This series is to ready us for our return to regular celebrations of the Eucharist, as the center of our lives, and to give us a deeper appreciation of this wonderful mystery of Christ’s love. We have been considering the wider reality of what is happening. We seek the fullness of Christ in his many real presences or aspects of the Word made flesh to give us share in his closeness to the Father.
We have reached a point of examining what names the Church applies to this great Mystery in the scriptures and in the liturgy. There are various names for the same reality. Each name broadens our view of God’s unmatched love for us. So for your consideration today we shall begin by noting some of the names Church tradition uses. Why the different names? Where do they come from? What implications do they have for us and eternal life?
The Mass is sometimes referred to as the Body and Blood of Christ
The Church refers to this reality also as the Bread of life and the cup of salvation.
She also speaks of it as the Bread of life and cup of blessing.
Sometimes it is called food/nourishment of eternal life.
Sometimes as the pledge of salvation.
Sometimes it is called the Lamb of God
Sometimes it is called the gift of God’s (covenant) love.
Jesus himself identifies what is in the cup as Blood of the Covenant
And the offering/sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins
These all are the same Christ, same Body and Blood. There is something more here than we first realize. Our search for understanding goes deeper.
To understand this use of various names and titles we first go to Liturgy 101 (coming next).
This will help us grasp more of the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Mystery of Faith is an acclamation with which we are familiar during the heart of the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass. Pope Paul VI used this phrase to beginning his encyclical on the Eucharist at the final phase of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Faith and Eucharist are inseparable. Give his words some thought. With the reintroduction of being able to gather with God’s people for Mass these words take on special meaning.
The Mystery of Faith, that is, the ineffable gift of the Eucharist that the Catholic Church received from Christ, her Spouse, as a pledge of His immense love, is something that she has always devoutly guarded as her most precious treasure, and during the Second Vatican Council she professed her faith and veneration in a new and solemn declaration. In dealing with the restoration of the sacred liturgy, the Fathers of the Council were led by their pastoral concern for the whole Church to regard it as a matter of highest importance to urge the faithful to participate actively, with undivided faith and the utmost devotion, in the celebration of this Most Holy Mystery, to offer it to God along with the priest as a sacrifice for their own salvation and that of the whole world, and to use it as spiritual nourishment.
For if the sacred liturgy holds first place in the life of the Church, then the Eucharistic Mystery stands at the heart and center of the liturgy, since it is the font of life that cleanses us and strengthens us to live not for ourselves but for God and to be united to each other by the closest ties of love.
Reaffirmation by Vatican II
In order to make the indissoluble bond that exists between faith and devotion perfectly clear, the Fathers of the Council decided, in the course of reaffirming the doctrine that the Church has always held and taught and that was solemnly defined by the Council of Trent, to offer the following compendium of truths as an introduction to their treatment of the Most Holy Mystery of the Eucharist:
“At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of His Death and Resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”
Both Sacrifice and Sacrament Highlighted
These words highlight both the sacrifice, which pertains to the essence of the Mass that is celebrated daily, and the sacrament in which those who participate in it through holy Communion eat the flesh of Christ and drink the blood of Christ, and thus receive grace, which is the beginning of eternal life, and the “medicine of immortality” according to Our Lord’s words: “The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood enjoys eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (2)
Restoration of Liturgy Linked to Eucharistic Devotion
And so We earnestly hope that the restoration of the sacred liturgy will produce abundant fruits in the form of Eucharistic devotion, so that the Holy Church may, with this salvific sign of piety raised on high, make daily progress toward the full achievement of unity, (3) inviting all Christians to a unity of faith and love and drawing them to it gently, through the action of divine grace.
We seem to have a preview of these fruits and a first taste of them in the outpouring of joy and eagerness that has marked the reception the sons of the Catholic Church have accorded to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and to the restoration of the liturgy; and we find these fruits too in the large number of carefully-edited publications that make it their purpose to go into the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist more profoundly and to come to a more fruitful understanding of it, especially in terms of its relationship to the mystery of the Church.
All of this brings Us deep consolation and joy. And it gives Us great pleasure to inform you of this, Venerable Brothers, so that you may join with Us in giving thanks to God, the bestower of all gifts, who rules the Church and makes her grow in virtue through His Spirit.
Commentary Easter Sunday
In answer to our prayers we now know that we will be able to return to Mass at the end of this month of May. The Lord has not let us down. We continue to prepare for those days when we can join his people to celebrate his love — his Covenant love — at the Table of the Lord. We must be ready not just for the resumption of our Eucharistic celebrations but for answering God’s call to take part in these gatherings with greater understanding and a deeper desire to share Christ’s life to the full, both in church and at home and on the job and with our families. These articles are an attempt to get us ready for these riches from heaven.
It takes a life time to grasp fully these mysteries of our eternal happiness. We know these days of contemplation offer a reward of joy and peace in the Lord we love.
