Sunday, June 02, 2013
Homily - "Top 10 reminders about the Eucharist"
I have found that laying out specific guidelines and principles is helpful for people to follow the Lord, especially with regard to the Eucharist. So, on this feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, here are some specific guidelines and principles. I am calling them, the "Top ten reminders about the Eucharist and Mass.
Number 1. A question I am asked often is, "why do we have to go to Mass every Sunday?" First, it is the third commandment to keep holy the Sabbath. The Christian Sabbath is Sunday. Second, the main point of coming to Mass is to receive the Eucharist. Jesus teaches in John 6:53-54 that if we want to get to Heaven, we need to receive the Eucharist: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks has eternal life". If we want to get to Heaven, we need to come to Mass every Sunday to receive the Eucharist, whether we are home or away. Between the teaching of John 6 and the Last Supper accounts in which Jesus says, "this is my body", we can know with certainty that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ. "This is my body" means this is my body.
Number 2. When does Mass start and end? Mass starts when the presider makes the sign of the Cross and greets the people. We need to be here for the start of Mass and be prepared to enter into the sacred mysteries. We definitely need to be present in time for the Gospel. If we miss the Gospel, we have missed Mass and need to find another Mass to fulfill our Sunday obligation. We need to be here for the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Mass ends when the presider gives the final blessing and says, "the Mass is ended" (duh!). It is a venial sin to arrive late or leave early without a good reason.
Number 3. Does God care how we dress for Mass? I think so. He says in the first Book of Chronicles and in Psalms 29 and 96, "worship the Lord in holy attire". We come to the house of God for a "sacred banquet", as the Church puts it. Blessed John Paul II described the Mass as a "sacred banquet in which the simplicity of the signs conceals the unfathomable holiness of God". Does the way we dress celebrate the "unfathomable holiness of God"? We primarily dress nicely to show reverence for the Lord, but we also dress modestly to help each other. We don't want to distract members of the opposite sex by what we wear. It's better to wear more than less in donning our "Sunday best".
Number 4. Participate! Vatican II calls for "full and active participation" among the faithful. Let's hear what this sounds like. Can you give me an amen? "AMEN!" Imagine that kind of participation in every response and hymn during Mass.
Number 5. Transubstantiation. This means that the substances of bread and wine change to become the Body and Blood of Christ. Transubstantiation also takes place with the priest. It is no longer the priest who is celebrating the Mass; it is Christ. That's why we hear the words, "this is my body" and not this is his body. The priest acts in persona Christi - in the person of Christ - at Mass and in the other sacraments.
Number 6. When does the Consecration actually take place? When the words of Institution are said, "this is my body...this is the chalice of my blood".
Number 7. We can receive Holy Communion either in the hand or on the tongue. People receive on the tongue because they believe it is the most reverent way to receive, or they think only the priest should touch the sacred Host, or they don't want any particles of the Host falling to the ground in the transfer from hand to hand or hand to mouth. But, as early as the fourth century, the tradition of the Church has allowed for receiving in the hand. St. Theodore of Mospsuestia (c. 350 AD) instructed people who receive in the hand to "make of your left hand a throne for your right as it is about to receive your King, and receive the Body of Christ in the fold of your hand, responding 'Amen'.
Number 8. Who may receive the Eucharist? Catholics who in a state of grace. I say before Holy Communion at every Mass, "let all faithful Catholics come receive our Lord". If you are not Catholic or not in a state of Grace, you are encouraged to remain in your pew to make a spiritual Communion. Forget what others might be thinking or if they are judging you. Be respectful of the Eucharist and if you need yo go to Confession before receiving, please do. You can also come up for a blessing by crossing your arms.
Number 9. The Communion of saints. This is one of the most beautiful teachings of our Church. The Eucharist is where heaven and earth unite. Where there is the Son, there is the Father and the Spirit and all the angels and saints. During Mass, the Church is like a chamber of Heaven where the saints on earth are joined with the saints in heaven. All of our loved ones who are among the saints in heaven are with us at every Mass, even though we can't see them.
Number 10. Thanksgiving. The word Eucharist literally means, "thanksgiving". We come to give thanks to God for all that He has done for us. We especially give thanks to Jesus for His sacrifice on the Cross. I invite you to join the saints in the practice of making a prayer of thanksgiving after Mass. Spend a moment or two to digest all that you just received in this heavenly banquet. Give thanks to The Lord for all that He has given you. And especially, thank Jesus for His sacrifice on the Cross for you and the gift of the Eucharist - the Body of Blood of Christ, the greatest treasure in the world.