Monday, August 24, 2009

Fr. James's Sunday Homily

"Throughout the past few weeks, the Catholic Sunday liturgy has presented us an opportunity to meditate upon the mystery of the Eucharist. Each week we have heard, verse by verse, the proclamation of chapter six of the Gospel of St. John. The entire chapter of John's Gospel is a catechesis on the Eucharist.

Chapter six is divided into three parts: the miracle of the loaves and fishes (verses 1-15); the walking on the water (verses 16-21); the discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum (verses 22-71). The two miracles that precede Jesus' discourse are essential to a correct understanding of the discourse on the Eucharist.

The two miracles illustrate that Jesus is truly God. Because of his divine nature, he can multiply the loaves and the fishes, and he can walk on water. These two miracles testify to the fact that as God, he can do as he pleases with physical reality.

The point made here is very clear. If Jesus can intervene within these physical realities, he can also change bread and wine into his own body and blood.

Those who heard Jesus' discourse on the Eucharist understood exactly what he was saying. For this reason they rejected his teaching. "As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6: 66).

It is true that during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church adopted the term, "transubstantiation" from the highly advanced philosophical and theological thought of the time. However, this does not mean that the Church did not believe in transubstantiation until this particular moment in time.

As I have been explaining for the past weeks, 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 He cannot lie. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14: 6).

When it comes to the Eucharist, the bottom line is this: either Jesus Christ is true God and true Man, the Incarnate Word of God, or he is a complete and total lunatic. Either the Catholic Church possesses the greatest gift known to humanity, or we are idol worshippers.

"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink" (John 6: 52-55).

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).

Personally, I have never doubted. However, I think that aside from the volumes of beautiful theology and spirituality that have been written about the Eucharist, and even aside from the countless number of our brothers and sisters, who throughout the centuries, have shed their blood to defend the Eucharist, my favorite proof of the Eucharist is contained in this Sunday's Gospel reading.

Had Jesus been telling his disciples that the Eucharist was merely a symbol of his presence among us, he would have begun calling after them, asking that they return even as they were departing from his company. He would have attempted to explain his words to them and to assure them that they must have misunderstood him. Instead, what did he do? He stood firm and watched them leave.

Then with majesty and self-dominion he turned to his Apostles and asked an amazing question: "Will you also go away?" (John 6: 67). Without hesitation, Peter, the first Pope of the Catholic Church, pronounced some of the most powerful words of the Bible: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6: 68-69).

The real difficulty of Catholicism is two-fold. Catholicism demands an act of total surrender to Jesus, the Lord and Savior of the universe, with a complete acceptance of him as the final authority; and Catholicism also demands a moral standard of the highest level. The difficulty for the first disciples and for many of his disciples today, is to accept the Eucharist as true, with all its implications. Many refuse Christ, not because he puzzles the intellect, but because he challenges our lives.

Every Sunday or even during the week, we worship at our parishes and receive the gift of the Eucharist without even considering the thousands upon thousands of our brothers and sisters who throughout the history of the Catholic Church have given their lives precisely to defend what we do without any obstacles at all. Here is one story that is very moving and happened not to far from our own country.

During 1920’s there was a brutal persecution against the Catholic Church throughout Mexico. Churches were closed and the land was drenched with the blood of thousands of martyrs made up of priests, religious and lay people. The persecution went on for the next two decades and even to this day, there are many vestiges of a pervasive anti-catholic mentality.

One group of ladies, among many examples of heroism that were prevalent throughout Mexico, showed their love for their parish priest one day in 1934.

Maria de la Luz Camacho, an attractive twenty-seven year old woman was standing by the front doors of her parish church of Coyoacan, Mexico. Maria stood led a group of young women to guard the church because she had learned that a large group of men from the anti-Catholic Red Syndicate had planned to burn down the church, and carry the priest off to jail and kill him.

When the group of revolutionaries arrived at the parish church, Maria, her sister, and a small group of valiant young women stood at the doors of the church. “We are not afraid. If it becomes necessary, we are ready to die for Christ the King”, cried out Maria. “Those who wish to enter this church must first pass over my body”. Shortly after the initial confrontation, the Red Shirts opened fire and Maria de la Luz Camacho was killed.

Word spread quickly about her martyrdom. 30,000 people assembled in the small town..." (Continued here)

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