Our main approach here has been to appreciate better the full scope of the Eucharistic Mystery. We are not youngsters anymore and cannot be satisfied with what we first learned when making our First Communion. There is a lot more. In those former days we began with Jesus at the Last Supper and took to heart his command to take and eat my body which is being offered up for you and take and drink my blood of the new covenant poured out in sacrifice for you. We learned and practiced that our Communion meant that Jesus really entered our hearts and made his dwelling there so that our whole life would follow him in love of God and neighbor. For so many believers it stopped there and we told ourselves that we knew it all. God did not let us alone. He stirred up his people near and far with a deeper desire to understand what was going on at Mass that made it so powerful in our lives. This got moving from the beginning of the twentieth century and culminating with the meeting of our bishops worldwide during the 1960’s and their giving impetus to the changes to fashion our lives within the Church’s life more in harmony with Gospel of Jesus Christ. Liturgical reform became the center of our renewal. We have benefited from it ever since. Had this not occurred we would not have been so ready to draw deeply from the springs of salvation during these pandemic days. So we have listened to God’s word during what I call our desert days and reexamined our lives in Christ as leading to worship of the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit. Our faith has matured. The essentials have come to the fore. We proceed (and hopefully never cease) to use God’s gifts to please him more and more.
In this series of articles we have been going beyond our understanding (and practice) of our earlier years regarding the Mass. We realize that just knowing and celebrating eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Jesus, will leave us at a standstill in our faith practice and degenerate so easily in a soulless routine of faith that does not lead us to sing a new song to the Lord as he wants. Our experience of these couple of months will not let us grow complacent again.
So to shake us up I have offered a wider perspective of what goes on at Mass. It is all important and we put ourselves into the Eucharistic action every minute. Some of things might not be new, others may be. So our review should offer some amazing new insights. I hope it will help us to bring these faith matters to our second graders whose First Communion is yet to be rescheduled.
In our discussions we have reached how the Holy Spirit has an essential at Mass. We have concentrated almost exclusively at times on the real presences of Jesus that we have not paid attention enough to the role of the Holy Spirit without which there is no Mass. Keep in mind that brothers and sisters in the faith who witnessed the resurrection of Christ have told us repeatedly that the Holy Spirit became a great part of their life. Just read the Acts of the Apostles. It is a lot more than just Pentecost. For instance, the readings of the Fifth Sunday of Easter tells us of the group of Seven, sometimes called deacons, who were chosen to serve the Church. They identified the ones they selected because they were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Think of what that means and ask ourselves if we can identify men and women in our own time that way.
Last session of these articles dealt with Invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic Prayers as essential to the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a change that only God could make. In this piece I want to show other invocations of the Holy Spirit at Mass asking the Father to send that same Spirit upon the assembled congregation to bring about unity in the body of Christ.
Here are some examples of a second invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic Prayers after the consecration
Therefore, as we celebrate
the memorial of his Death and Resurrection,
we offer you, Lord,
the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation,
giving thanks that you have held us worthy
to be in your presence and minister to you.
Humbly we pray
that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ,
we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.
(Eucharistic Prayer II)
Look, O Lord, upon the Sacrifice
which you yourself have provided for your Church,
and grant in your loving kindness
to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice
that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit,
they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ
to the praise of your glory.
(Eucharistic Prayer IV)
Look kindly, most compassionate Father,
on those you unite to yourself
by the Sacrifice of your Son,
and grant that, by the power of the Holy Spirit,
as they partake of this one Bread and one Chalice,
they may be gathered into one Body in Christ,
who heals every division.
Notice first of all that these prayers about us who are going to Communion. Notice as well the Church is praying that the Holy Spirit come down upon us and that he unite us in the body of Christ, the Church. There you have the purpose of the Mass. Added to this, in the first example above, is that the Lord gathers us into his presence to serve him. So at the Eucharistic Table we have been brought into God’s presence — this presence is what we are missing during these days when we have no Mass. Notice, too, in the last example given that what happens when the Holy Spirit unites us at Mass we receive God’s healing, his salvation, so that we can worship him as is his due (second example). Do not forget that the same Spirit who changes the bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood is the same Spirit that comes upon us who eat his Body and Drink his Blood and forms us by so doing into the image of Christ and unites us to our fellow worshipers.
From this we go home and carry with us not only Jesus and his image within us but we also carry the Holy Spirit, who guides us in all our ways. We still have those presences when we come back to Mass. Through our celebration and participation those presences increase. That is why Jesus commanded do this in memory of me — which his follow have done frequently and regularly since the beginning. We do not want to be the ones who stop this tradition. We shall return to regular Mass participation to keep the faith going from generation to generation. Be more aware what you are bringing to Mass — love of the Father, image of the living Christ, and the wonderful heavenly gift of the Spirit.
Commentary Easter Sunday
The last couple of times we have looked at the Mass as a remembrance — the Do this in memory of me. And we have explored how the Mass in its entirety reveals to us more and more who the Jesus is who said Take and eat…Take and drink… The scriptures, of course, play a major role in deepening our memories of who Jesus is and why he does what he does at the Eucharist today. Another eye-opener is the Tradition of the Church, especially incorporated into the structure and prayers we find in our Altar Missal. Finally, during the action of the Eucharist we experience the Holy Spirit opening our minds and hearts in understanding the Christ present in so many ways during the Mass.
So the liturgy of the Eucharist is a memorial of Jesus’ saving work for our redemption. To this aspect of Mass as memorial we must add equally the fact that the Mass is a presence of the Holy Spirit who brings about Christ’s presence within us more and more.
Remember our whole project here is to get ready for our return to Mass when God sees fit and respond to his call with a greater awareness of what he is doing when he gathers us with the body of Christ to share the Body of Christ even more than before. The Eucharist must never be the same for us after spending these days of religious retreat and contemplation of the Mystery of the Jesus who dwells in us.
