus, they were at table and Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. It should sound pretty familiar to you. What does that sound like? The Mass! Yes! On the way, they celebrated the Liturgy of the Word. Jesus proclaimed the Scriptures and then interpreted them. By the way, could you imagine being those disciples. That was the best homily ever given! Then they celebrated the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Jesus, took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. Exactly like our Mass.
This was the evening of Easter Sunday, the evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead. The first thing Jesus did publicly with anyone, was celebrate the Mass. That is no accident, that the first thing Jesus did with his followers, even if it was just two of them, was celebrate the Mass.
And it was at the end of celebrating Mass, that these disciples finally figured out that it was Jesus. They didn’t recognize Jesus until he celebrated Mass with them. We heard, “So, Jesus went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
And when the two disciples went back to Jerusalem, “The two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”
So they saw Jesus through the celebration of the Mass. Jesus was made known to them in the Eucharist. That is such an important point. They recognized Jesus in the Mass. And so our gospel poses that question to us. Do we recognize Jesus, in the breaking of bread? Do we encounter Jesus when we come to Mass?
And the biggest key to our encountering Christ in the Mass is that we understand the purpose of the Mass. We must understand the purpose of the Mass in order to encounter Christ. If we don’t know the reason for the Mass than we will not appreciate the awesomeness of the Mass.
The purpose of the Mass as the Church tells us is three-fold. There are parts to the purpose of the Mass.
1. The glorification of God
2. Through the sacrifice offered by the Body of Christ
3. Which results in the sanctification of man
So as you can see, the purpose of the Mass is not to make us feel good. That happens sometimes, but that isn’t the purpose of the Mass.
The purpose of the Mass is the glorification of God and the sanctification men and women, which happens by offering the body of Christ. We glorify God by offering the sacrifice of the Mass, and as a result we are all made holy.
Let’s take these in order. The glorification of God. Creatures are made to worship their creator. They fulfill their nature by glorifying their creator. We become better, we become more who we are meant to be when we worship God. Worship was built into creation with the cycle of the week. One day a week was given to worship of God. All peoples from the beginning of time have sought to worship God. Sometimes in very horrific ways such as human sacrifice, but that just proves that man is wired to worship God.
We are made to worship God. God must be the center of our lives, and therefore the center of our worship. When I become the center of our worship, when it becomes about me and what I feel or what I want, as it is tempting at times, then God gets pushed to the side. When God gets pushed to the side in worship, then God gets marginalized in our lives. Makes simple sense. If he’s not the priority of worship, which he has to be by definition, then we aren’t going to make him the priority of our lives.
Listen to Pope Benedict speak on this issue, “It becomes ever clearer that the existence of the Church lives on the just [correct] celebration of the liturgy, and that the Church is in danger when the primacy of God does not appear anymore in the liturgy, and therefore in life. The deepest cause of the crisis that has subverted the Church is the result of God not being the main priority in the liturgy.” The glorification of God must be the goal of the Mass.
Two. This glorification of God happens through the sacrifice offered by the Body of Christ, Christ the Head and the members of the body. Every Mass is a re-presentation of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice on Calvary. The Mass makes present the sacrifice of Christ which reconciles humanity with God. God set it up this way so that we could continually apply that one sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins and our sanctification.
Our Catechism says, “Christ our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper ‘on the night when he was betrayed,’ he left to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its saving power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.” CCC 1366
At the Last Supper, Christ gave us an unbloody sacrifice, one under the appearance of bread and wine, so that we could continually make present his once and for all sacrifice.
So at every Mass, the entire body of Christ acts as the priest and offers this sacrifice. And so, I don’t know if you know this, but this includes you. Of course, Christ the head of the body acting through the ministerial priest. But Christ is acting in all of you, through your baptism. You are Christ the body offering the sacrifice. So the entire Body of Christ acts as priest, Christ the priest. But we also act as victim. We offer the consecrated bread and wine, but we are offering all of the body of Christ, which includes all of us, members of the body of Christ. As the Body of Christ, we are priest, but also the victim being offered.
The Church tells us, “From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.”
Again you are priests. You probably don’t remember this, but when you were baptized you were anointed with sacred Chrism. You were anointed priests, prophets, and kings. You are priests called to intentionally and consciously offer Christ, offer yourself to God the father.
The Church again exhorts you as the Body of Christ. She says, “The Faithful should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration…They should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves.” SC 48
“They should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves;”
So what does this look like? How do we act as priests and offer ourselves united to the Body of Christ?
Listen to the prayers…
Think of the whole movement…
Think about all your joys, thanksgivings, struggles, sufferings, Say I place them on the altar…
Then think about placing your very self on the altar…
[When I was in the pews still, when I realized what the Mass was. A sacrifice, I would…]
And then finally, as a result of Glorifying God, by offering the sacrifice of the Mass, we are sanctified. We are made holy by offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Most perfectly when we receive the fruit of the sacrifice. The living body and blood of Christ. In Holy Communion, we consume the flesh of the Risen Lord and have the most intimate Communion with God this side of heaven. And as a result, we are sanctified, we are made holy.
My friends, every Mass, like the Mass with the two disciples, Jesus is made known to us. May we always be aware of Christ’s presence by understanding the purpose of the mass. To Glorify God, through the priestly sacrificial offering of the Mystical Body of Christ, which in turn sanctifies and makes us Holy. The Glorification of God. Through the sacrifice offered of and by the Body of Christ. Which as a result sanctifies and makes us holy.