Category Archives: Eucharist

Church in Transition

Dear Folks,

I think it is safe to say we are going through transition. The shortage of priests is getting people’s attention, but also the fact that most people who were raised Catholic are not practicing the Catholic faith, even minimally, in any measurable way. Our society is

getting more and more hostile to some core Christian values, and we don’t know how far that will go (there is no natural limit).

People point to various reasons why people leave the Church, but we must always remember the other side of that question: they were not given enough reason to stay. If you take away one thought from me today, let it be this:

Many, many people think the Catholic faith is much less than it is, and it doesn’t take much to get them to leave because they don’t think it matters that much anyway. Now there have been generations who were taught that way, and we are seeing the

results. If they had a semi-decent appreciation of the awesome gift of the Catholic faith, for the magnificent and unique gift of the Eucharist, you couldn’t pry them loose with a crowbar. Turning that around is a central factor in setting the course for our future.

As we seek to fix this, there is a challenge. There is polarization in the Church, and that is a major problem. I think Satan laughs himself silly every time he can get Christians fighting

Christians, and he has had much cause to laugh of late. To reduce some complex issues to simple categories, we can speak of traditionalists and progressives, each with a different set

of emphases and priorities. This is often coming up in how people think we should celebrate Mass.

Before Vatican II, there was tremendous emphasis on the other-worldly nature of the Mass, on reverence, on how is was unique and transcendent it was. The problem was that people

often had a sense of being disconnected from it, even while present. After Vatican II, there were a number of changes, not all of them called for by the council. There was a greater

sense of the importance of participating, on the community dimension, on making the mystery easily accessible. The problem was that some people often thought of the Mass as just another gathering, to be judged according to how it makes us feel and what kind of experience they have.

Coming off the lock-down, many are saying they have decided they like to do their Sunday morning prayers in their jammies in their beanbag chair with their hot chocolate. The big tragedy is not that they have stopped coming, but that they had so little sense about this in the first place.

We need to connect people as powerfully as possible with the divine mystery, a key component is how we celebrate Mass. Vatican II did teach that people should be taught to understand really well what is happening and why, and encouraged to full, conscious, active participation. The council also said that people should be able to sing or say at least those parts of the Mass that pertain to them. This does a number of things. It helps set apart the

liturgy from other activities: Folks, this is different from everything else we do, and we must be conscious of that. That is part of having a sense of the sacred. It requires more effort to learn and understand, and there is merit in that. It also unites us with people all over the world. If people are gathered from other countries with other languages, we can all pray together. Even if that doesn’t happen to us on a regular basis, it reminds us that Church

is much larger than us and helps us put ourselves in perspective. We also focus on music that is different from secular music, that is faithful to what is being celebrated, and pulls something from deep inside us.

Some people are unhappy because we are being more traditional. Some people are unhappy because we are not being much more traditional. One thing is fairly certain: we will not get

through this without dealing with things we don’t like. I think that’s part of why God calls us to be Church: this is about something larger than us.

The adventure continues.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

Praying the Eucharistic Prayer

Dear Folks,

Our readings today talk about the power of prayer. We know that praying better is not about building technique to be able to manipulate God (an unworthy enterprise that always fails

anyway), but about bringing more and more of ourselves to God, that we may be all His. Part of that is understanding and being more conscious of what we are praying. The Mass, of course, is

our central prayer, and it is good to understand it more and more. Today I’m going to unpack the third Eucharistic prayer. We pray it very often, but perhaps most people don’t give a lot of thought to what we are really saying.

The liturgy of the Eucharist begins with gathering and bringing forward the gifts which represent all we have done with what God has given us. As the bread and wine are placed on the altar, we

intentionally offer ourselves with them, that we may be consecrated.

We pray the prayer over the gifts, then there is the preface, with praises God for His gifts to us. Then comes the Holy, Holy, the hymn with which we unite with the heavenly liturgy (see Isaiah

6 and Revelation 4).

