Sunday, May 29, 2016

Corpus Christi

“Jesus was broken; he is broken for us. And he asks us to give ourselves, to break ourselves, as it were, for others,” the Pope said, during his homily for the celebration of Corpus Christi, at St. John Lateran.

Today we celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist and is marked by special displays of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, most notably Eucharistic processions.

Pope Francis pointed to the many mothers and fathers who, “together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well!”

He also commented how many Christians “as responsible citizens have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated against!”
“Where do they find the strength to do this? It is in the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’”

The Pope called to mind the reading of St. Paul to the Corinthians recounting the institution of the Eucharist, He said, here is “the oldest testimony we have to the words of Christ at the Last Supper.”

By telling his disciples “do this,” Christ gives the command to repeat his own actions by which he gave us his own Body and Blood.

“Jesus gives the command to repeat this action by which he instituted the memorial of his own Pasch, and in so doing gives us his Body and his Blood. This action reaches us today: it is the 'doing' of the Eucharist which always has Jesus as its subject, but which is made real through our poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit.”

In the today's Gospel passage from John, which recounted the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, Christ tells his disciples to “give them something to eat yourselves.” Christ is the one who blesses and breaks the bread, providing enough to feed the entire hungry crowd, it is the disciples who offer the loaves and fish.

“Jesus wanted it this way: that, instead of sending the crowd away, the disciples would put at his disposal what little they had.”

“Clearly this miracle was not intended merely to satisfy hunger for a day, but rather it signals what Christ wants to accomplish for the salvation of all mankind, giving his own flesh and blood. And yet this needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.”

Pope Francis said the breaking of the bread signifies another meaning of Christ's command to “do this in remembrance of me” – allowing ourselves to make sacrifices and to be broken for the good of others.

He commented how “breaking bread” became a sign for recognizing Christ and Christians, and pointed to several passages in scripture recounting how the disciples broke bread together.

“From the outset it is the Eucharist which becomes the center and pattern of the life of the Church.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily thoughts by saying that the Eucharistic procession after Mass would be a response to Christ's command: “an action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and for the whole world.”

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Eucharist

Jesus didn’t only tell us to remember him in the Eucharist.
He promised to be our Eucharist.
So when we bless, break and share the bread we offer in thanksgiving,
we believe him when he tells us, This bread is my Body.
And when we bless and share the cup we offer in thanksgiving,
we believe him when he tells us, This is the cup of my Blood.

In this sacrament we are not sprinkled, we drink the blood
Christ spilled for us on the Cross.
He is atonement for our sins and in his Blood we are washed clean
not just once a year but every time
we eat this bread and drink this cup
and proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

In him and in the sacrifice he offered once on the Cross
and again now at this table, we are delivered, forgiven and saved.
In Communion with him we are all made one
for we are all sharers in the one Bread broken for us,
in the one Cup we share.

So let us approach the Lord’s Table with thanksgiving
for what he offers us here is more than we can imagine.

Let us approach the Lord’s Table with humility
for none of us deserves what we receive here.

Let us approach the Lord’s Table with reverence
for on this altar is laid the very Body and Blood of Christ.

Let us approach the Lord’s Table with all our brokenness
for we are about to receive the Lord who heals and mends us.

Let us approach the Lord’s Table with a hunger for life
and a thirst for mercy
for that is the food the Lord sets before us.

Let us approach the Lord’s Table in a spirit of prayer,
for here is food for our souls,
here is the Bread of Angels and the Cup of Salvation,
here is the Risen Lord, Christ Jesus, whose Body and Blood
we take and consume with solemnity,
with thanks, and with joy.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Amen!

And most important of all,
he is present in the sacramental supper of this table
where we are nourished by the sacrifice he offered
on the altar of the Cross.
Christ, present, truly, in the bread and cup of the Eucharist…

But what do we mean when we say that?