The words of Institution during the Eucharistic Prayer are not the only highlight of the Church at prayer. The Invocation of the Holy Spirit (known as the Epiclesis) is needed for the Mass to be a Mass. We have a prayer of this kind in every Mass and is easily recognizable because during this prayer the priest extends his hand over the offerings. There are many aspects of the real presence of the Holy Spirit and his effectiveness during the Eucharist and plan to deal with those later. But for now I wish to give you some actual texts from the Eucharistic Prayers. These all occur immediately before the Words of Institution.
Eucharistic Prayer II
Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray,
by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall,
so that they may become for us
the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Eucharistic Prayer III
Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you:
by the same Spirit graciously make holy
these gifts we have brought to you for consecration,
that they may become the Body and Blood
of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ,
at whose command we celebrate these mysteries.
Eucharistic Prayer IV
Therefore, O Lord, we pray:
may this same Holy Spirit
graciously sanctify these offerings,
that they may become
the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ
for the celebration of this great mystery,
which he himself left us
as an eternal covenant.
Reconciliation Prayer I
Look, we pray, upon your people’s offerings
and pour out on them the power of your Spirit,
that they may become the Body and Blood
of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ,
in whom we, too, are your sons and daughters.
By comparing these few examples you can recognize that the Spirit has a role in making the Body and Blood of Christ present. That is why the Invocation of the Spirit is essential for celebrating the Eucharist [The Mass is the work of God, not man.] Secondly, the Holy Spirit acts here in joining us to God’s Covenant together with his other people. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father — the prayer is address to him. The Mass involves Father, Son and Spirit. To participate better in the Eucharist we need a greater awareness of the Triune God in our lives — not just Jesus.
There is more. We shall take it up next time.
Holy Thursday Homily
Good Friday Homily
Easter Vigil Homily
Easter Day Homily
Easter II Homily
Easter III Homily
Easter IV Homily
Commentary Easter Sunday
Commentary Easter _3
As promised we shall continue our exercise of first looking at just a small part of the Mass — and try to base our celebrating Mass on that alone. So here is what we have:
Take this, all of you, and eat of it,
Take this, all of you, and drink from it,
The Body of Christ.
The Blood of Christ.
If we begin at the words said to us when we go to Communion it may sound as though we are assenting with our Amen the real presence of Jesus. In other words that the change (called transubstantiation) has taken place from bread to Body and from wine to Blood of Christ. What follows then is our amazement that we have witnessed a miracle of God before our eyes and that we can go home happy for that privilege.
The Words of Institution above, however, have more to them. In the older missals only some of the words were capitalized: FOR THIS IS MY BODY and FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD, OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL TESTAMENT, MYSTERY OF FAITH, WHICH FOR YOU AND FOR MANY SHALL BE POURED OUT FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. Other words of Jesus were given second place and hence of secondary importance. If we do this we are missing much.
So I must say the Church has become curious as to what all this means and where do we go to get the larger picture. These few words in themselves are not enough. Who is the Christ whose Body and Blood we share? Who are all of you to whom is he speaking? Does he really want us to eat and drink? We can do that at home or in a restaurant. What is the being given up for you mean? Is not the forgiveness of sins out of place? We go to confession for that. The only thing that seems to fit is going to Communion often to carry out his command to do this in memory of me. So if we are going to say Amen, why is that necessary?
There has to be something more than these few words if we are to have a meaningful Mass.
The first source is going to be the scriptures. Each Mass has some of them toward the beginning and then throughout the rest of the Mass. These last few days at Mass the Church has given us Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. Let us use it to give us an idea how much we can learn about what we do at Mass from God’s word. Listening to God speak to us is a feast and celebration in itself. John tells us Jesus is the bread of life, come down from heaven, i.e. given to us by God, I am the living bread, i.e. the Person of Jesus is bread (therefore take and eat), I give my flesh for the life of the world (give my life –my body— offer it up for you), for whoever feeds on me will have me live in them and they in me (Christ lives in his people, his body, the Church), whoever eats my flesh will live forever (eternal Covenant), I will raise him on the last day (the risen Lord shares his glory, even now). This is the Christ to whom we say Amen. There is something of utmost importance at the beginning of Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel — John was very good at giving the timing of the multiplication of the loaves, the walking on the water and the discourse on the Bread of life, namely, The Jewish Feast of Passover was near. All of this was happening and our Mass is happening in the context of the new Passover, the renewal of the Covenant. The Eucharist we celebrate is our renewal in commitment to God’s gift of the Covenant and from this a deepening of our life in him — drink my Blood of the (re)newed Covenant.
The second source of understanding better what Christ Jesus is doing in the Eucharist is the Tradition of the Church. For this we shall use the Tradition as found in the altar books. The whole structure of the liturgy of the Eucharist is not just icing on the cake but integral parts of the mystery. Each part contributes to sharing in the Eucharist — in the full presence of Christ .Otherwise something is missing from the encounter. As we have studied the Mass in recent years God has opened our eyes to each element of our Eucharistic celebration and how each contributes to the several real presences of Christ that come together in what we call the Eucharistic action — the real presence of the Lord in his people present at Mass, the real presence of Christ in his living word, the real presence of Christ in his appointed priest to speak and act in his name, e.g. the Eucharistic Prayer, and the real presence in the sacred food and drink. There is one Christ and one real presence coalesced from these many forms together. We all have realized how richer the Mass is for us with good faith-filled homilies.