Then we start the Eucharistic prayer proper, and number three begins with praising God for His holiness and the work of creation, and then says how creation is meant to praise Him. God

gathers us to Himself so that “from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name (see Malachi 1:11).”

Then we ask for the Holy Spirit to “graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration, that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is called the “epiclesis” the calling upon, and it is worthy of extra note.

Then we get to the words of institution, recounting what Jesus said and did at the Last Supper, giving Himself sacramentally as He would give Himself on the Cross. This is worthy of extra

special note, and we respond to the moment with proclaiming the mystery of faith.

Next, we speak of celebrating the memorial of the pascal mystery by which we are saved. We remember that in the Bible, remembering means something stronger than we are used to:

making a past event present and effective. (If you read Genesis 8:1; 1Samuel 1:19; Jeremiah 31:34; Luke 1:54 and 72 in that light, I think it will make sense). And we gratefully offer “this holy and living sacrifice.” Jesus died once and will never die again, but His sacrifice has an eternal power, and He allows us to unite ourselves to that sacrifice that we “make become one body, one spirit in Christ.” As we asked for the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into

the body and blood of Christ, so we ask the Holy Spirit to transform us into the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; and Ephesians 4:1-16). We seek to be ever more perfectly the Body of Christ, and the body that is offered to the Father (see John 17: 20-21; and perhaps 1Corinthians 15:25-28). We ask, “May he make of us an eternal offering to you so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect” and we mention the saints. Heaven is receiving God’s love and loving Him in return brought to infinity, and that is being an eternal offering to Him. “May this Sacrifice of our reconciliation, we pray, O Lord, advance the peace and salvation of

all the world,” and we pray that the power of Jesus’ Sacrifice continue to transform the people of the world, both those gathered and those scattered throughout the world. Then we pray for those

who have died. Finally comes the doxology: “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.”

Responding with the Great Amen, the people join in saying the whole prayer. We offer all to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.

This is our faith: God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, gathers a sinful people to Himself by the power of Jesus’ sacrifice, and makes us a part of that union of self-gift, which is heaven

for all eternity, and we want everyone to share in it. To quote an old beer commercial, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Blessings

Fr. Jim

Realizing What a Treasure we Have

Dear Folks,

This is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. We read the story of the multiplying of the loaves and fishes in the Gospel of Luke, which prepares us to learn that Jesus is the Bread of life.

Notice that the Twelve underestimate Jesus, though not unreasonably. They had seen Jesus healing the sick and calming a storm, but this was new. Our natural tendency is to underestimate the gifts of God. Throughout history there have been constant attempts to trim down the Gospel message and make it less than what it is. The Arian heresy said that Jesus is not God, but that God sent one of His creations to suffer. The Docetists claimed that Jesus was not truly human and did not really suffer. These make the message of God’s love less complete, and therefore less demanding on us. Lately, there have been attempts to explain away miracles and even the resurrection itself as not really having happened. I have heard people argue that what really happened with the multiplying of the loaves was that when Jesus started sharing, other people started sharing what they had and there were a bunch of folks who were secretly carrying bread and fish. The first problem with this is that there is nothing in the text that indicates this. If this were a lesson about sharing, why would all four Gospel writers hide the real message so that no one could figure it out until the twentieth century?

We have read many times that 70% percent of Catholics don’t believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. That should amaze and horrify us, but not surprise us. I encountered programs for preparing for first communion that talked about Eucharist as our family meal with nothing about how the bread and wine actually become Jesus, much less how it is our personal participation in Jesus’ sacrifice. I would ask the director why and was told, “Because it was so overemphasized in the past.” I never saw the logic to that, but I know there was a lot of it out there.