Back in the 4th century, people asked the same question
and St. Augustine gave them this answer:

What you see is the bread and the chalice;
that is what your own eyes report to you.
But what your faith obliges you to accept is that
the bread is the Body of Christ
and the chalice the Blood of Christ...
How is the bread his Body?
And that which is in the chalice - how is it his Blood?
Those elements, brothers and sisters, are called sacraments,
because in them one thing is seen,
but another is understood.
What is seen is the corporeal species
but what is understood is the spiritual fruit...
You yourselves are the Body of Christ and his members.
If you are the Body of Christ and his members,
it is your own mystery that is presented
at the table of the Lord,
you receive your mystery.
To that which you are -- you answer: "Amen..."
For you hear: "The Body of Christ!" and you answer: "Amen!"
You hear: "The Blood of Christ!" and you answer: "Amen!"
Be a member of Christ's Body, then,
so that your "Amen" may be the truth.


In St. Augustine’s effort to help us understand the comfort that is ours
in believing that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist,
there comes also a challenge,
to believe not only that the bread and wine become
the body and blood of Christ,
but to believe also that, indeed, we are to become
what we eat and drink:
we are to become the true presence of Christ
breaking ourselves like bread to nourish our neighbor;
pouring ourselves out like wine in outreach to those in need.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sunday celebration

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
That’s a liturgical, theological mouthful.
Just to name the day and what we celebrate on Sunday
might put off-putting for some: too pious, too churchy.
And, of course, those words ARE pious and they are churchy
but if we cannot at least begin to understand them at their core,
then they’re lost on us.

So, let’s bear with one another and make as simple an effort as possible
to understand the complexity, the depth and the mystery
of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

• Beginning centuries before Jesus was born, his people, the Jews,
celebrated Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement,
to atone for the sins they had committed in the previous year.

On Yom Kippur, the blood of a sacrificed animal
was sprinkled on the altar and on the people,
a sign that God was one with the people he had made his own
and he was reconciled with them.

The Jews still celebrate Yom Kippur,
but without the spilling and the splashing of blood.
Instead, they recount the story of the earlier sacrifice,
to remember it,
and they recite the prayers that accompanied that sacrifice.

• Centuries before Jesus was born, his people, the Jews,
at God’s command,
on the eve of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt,
celebrated the first Passover supper, a ritual meal,
which God charged them to celebrate then every year
to remember how the Lord had passed over the homes of the Jews
which had been sprinkled with the blood of a sacrificed lamb,
thus sparing those Jewish homes from the angel of death.

•Some 2,000 years ago - at Passover in Jerusalem,
Jesus gathered his friends for that same supper
on the night before he died.

That night, Jesus took the bread of Passover, gave thanks, broke it
and gave it to his friends saying,
Take and eat of this:
This bread is my body, broken for you, given up for you.

And taking the Passover cup filled with wine he gave thanks again
and gave it to his friends saying,
Take this, all of you, and drink from it.
This is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new covenant, poured out for you,
for the forgiveness of sins.
When you do this: remember me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mary, Help of Christians

Pope Francis at the Basilica of St. Mary, Help of Christians.
The Blessed Virgin Mary 
is a beautiful, beloved, essential and pervasive figure in Christian life 
and in the Church’s calendar. 
She has been since the early days of the Church. 
Her feasts are as varied as the cultures of the world, 
with each having special traditions, customs, 
and habits of piety. 
For example, the Church honors Mary every Saturday, 
recalling both the one full day 
that Jesus spent in the tomb 
and the traditional belief that Mary 
was the disciple who best kept the faith on that day. 
The early Church took up the practice 
of keeping faith with her on that day each week.

Since the Middle Ages, 
the Church has devoted the month of May to Mary. 
Many parishes have “May Crownings” 
during this time in which a statue of the Blessed Mother 
is adorned with a diadem or a wreath of flowers. 
Many Christians also undertake pilgrimages 
during this month to shrines associated with the Blessed Virgin. 
In May, there are also three Marian feasts 
that are celebrated which help us to understand 
what Mary can teach us about being disciples.

Earlier this month, on May 13, 
we commemorated the Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima 
which recalls the appearance of the Blessed Virgin 
to three young children in Portugal in 1917. 
Mary encouraged penance, conversion 
and praying the rosary, 
warning the world of a great war and suffering, 
but that, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

The Feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, 
which is celebrated today, May 25, 
is an older feast, dating back to the to the sixteenth century, 
which was not a peaceful time in Europe. 
In 1571, Catholics throughout the continent 
joined in praying the rosary 
in hopes of prevailing over Muslim military forces 
that had long sought to expand into Europe. 
These prayers were answered at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571, 
which is now the feast for Our Lady of the Rosary.