The third source of understanding the Mass better is the realization that the Holy Spirit is given us at the actual time of our participation in the sacred mysteries. This more subtle, of course, but no less real. We have all experienced this but I will use my own experience of the presence and working of the Holy Spirit as an example. Prior to action of the Mass I have found it helpful to look at the scripture that will presented to us ahead of time. You have probably done the same. At the time there are certain words of scripture that jump out and fix themselves in my mind. The thinking goes on and often these ideas find their way into the homily. But the surprising thing — which occurs with more and more frequently is that during the action of the Mass — is that something new and different comes to me and reveals God at work at that moment. For example, as Mass begins I become aware that present at that Mass is a family who are mourning the loss of a loved one. Immediately the word of God takes on new meaning and I see more clearly Christ’s dying for us and his love and the love of those near him at that very time. This is the working of the Holy Spirit. I leave Mass at Christ sending us forth with a closer communion with Christ’s and his people. It is not something I could have prepared ahead of time. It is true that we learn something at every Mass if we are open to the Spirit.
I know this has been lengthy. However, we need to put time in considering this great Mystery which Christ offers us in the celebration of his Eucharist. So we shall continue our search next time — so much we look forward to going to church for Mass.
Commentary Easter Sunday
Commentary Easter _3
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me John 10:14
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
At the heart of the Easter Mystery is the reality that believers become the sign of the risen Christ by the way they live. The change in their lives becomes visible to others who are attracted to the same risen Lord Jesus. This first reading is a report of that taking place on the Jewish Pentecost which then becomes for us the Christian Pentecost at the conclusion of the Easter Season. This year, due to the alternation in our lives because of the pandemic, our Pentecost celebration looks as though it will be the out coming of our Easter faith. This revelation of the Spirit in our lives portends to be a major event in our journey of faith — something we shall never forget.
So to get the full impact of this word of God today let us first recall the events of that day in our salvation history. This means the deeds of God and the words of God through Peter explaining the events and how God’s actions make Easter for us (even though it happens on another day — Easter is God working in our lives over several days, at least 50 or more).
First, this happens on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, which celebrates God giving the Covenant Law on Mt. Sinai
God gathers the disciples in one place
There is the “wind” and “fire” of God’s presence like it was on Mt. Sinai
The tongues of fire are the individual giving of God’s Spirit and word to each one.
The crowd gathers outside and Peter addresses them to explain.
He tells that the Spirit given to the disciples was the Spirit the Father gave to his Son by raising him from the dead. Thus the Father acknowledged Jesus as his eternal Son, Lord (who does not die) and as the Messiah (who is the fulfillment of the Covenant and its promise to us).
Our reading today takes it up from there when the listeners ask Peter what they should do about this action taken by the Father. His instructions are:
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.
Be baptized in the name of Jesus the Messiah. In other words, renew the Covenant through the Christ raised from the dead. The risen Lord is the Mediator, appointed by the Father, for solidifying the Covenant with mankind and thus bringing us eternal life.
For forgiveness of sin — is a negative way of saying the positive be reconciled to the God of the Covenant by living Christ’s life to the fullest.
Finally, do so and you, too, will receive the same Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) which you now see in the disciples.
And they did.
Do not forget that Peter himself is speaking because he has received the Holy Spirit. His word is God’s word.
Psalm23: 1-3a, 3b4, 5, 6 (1)
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Every time we come across this psalm or use it in our liturgies there is a warm feeling that comes over us. Even Hollywood stars record it or recite it as a masterpiece that pleases the public. We, too, find it frequently a part or our funerals. There is something, almost magical, about it.
Here remember it is a responsorial to Peter’s call to be baptized into the community of the Covenant, God’s people, the Church. Psalm 23 is originally Old Testament (Covenant) and expresses the relationship of our God to us as a shepherd to his flock. All that goes with this imagery: e.g. keeping the flock together (unity), walking out front and leading the flock in the right direction, sustaining the flock with good nourishment, caring for his flock’s every need, protecting the flock from harm and scattering. With the divine Shepherd performing all these task the flock has confidence in him and takes comfort from that fact. Our Shepherd does everything for us out of covenant love and mercy. Going along with the word of God from Peter we know that Jesus, the Son of the eternal Father, is Shepherd. He even called himself The Good Shepherd. Jesus does everything his Father the Shepherd does. We believe him and we recite or sing this psalm with all that in mind.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side.
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
Collect (alternate version)
Lord, you have shown your limitless power as our God who lives forever by raising your Son from the dead. Exercise your Shepherd’s love by leading us to the companionship of your flock filled with heavenly joy, so that the world may come to believe that Christ our Shepherd has gone before us stoutheartedly and with resolve to take to himself his flock who humbles themselves before him.
Jesus the Good Shepherd is present at our Masses. The characteristics of God as our Shepherd fit in very well. So our Eucharists are gatherings of Shepherd and his flock. That relationship is throughout the Mass. The emphasis of this prayer is that he is our leader who feeds us that we share more and more of “heaven” right here on the earth. The prayer is also based on where he is leading us. We call it heaven but we know from Peter discourse on the Feast of Pentecost what God has in store for us. The original prayer of the Church speaks of the joy of heaven but the companionship of heavenly joys. So rather than picturing it as sitting on a cloud of bliss it describes the joyful community of those in covenant with God. This is be more in accord with Peter’s Pentecost. Flock and Shepherd in communion all going in the same direction as the Messiah of glory at the right hand of the Father. Union with Christ and unity among the flock would be truly heaven.
