Archive | Eucharist RSS feed for this section

A Bit Significant?

3 Apr

communion_elements

And on the night before he died, he took bread …

(Mt 26:26-30; Mk 14:22-26; Lk 22:14-20)

Truth Cannot Contradict Itself

Do the bread and wine, when consecrated at Mass, truly become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ?

We say “Yes, Amen!” Others deny this as ridiculous—even some who claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.

So, let’s takes a look at the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to John.

Actually, we’ll focus on these verses: Jn 6:47-60, 66-69.

Six times Jesus proclaims and insists that unless we eat his body and drink his blood we cannot have life in us. Six times! Many leave him because “This is a hard saying” and they could not believe their ears.

Jesus asks them and us

Jesus turns to his disciples and challenges them: “Are you, too, going to leave me.”

And is it not at least significant that Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life?”

It is more than significant. It is divine truth, revealed to us by the Son of God made Man. It is his gift of himself for the faithful of all ages.

What we receive in the Eucharist is not the tortured and dead body of Christ on the cross. We receive him in his glorified body, that body which could walk through doors, suddenly appear on a lake shore, vanish before the eyes of the two men from Emmaus—the body that, in glory, ascended into heaven.

This question of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist culls the flock of the Lord, separates those who believe his words from those who do not.

Check the Scripture for yourself.

And another “significant” fact

In Matthew, Jesus asks the disciples, “And who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They say that the people think he is John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or some other prophet.

Then he asks them, “But who do you say that I am?”

It was Simon (Peter) who responded, “You are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Than Jesus announces that it was the Father himself who revealed this to Peter and he singles out this man for leadership:

“And so I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Is this not also more than a mere significance? It is divine truth, revealed for the good of the Church, for the unity of the Church in worship, doctrine and ministry.

Again, read the Scripture for yourself. And you may want to check it again on Holy Thursday.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Eucharist: Miracle of Presence

28 Mar

Photo by Ray Hosler

Nighttime is like our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. There is light, beautiful light, but more is promised with the dawn of greater understanding.

“Eucharist” can mean different things to different people; it is more than any human can fathom; it is mystery – but, in faith, a mystery that excites one’s imagination and offers an intimate experience of God.

The ‘Way’ We Enter into Eucharist

Eternity is timeless – no beginning and no end. It is a perpetual NOW. Everything Jesus did on earth is eternally present to the Father. So in the Mass, you enter into the one reality of salvation – all of salvation history. You especially enter into the reality of the Last Supper, the passion and death of Jesus, his resurrection and appearance to his disciples.

You are there – in the Upper Room, on Calvary, at the empty tomb, on the way to Emmaus. In real-time, you experience what is eternal. That’s the power of the liturgy.

For just a moment, reflect on some of the parts of the Mass to see how we enter into Eucharist.

The Liturgy of the Word

After the entrance hymn and procession, the expression of sorrow for sin and the opening prayer, you enter into the Liturgy of the Word, the great “listening” part of the Mass.

  • First, there are the Old Testament readings. God speaks to us today through ancient history – we witness the creative, saving and majestic power of God, and the frequent faithlessness of his chosen people; we hear the voices of the prophets and  join in the praise of the psalms.  This is more than a mere remembering of the Old Testament: We live it because it is the living, powerful word of God. He speaks to us now as he did back then to the Hebrews.

  • Then, in real-time, we enter into the eternal presence of Jesus and the timelessness of his own words. The Holy Spirit brings to life those sacred words from Paul and the other writers; Jesus speaks to us today in the gospels; we see him manifest his power in miracles and his mercy in forgiving sinners.

The Offertory

In the Offertory, we are offering more than money. We bring to the altar our entire lives. In gratitude, we offer the Father all the blessings we receive – food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, faith and hope. We also bring to the altar our pain, weakness, temptation and our sinfulness. We bring all this to Jesus who has died for us, to Jesus whose death and resurrection we will witness in real-time in just a few minutes.  

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

It can seem like mere replaying of a scene from Passion Sunday – “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” That was the cry of the people who spread their cloaks and palm leaves before the Lord who came into Jerusalem on the first day of Holy Week, the week in which he was to be betrayed, suffer, die and rise again.

But those words ring out in history, find root in our own hearts as we this day cry out: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

He is coming, really coming – right here in our midst, here on our altar. We are going to receive him, the Bread of Life, our Savior, our Lord and our Brother. He comes to us, not riding on an ass, but as food for mind, body, spirit and soul. This is really Jesus –Son of God, Son of Man, Son of Mary.

He comes to us and we are made one in him. We draw ever closer to the Father, in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.

The Eucharistic Prayer

It is through the power of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son, that we have the Eucharist.