Both of these feasts highlight not only the strength 
we find in asking Mary’s intercession, 
joining our prayers to her intercession, 
but also the confidence that God continues 
to act in the world. 
God hears the cry of those who suffer and God responds.

The third Marian feast for May is 
the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin on May 31. 
We remember how Mary journeyed to the home 
of her kinswoman Elizabeth to care for her as the birth of her son, 
John the Baptist, drew near. In the greeting that is so beautifully 
recounted in the first chapter of Luke, 
Mary first announces the arrival of the Messiah 
to the people of Israel as she prays 
what is known as the Magnificat. 
“My soul magnifies the Lord 
and my Spirit rejoices in God, my Savior” (Luke 1:46). 
This is a prayer of joy and of confidence that, in staying close to Christ, we are never alone.

These celebrations, 
like all Marian feasts, are really celebrations of Jesus Christ, 
for she has no privilege that she has not received from God. 
In these days, we learn how to stay close to him in prayer 
and through the practice of charity, 
such as caring for a relative in a time of need, 
with confidence that our prayers will be answered.

To rejoice in Mary 
is to celebrate God’s greatest creation – 
the vessel he fashioned to be his own mother, 
the woman who would bear him into the world. 
In the life of the “handmaid of the Lord,
” we learn what it means to say “yes” 
to life in the Lord and to discover in him the meaning of life.

With maternal love for us, 
Mary wants what is best for us – 
she wants Jesus for us, so she urges us, 
“Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). 
Then she helps us as we lead others to know and love her Son too. 
Her feasts not only empower us to turn to her in prayer, 
but also to love Jesus and others with a greater love.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

“You are what you eat.”

“You are what you eat.”

At least that’s what people say.

In fact, they’ve been saying that since 1826 when a Frenchman,
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, wrote,

"Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are."
Dis-moi ce que tu manges et je te dirai ce que tu es.


(Everything always sounds better in French!)

The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ this Sunday
celebrates the sacramental reality of Christ’s presence
in the gifts of bread and wine we offer every time we celebrate Mass,
- what we eat and drink when we celebrate the Eucharist.

What does the spiritual food we share at Mass
tell us about who we are?

Christ is present at Mass in several ways in the liturgy.
He’s present in our very gathering, our coming together to pray.
He himself told us,
“Wherever two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”

(Matthew 18:20)

He is also “present in the Word,
since it is the Lord himself who speaks
when the scriptures are read in the Church.”


Monday, May 23, 2016

Remember

And God wants us to set aside some time every week
to remember some important things
-- precisely so that we don’t forget them.

And what are those things God doesn’t want us to forget?

• We need to remember, to be reminded,
of how much God loves each one of us.

• And we need to remember, we need to be reminded,
of how much God asks of us and expects of us, every day.
God has expectations of how we live our lives, every day.

• And we need to remember, we need to be reminded,
of how responsible each of us is for those who have
so much less than we do.
And especially when we get caught up in all that we have
can we be tempted to forget others – and to forget God.

• And we need to remember, we need to be reminded,
that there’s a truth in God’s Word here,
a truth wiser than any truth any one of us might come up with.

• And we need to remember, we need to be reminded,
that sometimes we easily forget the most important things
and let the least important things fascinate us
and shape our lives, our choices and our decisions.

• When we gather together for this
we need to remember precisely
what Jesus asked us to remember
when he was at table with his friends.
To remember how he took bread, blessed it, broke it
and gave it to his friends;
to remember how he took a cup of wine, blessed it
and shared it with his friends
and then said, “do this in MEMORY of me…”
It’s his way of saying,
“Please, don’t forget me!

I want to be with you and I want you to be with me.”

And every time we come to this table to remember him,
he is present to us in his Word
and in the Bread and Cup of Communion.
There’s no better way to remember Jesus
than the way he himself gave us to remember him:
here at the altar, where the shadow of his Cross
reminds us of just how much God loves every one of us.