1 Peter 2:20b-25
This passage ends up: For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. There being so many other references at this Mass about the Lord as our Shepherd we naturally perk up our ears as soon as we hear this. Then we remember that Peter earlier had said: Christ suffered for you (on the cross out of love) and has left you an example that; you should follow in his footsteps. So Jesus our Messiah and Shepherd leads us and gathers us together. We are united to him and united to one another (see above). How does he lead us? Through the merciful love of the Covenant. Jesus is the Covenant Shepherd filled with love to the extent that he would lay down his life for his sheep so that they be rid of all sinfulness and live solely for holiness (godliness). This is how Peter saw life, life in Christ and did his best with the grace of God to be a shepherd of Christ’s people. He lived what he preached — because of the gift of the Holy Spirit from his Lord Jesus Christ.
John gives us two parables, used by Jesus to help the Pharisees (and us) accept that he was sent by God as the Messiah of the Covenant. The Gospel says that the Pharisees did not understand because in a way they did not want to understand. We must be careful that the same thing does not happen to us because we refuse to accept what he telling about us.
The Pharisees thought of themselves as the “religious shepherds” of the people, God’s flock. Jesus said: I am the shepherd and the gate…no one comes to the Father but through me. In calling himself the shepherd he says that he replaces them as shepherds (religious leaders). The Father has determined this by sending his Son in to the world. Christ the Shepherd is the only “gate” of way to the Father. There is no other mediator. This was contrary to the thinking of the Pharisees, who in many cases were self-righteous. They blocked out the word of God spoken to them by the Word of God. Therefore for the Pharisees of ages past as well as for the people of our time it is necessary to accept the one sent by God who is the only way to the Father.
What about us? Jesus indicates the proper attitude and approach to the divine Shepherd — the sheep hear his voice. So we who believe and follow him must listen to him speak and, as our duty as Easter Christians, must be the ones who bring the Shepherd’s words to the world. If the world does not accept the Messiah sent by the Father, we must strive more diligently to speak to them in such a way, with love and pardon, that they will accept the word of God. We must be the true voice of the Shepherd for the world. We can only do this by listening to the word of God ourselves and going deep into understanding it. The chief way is by participating in the Eucharist — the entire Mass.
Commentary Easter Sunday
As of today the Church Bells seem farther away. The exclusion of public Masses has been extended again until the end of May. Fortunately this may permit the resumption of parish Mass together on the Feast of Pentecost (which is part of Easter). The latest from our bishops.
Easter in our tradition is Easter Season, not just Easter Sunday. Jesus the Christ speaks to us over a period of time, enriching us more and more from great treasury of sacred scripture. As we saw right away at the beginning of our Easter days the risen Lord insisted that we go back to the word of God over the centuries to understand the Paschal Mystery and to put it into practice. At the center of our Easter is the Eucharist — the first Christians held the action of the Eucharist close to their hearts and were gathered on the first day of the week and broke bread together. The Mass is central to our celebration, as well, of the death and resurrection of Christ. This year, through the mysterious providence of God, he has called us to “step back” and contemplate the Eucharist from a distance due to the pandemic. This way our longing for the action of the Mass and our presence there has deepened our desire to encounter the Lord in person — both his presence and ours.
As these days go on we use these meditations on the Mystery of the Eucharist to open for us a greater share in the life of Christ within us — that is Christ’s purpose in commanding us Do this in memory of me.
Today let us take a hint from the scripture account of the disciples from Emmaus which the Church gave us recently. We approach the sacred incident from end to beginning, even though we first listen to it from beginning to end. The last sentence if their telling the disciples back in Jerusalem that First Easter evening we have seen the Lord in the breaking of bread (Luke 24). When hear this conclusion our mind goes back to what preceded recognizing Jesus at table. They had a conversation about the happenings of recent days and how uneasy Jesus had made them by chiding them for not recognizing from the scriptures how the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection were all part of the history of salvation revealed by God over the centuries and his bringing to fulfilment that plan by sending us his Messiah.
For us applying this as God wants to our Eucharistic practice we shall recall that for many years we had thought of the Mass of consisting solely of the going to Communion part. Yes, there were some other sacred actions, such as listening to the Gospel and the sermon, but when it got down to “the essentials” Communion was all that really mattered. To this day the habit of coming to Mass late and/or leaving early is a remnant of this. God in his goodness and love for us has made us aware that all the parts of the Mass are integral to a celebration and participation that is pleasing to him. He expects our taking part and giving him a response regarding all the elements of the Mass, e.g. listening to his word, joining in singing with our brothers and sisters who have Christ dwelling in them as well, etc.
So for our own education and pursuit of our resolve to love God more let us start at the end and ask ourselves whether going to Communion alone would give us the whole story. There must be something more why the Church celebrates the Mass in its entirety. Why are all the actions of the Mass combined the worship which God wants from us? In a way John the Gospel writer did this for us by not giving us in his Last Supper account what we call the words of institution (take, eat…take, drink). Instead much earlier in his Gospel he gave us this same thing in Chapter Six with the multiplication of the loaves and the discourse on himself as the Bread of Life. Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life in you… At this very time the Church is in the process of bringing us God’s word on the matter as a series of Gospel readings assigned for Mass. Since we are not able to hear this in person right now, gathered with fellow believers in the action of the Mass, let us spend some time absorbing Christ’s teaching. You may hear these Gospel passages by TV or Internet. I hope that if your do so it will lead you to be more ready to put your respond into action when we finally are able to go to church for participation in Mass according to God’s plan and command.