Just think about the words of the Eucharistic Prayer: 

“Make holy, therefore, we pray, by sending down your Holy Spirit like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Think, too, of the words of consecration: “This is my Body given up for you,” and “This is my Blood poured out for you…” I added the emphasis because Jesus is acting freely. He is giving and pouring out – for love of us. He is dying in obedience to the Father – for your sake and mine.

In the face of such a gift of salvation, we may want to pray: “How, dear Lord, can I respond to such selfless and pure love? Help me, Lord to live and die for you.”

Then, with the priest, we address the Father: “Through him, with him and in him all honor and glory are yours Almighty Father …” And we respond with a great “Amen!”

  • There is a great truth here. We know that we go to the Father only through Jesus. And we want to go with him. But it’s important to realize what it means to go IN him.
  • IN HIM, we are the Body of Christ. In him, we call God Father. In him, by the grace of baptism, you can look at God intimately and say, “Father, I am your son” or “Father, I am your daughter.

The Lord’s Prayer

When we pray together the Lord’s Prayer, we are doing more than merely saying words Jesus taught us to say. It is no stretch, because we are the Body of Christ, to see ourselves with our Lord and those early disciples who have just asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

  • We pray together, with Jesus, to the Father. We join with Jesus and we pray “through him and with him and in him.”

  • In your personal and private prayer, have you ever asked the Lord Jesus to pray with you this prayer to our Father? Try it. You may well experience a new depth in prayer. Think for a moment on one particular phrase in the Our Father: Forgive us … as we forgive others. What comes to mind? Jesus on the Cross? Jesus in his agony praying for his executioners and tormentors – and for you and me? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The Greeting of Peace

This is a very important action of worship. It acknowledges that we are one in Christ, that we love one another that we want to be close to one another in the Lord. The peace greeting also underscores the need to forgive one another. How can you honestly offer peace with anger and resentment in your heart? As you wish peace to those immediately around you, you offer it to everyone in your parish church and to all believers worldwide – for, you see, we are one body in the One Lord.

The Plea for Mercy

Anyone who believes in God must admit he or she is indeed a sinner and in need of God’s mercy. We also pray for peace of mind, heart and soul, for peace in our Church and in our world.

“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us … grant us peace.”

Behold the Lamb of God!

Here is the proclamation of prophesy fulfilled!

“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.”

Here is the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice once and for all.

The Hidden Mystery

There! There it is! The hidden mystery – the truth and completion of Communion: When you receive communion, you receive the total Christ – his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Since his divine nature is the one and same nature he shares with the Father and Holy Spirit, you receive, “through him and with him and in him,” the Father and the Spirit.

You enter ever more deeply into the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity. You affirm your communion with all the saints. The saints are one with God. You and I are one in God. We are all together in God, basking in his merciful and everlasting love.

The Sending

But being in God’s love is not the end of the Mass. The command is there: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Go and make disciples, the Lord tells us, share my love with all people of every nation, show them the joy of living in faith, expand my kingdom on earth.

And enthusiastically we say, “Amen!”

“So be it! We believe! We live for the Lamb of God!”

Want to miss out?

8 Aug
Sometimes, the choices facing you seem a bit mixed up; maybe you think you are on the right path, but then someone tries to throw d0ubts your way. 

In a movie, “Listen to Your Heart,” a musician falls in love with a woman who as a child had lost hearing and speech. A friend was urging him to dump her, arguing that he could never have a fully satisfying relationship with someone who could not share his love for music.

The musician responded, “I’m not going to miss out on something great just because it might be hard.”

At Men’s Bible Study, we have been reflecting on our gospel readings for August, namely, the sixth chapter of John.

An important observation was made: “If I had been present when Jesus preached these words, would I have run off with the disbelievers?”

We receive this message now with the gift of faith, with 2,000 years of Tradition and the witness of martyrs to seal our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist.

But a second observation was made: “We go to Mass all the time – could not the Mass and Communion  just become something of habit and not really meaningful?”

And here is the question we face today: Do we really believe what we say we believe?

Is it possible for a person can remain in apathy, in an unmoved and unmoving presence, in the face of so great a gift, so great a mystery as the Real Presence? Perhaps, but such a person will soon realize that apathy never replaces sadness with joy, loneliness with belonging and ignorance with understanding. I see a difference between apathy and disappointment, between fear and cowardice, between isolation and involvement. A lot of people today are terribly disappointed and somewhat fearful for their future. They are frustrated by what is happening in our nation – persecution of religion, widespread unemployment, vitriol and pettiness between political parties and candidates for office.

But if you believe in God’s Word and receive faithfully the sacraments of the Church, you are not ignorant or cowards or lonely. You may be frustrated and a bit fearful, but you are not depressed or sad or hopeless.

