1 Corinthians 11:23, 26
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you…For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”
The best guess is that St. Paul wrote these words not much more than 20 years after the death of Jesus. So already in the early church this has become a set formula for understanding the Eucharistic prayer of the church. The last part of the quote, which I repeated from our reading, we use in a slightly different form as one of the three acclamations in the Eucharistic prayers: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.” Listen for it, I will use it today.
This is the very heart of our faith, or as the Second Vatican Council calls it: “the source and summit of our faith.” It is the very heart of the priest’s – or at least this priest’s – joy and life. This past week, because of the shingles, I was not able to celebrate Mass because of the pain. I think it left a bigger pain in my heart than the shingles was causing on my body. Thanks be to God, I am able to function again.
I am sure for many of you, not having access to the Eucharist yourselves, leaves you somewhat feeling the same. This is a terrible time that we are enduring. But I am so glad that technology is here that can at least get me to you as a video Mass, or at least as a recording. To say I miss having you here is… An understatement.
But I don’t want to reflect just on that. We are in what we call the holiest days of the year. These are days that should lead us deeper into the mystery of Jesus Christ and all he did, and does, for the sake of our souls. His sacrifice, which we remember tomorrow on Good Friday, is an atonement for our sins. But if we only stop with that as a description of what he has done, we do a disservice to the work of our God.
By Jesus facing his death, he took to himself our sin, yes; but more importantly he took our humanity, through the power of God, and overcame death as well. He is the new Adam who re-creates EVERYTHING. He is the one, with Mary his mother who is the new Eve, who said yes to God instead of yes to Satan.
I am convinced that this is the reason why the devil hates the Eucharist so much. The power of the Eucharist to overcome death and the grave for us is so powerful that the devil fears it, not just hates it. It is one of the reasons why, as I have read this last week, many of the exorcists say that the devil is going crazy happy in this time because there are fewer Masses around the world.
Because there is a limit to the number of people who can gather to pray against the powers of evil simply by being at Mass, the devil has been released in some ways to wreak havoc on the faith of those who are weak. If you are watching this, your faith is not weak! If you are watching or listening to this and participating in whatever way you can, you are helping to fight the fight that Jesus fought.
This is not just some made-up idea. This, I believe, is the spiritual reality that we are fighting in these days. I want to encourage all of you who are watching this, or listening to it, to stand in the fight. Our society, no, our world needs to have Christians fighting against the powers of darkness. That fight consists of our prayers right now.
We cannot gather physically to pray against these darknesses that have invaded our society. They are a scourge that will leave a mark on many people’s souls. But Jesus fought the fight of Good Friday so that we would not succumb to the warfare of the devil.
Now is the time for God’s people to step up and become warriors in the faith. In your homes, where you are isolated, you are not alone! You are never alone, because of the grace of God. Now is the time for us to use that grace. To spend it so that we can receive more. To pray that we may go stronger. To grow stronger so that we can face the battles, spiritual and societal, that are trying to destroy us in these wearisome days.
It is the Eucharist that gives us that strength, even if we cannot receive it ourselves. God overcomes times and distances and situations for the sake of his people. Be strong, even in your isolation. Be healthy, not just in body but in prayer. Be the people God needs today when the transformation of our world seems so dire. Jesus prayed for Peter to have strength, now he offers that same strength to us… To you.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, we recall the tragedy of your death which we celebrate on a Friday that we call good. This evening, we recall what you did for your apostles. You set aside even your role as master, and took the role of a servant by washing your Apostles’ feet.
Help us in our day to be the servants your world needs to bring healing, cleansing, hope into a world that does not know what it needs. Give us the courage and the strength to stand with you before the world – not as accusers, not as rulers – but as a people ready to serve the world in your name. Even if our service remains hidden in our own homes, help us to pray for one another and for an end to all of the tragedies of our world is facing today. Amen.