John 6:55-56, 58
“For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him… This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
Well, we obviously know that the “living forever” that Jesus was referring to is heaven, and not some extended life here on earth. If that were the case there either would not have been any deaths among Christians, or no one has ever really believed the promises of Jesus. Both of those are ridiculous. The power of the Eucharist is so far beyond our understanding.
And yet there are some people who do not understand the whole point and purpose of Jesus giving himself to us in the Eucharist. I am aware of one priest who is a recovering alcoholic. Now, priests in this situation are allowed to use a special type of wine with very low alcohol content. But this one priest that I am aware of does not worry about that.
His reasoning is that what he is receiving in Communion is not ordinary wine, But Is the Blood of Christ. He has faith that the blood of Christ will not hurt him!
I know this takes faith. I know it takes a decision to trust, and it may be that some people are not inclined to do that. That is not denying the gift of God. There are also people who have problems with gluten, except when they receive the Eucharist. I am not insisting that people try that if they have problems. But, the power of the Eucharist is far greater than we give credit for. We do not rely enough on the promise and the power that Jesus has sent to us through the Eucharist.
On March 27 of this year, Pope Francis, during the height of the pandemic, gave the world a blessing with the Eucharist. There has been a precipitous drop in the number of coronavirus cases since that blessing. Some people want to attribute that to advances in science, and social distancing, but I am convinced those efforts are only a part.
What is the primary reason for the drop in numbers? The powerful blessing of the Eucharistic presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I am not in any way trying to diminish the works that our society is trying to do, but I think it would be a huge mistake to discount the power of prayer to deal with this virus and the pandemic.
I do not think our modern world has any clue as to the true power that resides in the Eucharist. There are many who dismiss it is an irrelevant part of a church that has become itself irrelevant. And some of these people are Catholics, or claim to be.
I tell you what has become irrelevant: the foolishness of our society that wants to dismiss God.
If you read more of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, you find that the Jews in Jesus day rejected what he had to say about what the Eucharist is. Today there are many who do the same. But it is the power of God given to us for our salvation. Those who choose to reject it, those who ridicule it, are playing with the spiritual fire of damnation.
Now, I would like to talk about a different subject in relation to the Eucharist. I spoke about this one weekend during our enforced shutdown of Masses. This has to do with the whole Sacrifice of the Mass.
How do you participate in this sacrifice? In previous generations, before the second Vatican Council, there were few people who actually received Communion weekly. Most people would come to witness the Sacrifice of the Mass. Their participation in this sacrifice had to do with them offering their lives in service to Christ, and not just simply receiving him in Communion.
This spiritual union, in part, was accomplished and was focused on the consecration of the bread and the wine. I want you to think about that.
When the priest elevates the bread to consecrate it into the body of Christ, put yourself in the middle of those hosts as an offering, a sacrifice to God.
When the priest elevates the wine to consecrated into the blood of Christ, put all the temptations of your life in the chalice, because St. Paul says in one place that the blood of Christ cleanses all sin.
This approach unites you, in the sufferings you endure in fighting temptation, to the sufferings of Christ on the cross. This is why we call this the Sacrifice of the Mass. Unfortunately, I believe this idea is something that has gone into the dustbin of church history. Do any of you remember hearing about this idea?
This is a terrible loss to our spiritual history, and our spiritual life today. As a result of the second Vatican Council, the push was to emphasize – in some ways, correctly – the community and the communion, but in doing so it downplayed the importance of the sacrifice that we make of our lives and how we are united to the sacrifice of Jesus as it is given to us in the Mass.
Both of these aspects need to be emphasized. They do not contradict one another, as some people have tried to say. There are those who try to say we should not mention the Sacrifice of the Mass. This is a terrible loss of our spiritual patrimony.
We need to reclaim our own participation in the work of Jesus for the sake of this world. We need to reclaim the part of the Christian life that calls for a sacrifice of our lives for the sake of the world. We also need to hold on to the second reality that Jesus comes to us in Communion so that we can live out the sacrifice of our lives.
While not everyone can receive Communion, either because of some irregularity in their lives, such as marriage, or because they cannot now attend the mass in person, you can still participate in this Sacrifice of the Mass by placing yourself, and your situation with the body and blood of Jesus as I described it.
Finally, how do I tie these two parts together? If we make our lives a living sacrifice to Christ, and to the world, we will be speaking to the world of the healing power of Christ. The Eucharistic miracles that our church has experienced are signs of Christ’s presence to us. We need to take that into the world.
To that end, after the last mass for the weekend, we will do a procession around the block, the entire block, at Saints Peter and Paul. There is information on that in the bulletin, and I encourage you to join us if you are able. I would suggest, as is in the bulletin, to come to “the hollow” parking lot around twelve forty-five on Sunday, and join us in a walk around the block that will be more than a walk.
It will be a declaration of our faith in the Eucharistic presence of Jesus. It will be a declaration of the power of the Eucharist. It will be a prayer that our blessed Savior will send forth his healing power to end all of the things that are so destructive in our world right now, from the coronavirus, to the riots, to the hatred, to the destructive tendencies of our society and our world.
We will pray, and ask for the Lord’s blessing. The power of the Eucharist is greater that we imagine. Let our faith grow. Let our expectation of the healing power of Christ, especially in the Eucharist, reap a benefit for all those around us. Amen.