It’s true to human nature that at times we come to Mass and can’t seem to be “present” to God and community. But these occasions become fewer as faithful Catholics take time to prepare for Mass: Before Sunday, they reflect on the Scripture to be read at Mass; they ask the Holy Spirit to fill them with awe and reverence as well as understanding ; they focus on the reality of the Mass – that great mystery that enables us to stand, in this time and place, under the Cross of Christ, to witness personally our own redemption through the passion and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

When we receive the Eucharist, we receive the Real Presence of Jesus, his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. We‘ve said and heard this truth over the last few weeks. But receiving the Eucharist in faith and trust is not the end of the story.

We must become Eucharist. We must become Christ. If we are the Body of Christ, his faithful Church, we are Christ and we have to do the work of the Lord.

Sure, it’s hard work. It’s hard to force your tired and distracted mind to focus on the reality of God and Salvation; it’s hard to admit your sins and to tame your pride as you seek reconciliation with God and the Church. It’s hard to stand over against the engrained evils in society – the tendency to make oneself the center of the universe, the efforts to reduce truth to one’s own preferences and pleasures. But the Cross was hard, too.

It’s hard – but the challenge remains for each of us: “I’m not going to miss out on something great just because it might be hard.”

Why Catholics drift away from Mass?

8 May

Sometimes you come up against a solid, seemingly impenetrable wall. You are stumped. You back up, turn around and go away. Sometimes, when you have “blank walls” in your spiritual life, going the other way is not the answer. Stop, think. Talk to others who have been stumped in life’s most important experience — the experience of God in your life, the experience of truth, of joy and peace.

Say you have a family member – or a friend – who no longer goes to Mass; or maybe, you are a dropout from Sunday worship.

Among the reasons often given for dropping away from Sunday Mass are poor homilies, lifeless liturgies, impersonal atmosphere. This latter reason is sometimes expressed in the complaint that nobody called to see why the absentee was no longer at Mass. And that means he or she was not known well enough to be missed – or no one really cared.

In our Men’s Bible Study May 7,  it was mentioned that these reasons could be only excuses, but I’ve been around long enough to know that foundation exists for such complaints. However, rest easy pastor of St. Mary Magdalen, we all quickly agreed that our own parish is actually a vibrant, loving and inviting parish whose clergy and staff work hard to preach the Word and to include everyone in the life of the parish.

What do you see as the reasons for Catholics drifting away from the Mass – and even joining other Christian denominations – even those who describe themselves “non-denominational?” (A wise old friend once said, “The minute you say you are ‘non-demoninational’ you have become a denomination.”)

What do you think? Consider, too, the possible reasons below:

Lack of proper catechesis regarding the Mass;

 Insufficient knowledge of and/or experience in the nature of our communion as Body of Christ;

Distractions in life or even in the Mass itself;

Lack of a personal, vibrant relationship with Christ;

No awareness of the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life, and/or,

Lack of being formed into wholesome discipleship.

So, what do think?

(One great aid to understanding the Mass is Father David Knight’s “Experiencing the Mass.” In less than  a hundred pages, he gives us “Five Moments of Mystery.” He leads us slowly and deeply through the Mass from the Entrance Procession to the sending after Communion. It’s worth a parish investment to put it in the hands of parish liturgical and formation leaders and to be used in education and formation programs. For this book and other spiritual treasures, go to www.immersedinchrist.com .)

XLT

29 Apr


No, it’s not a magic word. It won’t summon Harry Potter to come zipping along on his broom.

But the word signifies power – a great and good power. XLT is an abbreviation for “exalt.”

XLT is a celebration of faith in song, praise, scripture, reflection and Eucharistic adoration. It’s like a week-long retreat compressed into 90 minutes because it is centered on worship and praise of God, not on what God can do for me or us. It is seeing God’s love and goodness in our own lives and in all creation.

Last evening in our own St. Mary Magdalen Parish we experienced XLT.

At the end of the event (does XLT ever end … can gratitude to God ever end), people of all ages gradually left the church – gradually, because they didn’t want to leave. They were hugging, laughing and still high on God’s love and his glory and majesty. Outside, members of Life Teen (our vibrant youth ministry) served lemonade and the celebration continued. Folks just didn’t want to leave.

Now what? That’s the question that looms in the minds of people who organize, who want to have follow-up to this or that experience. Indeed, now what?

I can only share what I experienced.

During the silence of Eucharistic adoration, I really listened to the Lord. If you know me personally or through my writings, you know that I am a workaholic and a control freak – and I have more than a tendency toward impatience and anger. You know that I have an almost anxious concern for people who do not yet believe in God and his love, for our nation in these trying times and for our Church which needs waking up.

While our Lord was reigning on our parish altar, I followed the reflection available at the door of the church, “Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament.” This prayerful reflection helps you to listen to God. It was then that I did indeed, according to this prayer, ask the Lord to heal a dear friend with a serious disease, to grant salvation to our children and all our descendants, to reveal to me what his will was for me.