So let us set up more specifically how we are going to approach this.
For a moment we are going to narrow our focus on the Mass just to the Words of institution and to the ritual words as we receive Communion and nothing else at this time.
Take this, all of you, and eat of it,
for this is my Body,
which will be given up for you.
Take this, all of you, and drink from it,
for this is the chalice of my blood,
the Blood of the new and eternal covenant,
which will be poured out for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.
do this in memory of me.
The Body of Christ.
The Blood of Christ.
Now if this is all we have (and all we are thinking of) we do not know too much. A lot of questions remain and our Amen does not mean much. We actually know and believe a lot more. Where do we find out the rest? The more we know, the more our Amen means in our response to Christ.
Our principal sources are going to be:
the sacred scriptures (whole Bible, Old and New Testament)
the tradition of the Church (especially as found in the Altar Missal [Euch. Prayers, etc.])
the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in us and in all those participating at Mass
Here are some sample questions:
Who is this Christ, about whose Body and Blood we hear and speak?
Why does he command us to take and eat…take and drink?
Why is his Body and Blood in the form of bread and wine?
Why does he say “all of you”? Who are the others?
Why did Jesus choose the words “body and blood”?
What is the Covenant and Blood of the Covenant?
What is Jesus commanding by “Do this in memory of me”?
If we isolate these words by considering them and nothing else, it would be a puzzle and will not draw us to love him. So there must be something more we have to have in mind when we go to Communion. The other elements of the Mass go a long way in making Communion worthwhile. We need Christ’s presence in these other places as well, not just when going to Communion.
So let’s get started and get the whole picture of what the Eucharist is. Remember Eucharist means Thanksgiving. So to give God the thanksgiving and praise he wants, we must explore our faith and the rich ritual of the Mass.
See you next time
Commentary Easter Sunday
The ringing is getting closer.
We shall find out today
Yesterday on the Third Sunday of Easter God blessed us with Easter joy by giving us the scripture passage of the disciples meeting Christ on his Resurrection Day at a town called Emmaus. The Gospel account definitely is a reference to the Eucharist — recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Along with this we have the teaching of the risen Lord about the necessity of going to the scriptures and learning from them about the suffering and rising of God’s Messiah. So the Lord Jesus joined together the word of God and the sharing in his Body and Blood. He has taught us in our day to do the same. This becomes evident from the strong practice of recent years, at the insistence of the Church, that our celebration of Mass must include both word and Sacrament as one act of worship — this is the Easter way. So in our study of the Mass during this time of the pandemic we have been faced with not having the Eucharist celebrated in Church but have had a “virtual Mass” by Internet or TV without Communion but at least hearing the word of God (including a homily). I have tried to show that in this God is revealing to us in a deeper fashion the great Mystery of the whole Mass, word and Sacrament, so that we are able to return to the Mass in Church we will appreciate it more and draw life from him all the more.
So today, knowing that the word of God and the going to Communion are one action of worship and grace, we want to ask ourselves 1) which of the two — word or Sacrament — is more important, and 2) how are the two related because the Easter Christ put the two together.
Let us start with the second question first.
First of all, our faith teaches us that Christ is really present in both. See earlier in these articles that Christ is really present throughout the entire Mass. It is really the same Christ who speaks his saving word to us and who bids us take and eat…take and drink — just as he did at the Last Supper and at Emmaus. He opens the scriptures and breaks the bread as the Eucharist Prayers for Various Occasions now says explicitly. In our worship there is a definite flow of the sacred action from word to Sacrament.
Both, too, are nourishment. In the famous sixth Chapter of John’s Gospel (which the Church reads during Easter time) Jesus feeds the multitude and calls himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35). So when Jesus says at every Mass take and eat…take and drink he is calling us to consume him, the Word made flesh, and so live his life right here on the earth. I think sometimes that we have so narrowed our understanding of the Eucharist to the changing of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ that we forget the rest of it — eat and drink. We have to accept Christ into our hearts — that is the commandment do this in memory of me. The word of God is to be eaten, consumed — this is what listening to the word of God means. This is what Christ refers to in the sixth Chapter of John’s Gospel. What comes to mind is the unforgettable words of Isaiah long ago, using the banquet imagery:
Yet just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me empty,
but shall do what pleases me,
achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
God’s word is bread, to be eaten, to nourish our hearts with Christ himself so that we live Christ and worship the Father by doing so. This is Eucharist. We become what we eat.
Thirdly, God’s pattern of revealing to us who he is and what he wants is word and deed. This is basic to God’s way. Christ follows this at Emmaus and in the Mass. Word and deed interact — the word explains what God is doing and the mystery therein; the deeds (works of God) reinforce the teaching and confirm the realities of what is spoken of in the word (what God says). The Eucharist in its totality is both what Christ says and what Christ does — he speaks and acts. Our participation at Mass includes our words and actions. So when we say that we are going to Mass and going to Communion our presence there is not just listening to the word of God nor just receiving Communion. It is the combined act of worshiping God through word and Sacrament. The fullness cannot be achieved digitally or virtually by electronic means.
So the word of God becomes Eucharist. Upon our return to the celebration of Mass with the Church we must enter into the word and enter in the eating and drinking of Christ, the Word made flesh.
This is a topic for the future.
Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us;
make our hearts burn while you speak to us see Luke 24:32.
Acts 2:14, 22-33
Some higher ups in the Jewish community considered Peter and the Apostles as uneducated men (Acts 4:13) and belittled them and Jesus for originating from Galilee (John 7:52). This passage today shows otherwise. Jesus did a good job in choosing Peter to be the leader. He probably did not have the formal education as others may have had but he shows wisdom of faith not matched by his opponents. This speech is placed about 50 days (Pentecost) after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through grace of God Peter has put it all together. He recognized that Jesus was the Messiah of God spoken extensively in the scriptures of old and what is more the suffering of Jesus was for the glory of God. What might amaze us the most about Peter and what he said was his ability to interpret God’s word and especially here the psalms. He presents Psalm 16 as a Christian psalm, i.e. that Christ is the fulfilment of what God had done and said long ago. In this way Peter exemplifies what Christ Jesus was telling the disciples at Emmaus they must do (see today’s Gospel), namely study the scriptures and come to a deep understanding of them. Through all of this Peter shows us his own understanding of the scriptures revealed through the resurrection of Christ and calls us to do the same. He expressed this magnificently in his First Letter (1:25) by saying: the word of the Lord remains forever. He put this all together and believed that Jesus is risen to complete God’s plan as the Messiah.
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11 (11a)
Lord, you will show us the path of life.
We, too, understand much better why Peter chose to explain Psalm 16 from a Christ point of view. He will show us the path of life. Peter knew first hand that this is what Jesus did. Peter’s months of being the company of Jesus built up within him “family ties” and kept Peter at his right hand. But probably most of all I set the Lord ever before me. Peter had nowhere else to go – Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Jesus being raised from the dead proved Peter right. As he mentioned in his Pentecost speech because you (O God) will not suffer to your faithful one to undergo corruption. Since the psalm is attributed to King David Saint Peter in his understanding of this scripture refers to the perpetuity of kingship in the house of David. The risen Christ of the house of David fulfills God’s promise. Resurrection of Christ is real and so is ours.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
You will show me the path to life,
abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
O Lord, our God, you are eternally happy for us. Let we, your own people, look forward in joy and hope today as we did in our younger days when you first chose us, so that our happiness this day of Easter, knowing our status as adopted sons and daughters of yours has been restored in the resurrection of your Son, helps us move forward in life with the unshakeable hope of eternal happiness which you have promised and are keeping this day.
This prayer of the Church flows from the word of God we have today and during this whole Easter Season. Joy is the hallmark of our Easter celebration. God has made his people happy and the raising of Jesus from the dead is the reason for it. So he gathers us this day into his presence and makes us happy reminding us that he wants us to be his family as sons and daughters of his. He proved his love by revealing his covenant love as stronger than death. Through the Easter Mastery we all have hope that our future is living in communion with the Lord as sons and daughters of the heavenly Father. Left to our sins such a future was in doubt. But with the resurrection of Jesus who dies no more the inheritance is guaranteed to us. God will not go back on his word. So with the Church we ask for unshakable hope.
1 Peter 1:17-21
This is from the Letter from which I quoted earlier: the word of God is forever. The shedding of Christ’s blood and his being raised from the dead makes it imperative that we let God be in our lives. He is the only one who can raise the dead, i.e. he is eternal and he placed in our hearts the desire to live forever. So Peter advises us to live a holy (Godlike) life since all our hope is in him. Peter makes a statement that is filled with meaning when he says: you were ransomed from your futile conduct by the precious blood of Christ who offered himself as the sacrifice to the Father. He contrast the blood of the living Christ to silver or gold which we consider precious metals. Remember the blood of Christ in scripture terms means the whole Christ, the living Person. Underlying all this is that our relationship with God is a personal encounter. It is not paying some money to get what we want. Rather it is an exchange with the living Christ which alone will give us the true peace and communion we seek. So when easting Christ’s Body and drinking his Blood our salvation is at work, our personal relationship with Christ our Savior is being built up — our personal relationship deepens, our attachment and friendship is secured. That is the effect of the Blood.
This is one of the favorite passages in the Gospels. Because of its length and detail it offers much for meditation and prayer. Today I want to approach it from its revelation of the mercy of God — this is not considered frequently enough. Some of these thoughts are given randomly but you will see how they fit in with my previous remarks on the faithful mercy covenant love of God.
The merciful love of God happens over a period of time and affects more persons that it seems on the surface. The Emmaus disciples evidently we good and faithful Jews, steeped in the history and traditions of God’s people. If not, they would not have followed Jesus in the first place. So God showed his love for them from the beginning of their lives and before. On the other end their coming to faith in the risen Lord was not just their own possession. Rather they immediately wanted to share it. That is why they returned to Jerusalem and their fellow believers right away. So the merciful love was widespread and interconnected, i.e. is was Covenant wide. The individuals received mercy and love along with the rest of the people. Mercy is linked to mercy for the whole Church.
Secondly, their time with Christ, the receiving of mercy and forgiveness was not just a few minutes. Presumably the encounter went along for hours and they wanted it to continue. So do not think of the Sacrament of Penance has taking place in a few seconds of the clock. Christ brought them slowly to accept his merciful love.
Thirdly, the word of God is part of the pardoning process. The risen Lord himself explained/interpreted what the Father had been doing and was doing right now. The penitent needs to let God speak to him —especially in a liturgical setting, e.g. at Mass. So the Sacrament of Penance is related to participation at Mass. In a sense every Eucharist (the whole Eucharist) is an examination of conscience — a call to be holy, more Godlike. This, too, brings out the community aspects of God’s faithful merciful love and connects it with the Covenant. At Emmaus Jesus open the scriptures to both disciples at once, in a “community setting.” Speaking of the Covenant — the ultimate sin is not accepting God’s invitation to live the Covenant with him. So this is why we must obey the Commandments because they are Commandments of the Covenant — recall the two tablets from God on Mt. Sinai.
Fourthly, the breaking of the bread (total Eucharist) is thanksgiving to God for giving us the Blood of Christ as the sign of the new and eternal Covenant. Accepting mercy and forgiveness in this way carries with it going forth from the Mass with the resolve to live Christ daily. So mercy is not just during the time of the ritual but accepting the grace day by day by living up to the Covenant. The purpose of amendment is an integral part of accepting God’s mercy. The Emmaus disciples acted right away by going back to Jerusalem and presumably did so for the rest of their lives.
This Gospel passage is a great story of mercy.
Commentary Easter _3
The sound of the church bells ringing is getting louder
In our attempt to come out of this pandemic more faithful to God’s call and our worship of him we can find nothing better to consider than the dialogue he has established between him and us which we refer to as the word of God. It is at the heart of our relationship with him. It is the living word and is active in our lives to this very day.
Jesus leads us in this. After all he is the Word of God among us. In his sojourn on this earth showed himself to be a leader of the liturgy (the priest) not just at the Last Supper but earlier. At the beginning of his public life he returned to his hometown of Nazareth and participated in the worship there in his synagogue. He was asked to do a reading — to proclaim the word of God.
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing (Luke 46-21).
This last line was his “homily” to explain how God’s word was taking place then and there in their midst and that God was calling them to respond with faith in his Son whom the Father had sent to them. The word to focus on is today, here and now the word of God was spoken to them to let him create in their hearts a greater love of him and attachment to the ancient Covenant. The word of God at that moment was active — God was then and there speaking to his people and his people were being called to respond with their word of faith and love. The interaction between heaven and earth was taking place in the worship service. That is the thanksgiving God was looking for. This is what liturgy is.
The Church in our day has openly and loudly taught that the word of God is essential to liturgy pleasing to God. As we return to Mass soon we wish to return with a greater appreciation of God’s word active in our dialogue with him, especially as he gathers us, the body of Christ, to celebrate and praise him and let his Word find more room in our hearts. So we offer here some considerations to take us in that direction and be more pleasing to God at the time of our Eucharistic Action.
Before we go further I remind you that the word of God is active throughout the Mass — from start to finish, not just in the Liturgy of the Word. With some regret when titles were given to the parts of the Mass, it was divided into Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. This gave the impression that a certain part was sectioned off for the word of God and when that was over the word of God was left behind and we went on to something else, the Communion part. In truth the word of God is active in both of these parts, e.g. the Communion antiphon is generally from the scriptures. But the word of God goes forth from the mouth of God at the beginning when God calls us together and sends us forth at the end with his peace (shalom) which is living the Covenant. The word is everywhere and a better awareness of this will elicit a deeper loving response from us.
So perhaps number one for us is to learn and practice the presence of God’s word at every moment of the Mass. All of this is Communion with the God of the Covenant. So to practice the word of God at the very time of the Mass is living the Covenant. And what we generally call going to Communion is a high point of all the word of God has been doing throughout the whole ritual. In our day to recognize this and participate in the word of God every minute is a great gift. In comparison with virtual worship (by TV or Internet) our presence as the body of Christ, the Church, when we are at Mass in person puts us in greater contact with the God who speaks to us and awaits our response. This communion with the Lord through his word draws us into communion with God’s people who are the living embodiment of the Covenant which is for here and hereafter. This is what we mean by the Blood of Christ of the new and eternal Covenant. It is our sharing here and now of God’s plan for us.
Secondly, to return to something I said earlier, it is the word of God, not just the word of man as Saint Paul taught
And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe [editor’s emphasis] (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
When God and his Son speak to us live we are in the presence, the real presence, of the Lord. This is why to improve and participate more at Mass we have to come to the realization that we are really and truly dialoguing with God himself — at that moment. This is why the Church speaks of the real presence of Christ in his word (Introduction to the Missal, #27)
This may be the time as we strive to enter into the conversation more with the living and loving God and his Son that the word of God is not exclusively on the printed page of the Bible. If this be the case we have to be more attuned to God whenever and wherever he speaks. One example is that God’s creative word is in his believers there and then at Mass. As we look around and make ourselves aware of this fact right before our eyes God is speaking to us of the extent of his love, not just in us, but in all the people assembled by him. That is the word of God to which we listen with our eyes and take into our hearts so we can speak the praises of God. Our not having the Mass during these days makes us cherish more our parish congregation all the more.
[Side note] As spin off of liturgical practice — that God’s word is at work here and now — we understand the action of preaching the word causes faith in the one who listens and believes.
There is more to be said as time goes on. Stay tuned.