Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Eucharist: 100% Jesus!

From the Catholic Liturgy for Corpus Christi Sunday, June 18, 2017. John 6:51-58. Today’s celebration of Corpus Christi Sunday calls our attention to what is perhaps the most startling yet marvelous of all the biblical teachings of Catholicism: the daily miracle of the changing of bread and wine into the actual Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ! If this sounds incredible and borderline ridiculous to some of you then you are not alone. Did you hear in today’s Gospel how many of those who first heard Jesus teach about it reacted with passion and disgust? “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

You see the problem wasn’t that they misunderstood Jesus. They knew clearly what he was saying. The problem was that they did not have faith in his word. They did not believe in who he was and what he could do. The bread that he planned to give would not be a just a symbol of his Body or a remembrance of his Blood poured out for us. No, it would be the real thing, the real Jesus, 100%. This was too much for many of them and the end of this chapter (which is not read at today’s liturgy) informs us that many of these disciples walked away from Jesus, but that Peter and others remained with him saying, “Lord we believe that you speak words of truth, word of eternal life.” They did not understand, but they trusted. They believed. And so here we are 2,000 years later, just like them. 

Let’s ask for the grace to have a stronger and deeper faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. And let’s never forget what Pope Francis says: that Jesus gave us this awesome Gift in order to be the powerful medicine of the sick and nourishment for the weak. Pope Francis warns us not to treat Holy Communion as a prize for the perfect, but to realize that when we receive the Lord with faith in His Real Presence and sorrow for sin and love for Him in our hearts, then he forgives us our everyday sins and walks with us though the ups and downs of our everyday lives.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

JOhn 3:16. It's Way More Than a Slogan!

From the Catholic Liturgy for Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2017. John 3:16-18.  When one examines the great religions of the world, it immediately become crystal clear that two doctrines in particular distinguish us Christians:  the Trinity and the Incarnation. The mystery of the Blessed Trinity teaches us that God is love, a community of Persons, and it is the nature of love to out outside of itself for the sake of others. Which is why we also have our unique Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, that is, of the Son of God taking on flesh and becoming human in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. This is precisely the theme of today's liturgy which gives praise and worship to the Blessed Trinity. This is why the Church chose today's Gospel to celebrate this great mystery of our God Who is Love.

The opening sentence of today's Gospel, John 3:16, is the most popular verse of the New Testament.  We often see it at sports events, in the eye black of athletes and on t-shirts and bumper stickers.  It is actually a summary of the entire message of the whole Bible: "God so love the world that he sent his only Son, so that whoever believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life."  If you memorize that one verse, you will have in your mind and heart entire message of the Bible: the Law and Prophets of the Old Testament, as well as the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament, all rolled into one!

Today's Gospel is only 3 sentences long and yet it uses the word "believe" 4 times. That should get our attention and make us wonder what it means "to believe".  When we say, "I believe" we usually mean that we are giving intellectual agreement to a truth about God. And this is, indeed, one aspect of it. But what the Gospel of John means by "believing" is not an intellectual act. John means trusting, hoping, relying upon Jesus. It is much the same as when we say to someone "I believe in you!" when we want to show them our confidence in them to accomplish a task. John is telling us that those who live in a personal relationship of love, of trust, of confidence in Jesus will not be disappointed in this life or upon transitioning into the next.

So, on this Trinity Sunday we are reminded that each one of us is passionately and individually loved by God the Father, who gave up his only Son. . We are reminded that each one of us is passionately and individually loved by God the Son, Jesus our Savior, who died and rose up for us. And that each one of us is passionately and individually loved by God the Holy Spirit, whom the Father and the Son send into our hearts as the gift and proof of their great love.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Breath of Divine Life

From the Catholic Liturgy for Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 2017. Acts 2: 1-11; John 20:19-23.  NOTE: I knocked the recorder off the shelf about 6 minutes into this homily so that last couple of minutes are a bit hard to hear).

We Christians are doubly blessed to have two forms of life: natural life and supernatural life. And while they share some similar needs for proper growth and functioning, they are also very different. Through birth from our mothers we enter into our natural life, our physical life. And while the details of this life differ greatly vary among us, there are things we all must to do sustain and nurture it: we must breath and receive nourishment; we have to take care of ourselves and grow in maturity so that we can contribute to the well-being of the entire human family. Our supernatural life, the life of grace in our spiritual immortal souls, can be spoken about in much the same way. We first receive this life through birth from our mother the Church in the Sacrament of Baptism. It is nourished by the heavenly food and drink of the Eucharist and when wounded by sin it is healed in the Sacrament of Confession. This life of God within us is deepened and strengthened by Confirmation, which also provides us with gifts to be put at the service of God and others.

But the most fundamental thing that both our natural and supernatural lives need is breathing. And that’s where today’s Pentecost celebration of the Holy Spirit comes into play. You see in both of the ancient languages of the Bible, Hebrew and Greek, the one same word that means “breath” or “air” or “wind” also means Spirit. So how does the Holy Spirit bring this life-breath of God into us? Through the Christian community, the Church, primarily through the Sacraments, which practically speaking for us means through the parish.  And this is why our active participation in parish life is so very important! Our life, our supernatural life, literally depends upon it!  Where do we first receive the Spirit in Baptism and have his presence strengthened within us in Confirmation? Through the parish! Where are we fed with the Bread of Life in Holy Communion and receive healing for our bodies or souls by Confession and Anointing of the Sick? Through the parish!  It is no coincidence that whenever a government is hostile to the Faith seeks to destroy it, the first thing it goes after are the parishes. They are the heart of the Christian community.

Another way the Holy Spirit acts in a parish to give life is through the generosity of parishioners who put the gifts of the Spirit they have received at the service of God and others. It might be singing or playing an instrument to enhance worship; it might be compassion and understanding to minister to the sick and the poor; perhaps its teaching and the desire to share the Gospel with others; or perhaps you are a prayer-warrior who spends time in Eucharistic Adoration asking God to bless and strengthen us. The list is really endless. Whatever it might be, each one of you has received a gift to build up our parish and contribute to its life, the life of God. Check out today’s bulletin. Let’s be grateful to the Spirit for making each one of us his living temples. Grateful for the life he brings to us through the Sacraments. And grateful for the gifts he has bestowed upon each one of us so that like the disciples, we can go out and tell others about Jesus and all he has done for us.