But here’s a wonderful thing: Because I had been, with everyone else, in a spirit of praise, my petitions to the Lord were confident, open, willing to hear him and accept his will. It was not demanding; nor was it filled with anxiety or doubt.

This morning at prayer, I reflected on our XLT experience, on what the Lord had revealed to me in prayer, namely, that I have to surrender to him,finally and totally, and let him work in my life. The result is this prayer:

Lord, it’s just me. I am at your disposal.

(But Lord, how long will this last?)

Completed Catholic?

23 Apr

This is where I work. Some would say this is where I live. Whatever, here is where I struggle to discern what I should and should not blog about. Here is where I most often pray and get ideas (inspiration?) to send along to you, my dear family and friends.

You have probably heard the term “Completed Jew” which refers, from the Christian perspective, to a Jewish person who has accepted Christ as the Messiah, Son of God and Savior.

But when are Christians complete? How are they completed? More specifically, are you a Completed Catholic?

I asked a brother deacon to define a “Completed Catholic.” He, a committed evangelist, said that a completed Catholic would be one who has fully accepted Jesus Christ.

Ah, yes, with emphasis on fully accepted!

Pope John Paul II urged us to begin a “new evangelization” by helping all those Catholics in the pew to become fully converted, so in tune with Christ that they will want to tell others about their peace, joy and strength in the Lord.

As I am not yet quite complete, I have been able to recognize, in every parish in which I have preached, a large number of Catholics who are not complete. They are just done. They are done with first communion and confirmation, done with baptismal prep, done with marriage preparation — and done, too often, with regular worship at Mass.

So, what to do? In a word, refocus.

I don’t want to gore any sacred cows, but we Catholics have to broaden our understanding of Catholic Evangelization. It embodies the basic focus of Protestant and Evangelical evangelization.

 But we do have a bit more to talk about, explain and celebrate:

  • Our faith is rooted in the Resurrection of Christ, in the first Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper or Last Supper; it is rooted in the foundation of the Church on the Apostles and the succession of mission and authority through the laying on of hands.
  • We have authority in our Church — Pope and Bishops who carry on the work of the apostles, the mission of Christ.
  • We have the Sacraments — through which we are initiated into the Church and nourished and strengthened all life long. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is foundational to our faith. Through the Mass, we hear God speaking to us in real-time; we stand beneath the Cross of Christ, witness his death and our salvation. Through the Mass, we also witness his resurrection and ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
  • We have Tradition — from which we have Scripture, the very Word of God. We have, as the Body of Christ, an intimate experience of God spanning more than 20 centuries.
  • We have a close relationship with the saints — all saints, canonized and otherwise. We believe in the “communion of saints.” We share God’s life, light and love now —  though imperfectly. In heaven, it will all be perfect.

I wonder  how much we adhere to our faith and how often we thank God for the gift of our Church.

Am I, are you, a Completed Catholic? In what ways are we merely “done?”

It’s True! It’s True!

27 Mar

In 1934, at the ripe old age of 10 days, I was baptized. From age six to twelve, I attended catechism lessons and at my mother’s knee I learned all the answers to very important questions: Who made you? Why did God make you? And on and on. I often say that I had the right answers long before I understood the questions or their importance. Those answers served me well in later life.

At age 12, I was confirmed and in that sacrament I was to receive the Holy Spirit in full measure and be enriched by the transforming gifts of the Spirit (Isaiah 11:1-3). I believe that I did indeed receive the Spirit in full measure at that time, but the gifts lay somewhat dormant until many years later.

Married a month before my 18th birthday (it was not a shotgun wedding), Peg and I reared seven children. We attended Mass regularly. I worked full time in the Catholic press from 1969 to my retirement in 1999.

But, you guessed it, there was something missing. I had not yet made a total commitment to the Lord. I had not surrendered my life to him. I believed everything I knew about him in Scripture and in the marvelous tradition and doctrines of our Catholic Church. But it seems, with hindsight, I believed in Truth as something “way out there,” beyond my reach. I didn’t realize that God wanted me to know him in a deeply intimate way.

On Sunday morning, October 31, 1976, when I was 42, God knocked down all the walls.  A dear friend, Franciscan Sister Briege McKenna, prayed with me asking God to open me to the fullness of his love. As she prayed, she mentioned three concerns in my life that I had not told her about. In those words, God told me, “Look, Henry, I do know you and I do love you!” I was weeping and sobbing uncontrollably. What I had never really believed was true! God did love me!

Me! God loves me! It’s true! It’s true!

And it is true for you!

Through the cross the faithful receive strength from weakness, glory from dishonor, life from death.

                                                                                                                                                             (Pope St. Leo the Great, d. 461)

Next: How Scripture enriches my life.