The point is that for generations now, we have been led to believe the Catholic faith is much less than what it is. My message is not, “Woe is us; we should be ashamed” but rather, “Oh, we are in for such a treat.” The more we open this treasure we have been given, the more wonderful we will find it is. In 1987 I graduated from a Jesuit school of theology with honors. I had some great teachers. What I have learned about the faith since then has been amazing. What I have learned in the last ten years has been precious beyond diamonds. I am looking forward to what God will teach me next.

You may have heard the story of Joshua Bell, one of the world’s great violinists, with his priceless Stradivarius violin played in a subway station for 43 minutes wearing a t-shirt and blue jeans. Over a thousand people passed by. 27 gave money ($52.17) and seven stopped and listened for a bit. What if they’d had any notion of the great gift they were given?

The challenge for today: think of ourselves as God’s kindergarteners. We have so many wonderful things to discover. Let us look for God to be teaching us. Let us look for God to be touching us. Let us look for God to be changing us into more than what we are now. Especially when we come to Mass this weekend, let us remember what is happening; there is a mystery and a treasure deeper and wider than the ocean. Let us expect God to do

something.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

Do We Want More Priests?

Dear Folks,

We rejoice to have ordained three new priests for our diocese. I am confident that they shall be a great gift to our Church for many years to come.

Now the more difficult news. We still don’t have enough priests to fill the current openings. We have parishes without priests, and no extra priests to send there.

How can we be a church that better nurtures vocations to the priesthood? Imagine a young man growing up in the Church surrounded by adults who deeply love the Eucharist, who

are fiercely dedicated to growing in holiness, and who are zealous for the mission of the Church. I suggest that we would have to build a fence around the seminaries to keep them

from getting overrun with applicants.

The more Catholics demonstrate love for the Eucharist, the more someone could believe that it is worth dedicating his life to celebrating the Eucharist. Obviously, putting a high

priority on attending every Sunday and holy days is a good first step, and participating fully consciously, and actively is a second (see my recent articles on the subject; we can all grow

in that area). We can also learn more about its meaning. There is some great stuff on FORMED and there are some great books. Anything by Brant Pitre, Tim Grey, Edward Sri, or Scott Hahn is well worth reading (I especially love Edward Sri’s “Biblical Walk Through

the Mass” and Brant Pitre’s “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist”. There is another book called “Music and Meaning in the Mass” by Annamarie Carinalli, and it looks from a

very different angle. Have you been to a weekday Mass just because it is a good thing? Even once a year? How about adoration when we have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament? Yes, I know that schedules are hard, but if you can’t come once a week, how

about once a month? Every three months? Try once a year? The biggest step is usually the first one. You might find you need to do it more often. When we talk about the Mass, do we do it in a way that conveys awe, reverence, and love? This could help us grow in

holiness.

How to grow in holiness in a huge topic, but think about how often during the course of the day we attend to the presence of God? Do we seek to have a well-rounded prayer life? There are many different ways to pray, and each one engages a different aspect of

ourselves. How many choices do we make in the course of the day that are attempts to put God first?

If someone sees the Church accomplishing great things, it is easier to believe that it is worthwhile giving his life to being a leader in the Church. We can all only do so much, but if we do what we can, I trust God will make it enough. How anxious are we to support and

participate in what our church is accomplishing? Or do we have to be coaxed? Do we give up if we are offended or frustrated? How good are we at cooperating with those who see things differently?

Each one of us can make a difference. If we are concerned about not enough priests, we can channel that concern into making our parishes more fertile ground for vocations. These are just some ideas. What others do you have?

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

Ascension: Now What?

Dear Folks,
This Sunday we celebrate Ascension Thursday (one of life’s paradoxes). This is a celebration of Jesus going back to heaven (for which I’m sure He was glad) but also a transition to being without Jesus’ visible presence. He will always be with us, but we have a sense of Him being absent.
The Mass is our central and most important prayer, so how could we not have an interest in praying the Mass well? The Second Vatican Council teaches us a great deal about how to pray the Mass well. Whenever we try to pray, we succeed. No one speaks too softly or clumsily for God to understand.
However, there is such a thing as praying better, and that involves bringing more and more of ourselves to God, opening more and more of ourselves to God, and engaging more and more of ourselves (God is already doing His part perfectly).
To pray the Mass well, we need some understanding. “With zeal and patience, pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful, and also their active participation in the liturgy both internally and externally, taking into account their age and condition, their way of life, and standard of religious culture. By so doing, pastors will be fulfilling one of the chief duties of a faithful dispenser of the mysteries of God; and in this matter they must lead their flock not only in word but also by example (Constitution on the Liturgy #19).”
“The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God’s word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all Constitution on the Liturgy #48).”
We need to respond internally. “For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He [Jesus] also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God (Constitution on the Church #34).”
We need to respond externally. “To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence (Constitution on the Liturgy #30).
So, as we prepare for Mass, we recollect what we have done with whatever God has given us to work with: our 168 hours this week, our material resources, our abilities, our energy (such as it is), and our opportunities. We place it on the altar with the bread and wine (fruit of the earth and work of human hands), so that it may be consecrated. In prayer we participate in offering the One Sacrifice to the Father. In the Mass we are made more perfectly into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 2:15-23), and this is a body offered as gift to the Father. As it says in the third Eucharistic prayer, “May he make of us an eternal offering to you…”. We seek to respond to Him with our whole selves, so that we may be completely His.
Blessings,
Fr. Jim

The Mass as Gift of Self I

Dear Folks,
Jesus says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him (John 14:23).” Take a moment and soak in that thought: God making His dwelling with us in permanent, personal union. Ahhh. That is abundant life (John 10:10), true freedom (John 8:31-32), and the fullness of Joy (John 15:11, 16:20-22). Let’s take a look at what that means for us.
When the Book of Revelation describes the New Jerusalem, an image of heaven, we are told “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb (Rev 21:22).” We remember there was no temple described in the Garden of Eden. Yes, God is present everywhere, but He touches us uniquely in the liturgy. God call us to places of worship, and we must be intentional about participating in the liturgy because of our limited, sinful perspective, but in heaven it will not be necessary, and the heavenly liturgy will be everything. Fish in the ocean do not travel in search of water. Now we take sips of what will then be an ocean. Now we are distracted by lesser things, less open to receiving Him, and hold back from giving ourselves completely to Him. Jesus teaches us and enables us by grace to give ourselves to Him ever more perfectly. The journey of discipleship is essentially growing in our ability to receive Him and give ourselves to Him. This includes the call to worship, most especially in the Eucharistic liturgy.
We are called to be disciples, and that means we are about knowing Jesus better and sharing Jesus better. This is the way to the fullness of life, the abundant life, and the fullness of joy.
That is the essence of what Church is about.
The essence of the Gospel is the Gift of Self. Our Lord, in His Pascal Mystery, gave Himself as the perfect gift for our salvation. He offered one sacrifice, once for all, that we might be wedded to Him forever. There is a paradox: The Bible says we are to offer sacrifice to the Lord (Romans 12:1: Colossians 1:24; 1Peter 2:4-5; Ephesians 5:1-2). But there is only one sacrifice, therefore we are to offer that one, suffered once in time, eternally before the Father). In the heavenly liturgy in Revelation 5, we see Jesus as “the Lamb who was slain.” He enables us to give ourselves as gift to Him. More on that next time. Participating in the Eucharistic liturgy is not simply one activity among many for Christians, but the “source and summit of life.” It is our most intimate encounter with the Lord this side of heaven, and it gives form and meaning to all other aspects of our lives.
When a couple gets married, they give themselves to each other sacramentally in their vows. Then, when they go out and live their married lives, they give themselves to each other in practice, fulfilling their vows. Their vows would mean less than nothing if they did not intend to live them out in practice, and what they do for each other in practice is given shape and meaning by their vows. Each is essential for each other. Jesus gave Himself sacramentally in the Last Supper, and then in practice by dying on the cross. Without the Last Supper, the cross was just an execution, and without the cross, the Last Supper was just dinner. At Mass, Jesus and we give ourselves to each other sacramentally, then as we go out and live the Christian life, we encounter Him and give ourselves in practice. If you ask which one is more important praying the Mass or living the Christian life, I will ask you which is more important: inhaling or exhaling.
Therefore, coming to Mass is just the beginning. Praying it well is important beyond my powers to describe. How do we pray the Mass well? That, folks, is for next week.
Blessings,
Fr Jim

Rediscovering the Mystery

Dear Folks,
In our Gospel today, people ask Jesus a seemingly simple question, “Rabbi, when did you
get here? (John 6:25).” This points to something much more mysterious. John had just
mentioned that, on the other side of the lake, there was only one boat, and Jesus did not get
in with the apostles. When other boats came, they got in and crossed, and were surprised to
find Jesus there. That lead them to wonder how He got there. We, of course, know because
we have read the Gospel and understand that Jesus walked on the water. He doesn’t tell
them, and so they are left to wonder. This should prime them to be open to mystery, to be
sensitive to the idea that there is more going on than they can see. This should have made
them more open to the Bread of Life discourse which is to follow (unfortunately, they will
still not be open enough).
Jesus prayed that His Church would be one (John 17:20-23) and so that people would
believe the Father sent Him. Unity is an essential part of our work as Church, and I suggest
that we have room to grow in that area. Recent events got me thinking.
You may have heard about Pope Francis putting out a document, Traditionis Custodes,
which severely restricts the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Mass (that is, the
way it was celebrated just before Vatican II, using the Missal of 1962). Some people are
angry and hurt, while some people are saying “good riddance.” Many, of course, don’t see
what the big deal is. It will not directly affect most of us. I’ve attended two such liturgies
as a priest, and I don’t remember when I attended it as a child.
The Pope’s stated goal is unity, moving us toward common worship, and I think that is a
good goal. The question is what is needed to accomplish it. Looking at the divide can shine
some light on essential issues with our worship.
Whatever else is needed, unity requires understanding both sides’ concerns, and that is what
is often not happening.
Pope Benedict says in The Spirit of the Liturgy, “In the liturgy the curtain between heaven
and earth is torn open, and we are taken up into a liturgy that spans the whole
cosmos.” Now I ask you, how well does the way we celebrate liturgy convey that that is
happening? People will point to the extraordinary form and say that it better led them to
mystery. The Latin language conveyed that this was different from usual conversation. The
priest facing the same way as the congregation (called celebrating ad orientum, literally, to
the east) showed that he was representing the people to God, not just chatting with the
people. They find the modern liturgy friendly, but fails to point to mystery beyond what we
see.
On the other hand, many have had bad experiences of the Pre-Vatican II liturgy. I’m told
many have had bad catechesis and had very little understanding of what was going on.
Some would pray the rosary. Someone said it was like a magic show. They were not able
to learn Latin well enough to experience what was happening, and often the priest mumbled
anyway. The revised liturgy enabled them to connect like never before, and they thought it
was wonderful. Many of them have a really hard time with the thought of going back.
So, how do we get the best of both worlds? The way many just stop going to Mass tells us
that what we are doing now is not connecting (this is not just our little community, but
nationwide). How do we connect with people and at the same time draw people to the
infinite mystery? I suggest that to answer this well will take serious brain effort.
Blessings,

Praying More Powerfully at Mass

Dear Folks,
Ancient Greek mythology talks about a wicked innkeeper named Procrustes. If you were
unfortunate enough to stay at his inn, he had only one bed. If you were too short for it, he
would stretch you until you fit. If you were too tall for it, he would chop ends off you until
you were the right length. The Procrustean bed is a classic image for trying to force
everyone into a single way of doing things whether it works for them or not.
In church, I find that many people have a good experience with a certain practice, a certain
prayer, a certain devotion, perhaps associating it with a better time or place, and decide that
everyone should be doing that particular thing. Many people say that that doesn’t work for
them, and so they rebel. It is most frustrating. An alternative approach is to have many
options, and people pick out the ones that work for them.
One of the ways we strengthen our community is by strengthening our worship. There are
many ways to do that.
Preparation:
From the moment of waking up, look at the path ahead and remember that each step is
a step toward the altar.
Extend Eucharistic fast to more than an hour before receiving communion. Two
hours? Three? More?
Fast from social media/videos/games.
Dress one step up from usual (how do you dress for something really important?).
Review the readings for the day, perhaps making a note of an idea to ponder.
Read Psalm 63:2-9, Psalm 100, or Psalm 122.
Make an examination of conscience for a more effective penitential rite.
If you have access to the hymns that will be sung, go over them and prepare to offer
them as gift to God.
Make a list of gifts from the previous week: Apostolic undertakings, family and
married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, and hardships to be offered to
the Father along with the Body of the Lord (See constitution on the Church #34 and
Constitution on the Liturgy #48).
Approach the church building, be aware of approaching the altar of God.
Entering the narthex, be aware of transition between the realm of the world and the
realm of liturgy.
Outside the church and in the narthex, we connect with other worshippers, being
aware we are the Body of Christ.
Entering the nave, have a Spirit of quiet.
Silence upon entering worship space. Shift from focusing on other people to being
united with them in focusing on the presence of God.
Pause. Recognize we are someplace special. Stand tall.
Speak softly, so as not to interfere with those trying to pray. Do that even when no
one else is there.
Walk deliberately so that simply coming to your pew is a ceremony.
Later I’ll have some ideas on how to strengthen the time during Mass and after Mass. In the
meantime, what if you tried one or more of these? Many people have success starting small
and being consistent, and then having something on which to build?
These are small things that can strengthen how we bring ourselves to God in worship, and
therefore strengthen our faith community. What do you think?
Blessings
Fr. Jim

Body and Blood of Christ

Disputation.jpg[1]

Dear Folks,
We celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. The hard part of writing this is there is so much to say, so very much, and I must select.
The essence of the Gospel is the gift of self. The Lord gives Himself to us completely and invites us and enables us to give ourselves to Him in return, that we may know the fullness of love and joy forever. The Lord, with nothing to gain for Himself, became one of us, like us in all things but sin, so that He could pay the ultimate price for our salvation. The story of salvation, indeed the whole human story, pivots around Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. He gave Himself in love’s perfect act on the cross, and we encounter that gift in a uniquely intimate way in the Eucharist. That is the center of what we do. Learning more about it over the years, and especially recently, has been especially rewarding. It is a well that never dries up.
We learn that God was working to prepare us for it from the beginning. We learn how the teachings and practices of the Old Testament lay a foundation for Jesus and His saving work. The Passover, the Bread of Presence in the Tabernacle, the teachings of the prophets and countless other elements form pieces of the puzzle.
Understanding that helps prepare us to see the connections between the Eucharist and our daily existence. It is one thing to learn the words: the Eucharistic liturgy is the source and summit of our lives as Christians (as the Second Vatican Council taught); it is something else entirely to see it at work in what we do, to recognize and appreciate that reality deep down to the core of our beings. Can we see ourselves bringing our life throughout the week to the Mass on Sunday, place it on the altar as the priest places the bread and wine, and ask Jesus to consecrate them? Can we look to the Eucharist to transform us? Can we see ourselves being sent forth from Mass to live according to that transformation, bringing the presence of Christ to all we meet?
If we want a stronger Church, let us develop a greater appreciation for the Eucharist. If we seek to be a holier people, let us grow in appreciation for the Eucharist. I know it has been a challenge that people have been separated from the Mass, but when we have special challenges is often when God does His best work. A good number of people have been working to deal with the details of the gradual process of opening up, and the hope is that we will be able to do more and more. Everything we are about is meant to bring us closer to Jesus and help others come closer to Jesus (If it doesn’t help do that, we shouldn’t be doing it). Jesus gave us unique ways of encountering Him, worshiping Him, being transformed by Him. He did it at the most pivotal time in His earthly life. He used the strongest language imaginable when talking
about this. Sharing this teaching cost Him most of His followers (John 6:48-71). What else could He have done to get us to realize this is important?
How we respond is critical (see 1 Corinthians 10 and 11). How can we respond more fully to Jesus?
St. John Vianney said, “If we could truly understand the Eucharist, we would die of joy.”
What a way to go.
Blessings,
Fr. Jim

Walking with Jesus

Jesus breaking bread

Dear Folks,
Today we look at the story of the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35.
This is a wonderfully rich story, and it is worth taking some time with it.
Two of Jesus’ followers are walking along. One of the great images of the Christian life is a journey. We are not people who have arrived, but are called to be moving forward toward our goal, “the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).” They are talking about their experiences of the weekend. Jesus starts walking along with them, but they don’t recognize Him. This seems common in encounters with the resurrected Jesus, but it is also true for us. Jesus is always with us, but we don’t always recognize Him. He says, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” Jesus is very good at asking the right question. Their response is wonderfully ironic: “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” This is great, because He is the only one who really does know. The Gospels often do fun things like that. Jesus doesn’t let on. He says, “What things?” He, of course doesn’t ask because He needs to know, but to get them to tell their story. We shall see a lot of this in Luke’s sequel, the Acts of the Apostles. Most Catholics have not had practice in telling their story. If you needed to tell your faith story, what would you say? Then Jesus unpacks the Scriptures for them, and explains what these events really mean. Notice that Jesus asked them to bring forward what they had, but it is He who teaches. This dynamic is familiar. In the accounts of the multiplying of loaves and fishes, Jesus asks the disciples to bring forward what they have, but it is He who feeds. We see this again in a resurrection encounter in John 21:10-13, also with bread and fish. For now, however, Jesus is opening the Scriptures for them. They knew the stories in the Scriptures, but it is only in the light of the risen Jesus that people can see the full significance of what they mean. I would also suggest that the events of our lives can only be fully understood in the light of the story of salvation. Jesus acted like He was going further, but they urged him to stay, showing hospitality. Hospitality is tough during this lockdown, but it is something for Christians to be pondering. “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels (Hebrews 13:2).” We see them entertaining not only angels but Jesus Himself. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20).” We are not only called to be hospitable to Jesus by welcoming other people, but welcome Jesus directly with our prayer and attentiveness to Him, His teaching and His presence in our lives, and our willingness to examine and change our lives in His Light. Pope Benedict was fond of encouraging people to take the time to let Jesus be “our best friend.”
Breaking of the Bread “And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight (Luke 24:30-31).” The taking, blessing, breaking and giving was, in Jewish practice, how the meal was begun. I haven’t seen any commentary on this, but it seems to me that that action would be the proper function of the host, and Jesus was a guest. When something doesn’t quite fit I want to know why. I suggest this is a larger truth: when we invite Jesus in, He is in charge, He is the Host, and He is the one who feeds. Christians would associate Jesus’ actions with the celebration of the Eucharist, and of course when we gather for the Eucharist, we are not the hosts; Jesus is the host. This would remind us we recognize Jesus in the Eucharist. After He vanishes, they asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures for to us (Luke 24:32).” Once again, we don’t often recognize Jesus at work in our lives until we reflect back afterwards, and then it becomes clear.
Then they shared the story with others and got it confirmed, and they learned they were not alone. We remember the Visitation, in which Mary went to Elizabeth, and her experience was affirmed. This is one of the (many) reasons we need Christian community.
Jesus is still walking with us.
Blessings,
Fr. