SUNDAY HOMILY: The Happy Priest - The Treasure of the Eucharist
Our belief in the Real Presence must permeate all of our actions when we are in church. Sacred silence, reverent genuflections and proper attire for worship are all manifestations of deep reverence and faith. We must also keep in mind the grave importance to receive Holy Communion in the state of grace.
At every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we participate in a marvelous miracle, the miracle called Transubstantiation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this miracle when it says:
"The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend. In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained. This presence is called real - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as of they could not be real too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present" (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1374).
Transubstantiation cannot be proved through scientific experimentation. If we were to respectfully examine a consecrated host using a microscope, the physical attributes of bread would be obvious. If we were to do to the same with the precious blood, the physical attributes would be that of wine.
Transubstantiation belongs to the reality of faith. Faith does not contradict reason. Instead, the gift of faith that we receive at Baptism, gives us a superior vision.
Transubstantiation means "change of substance", or "change of reality." When the priest repeats the words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, the bread is no longer bread, and the wine is no longer wine. Instead, the entire substance of the bread and the entire substance of the wine have been changed into the substance of The Body and Blood of Christ.
Transubstantiation occurs only by the power of God, and in a way that we cannot empirically detect. We know that transubstantiation takes place through the certainty of faith.
Jesus, the Son of God; Jesus the Messiah; Jesus the Lord and Savior of the universe said: "This is my body"; "This is my blood". Faith is a vision superior to reason, but it does not contradict reason, precisely because faith relies upon the authority of God who does not deceive, nor can be deceived. Jesus is the truth and thus is incapable of lying.
The Fathers of the Church give witness to the fact that Jesus did not give us a symbol of Himself, but rather He empowered His Church to continue His presence throughout the world. J.N.D. Kelly, a renowned Protestant scholar who studied the history of the early church extensively, affirmed that this is true when he wrote: "Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior's body and blood" (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).
As early as 110 A.D., St. Ignatius of Antioch said: "Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2-7:1).
Around the year 151 A.D., St. Justin wrote to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius these words: "We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66).
There is no doubt that Jesus was not speaking symbolically. "I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world" (John 6: 51).
Dr. Scott Hahn, the famous former Protestant minister that converted to Catholicism wrote in his conversion story one of the most beautiful testimonies about the Eucharist that I have ever read. Here are his words, written in his book that he co-authored with his wife Kimberly.
"Then one day, I made a 'fatal blunder' - I decided that it was time for me to go to Mass on my own. Finally I resolved to darken the doors of Gesu, Marquette University's parish. Right before noon, I slipped quietly into the basement chapel for daily Mass. I wasn't sure what to expect; maybe I'd be alone with a priest and a couple of old nuns. I took a seat as an observer in the back pew.
All of a sudden lots of ordinary people began coming in off the streets; rank-and-file type folks. They came in, genuflected, knelt and prayed. Their simple but sincere devotion was impressive.
Then a bell rang and a priest walked out toward the altar. I remained seated; I still wasn't sure if it was safe to kneel. As an evangelical Calvinist, I had been taught that the Catholic Mass was the greatest sacrilege that a man could commit - to re-sacrifice Christ - so I wasn't sure what to do.
I watched and listened as the readings, prayers and responses - so steeped in Scripture - made the Bible come alive. I almost wanted to stop the Mass and say, 'Wait. That line is from Isaiah; the song is from the Psalms. Whoa, you've got another prophet in that prayer'. I found numerous elements from the ancient Jewish liturgy that I had studied so intensely.
All of a sudden I realized, this is where the Bible belongs. This was the setting in which this precious family heirloom was meant to be read, proclaimed and expounded. Then we moved into the Liturgy of the Eucharist, where all my covenant conclusions converged.
I wanted to stop everything and shout, 'Hey, can I explain what's happening from Scripture? This is great!' Instead I just sat there, famished with a supernatural hunger for the Bread of Life.
After pronouncing the words of consecration, the priest held up the Host. I felt as if the last drop of doubt had drained from me. With all of my heart, I whispered, 'My Lord and my God. That's really you! And if that's you, then I want full communion with you. I don't want to hold anything back' (Rome Sweet Home, pp. 87-88).
Our belief in the Real Presence must permeate all of our actions when we are in church. Sacred silence, reverent genuflections and proper attire for worship are all manifestations of deep reverence and faith.
We must also keep in mind the grave importance to receive Holy Communion in the state of grace. There is a direct connection between the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession. It is a sacrilege to receive Holy Communion while being in the state of mortal sin.
"To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: 'Whoever, therefore, eats of the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself' (1 Cor 11: 27-29). Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of reconciliation before coming to communion" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1385).
My dear friends, in 1519, Alonso Álvarez de Piñeda, commissioned by the Spanish governor of Jamaica to explore and chart the coast of Texas, entered the bay of what would latter be called the city of Corpus Christi.
As the Spanish explorers disembarked and prepared themselves for the first Mass by the missionary that accompanied them, they marveled at the beauty of the area.
It was the Feast of Corpus Christi, and in accordance with a Spanish custom, Piñeda named the bay in honor of the feast that they celebrated that day.
Visit Fr. James Farfaglia on the web at www.fatherjames.org and listen to the audio podcast of this Sunday homily.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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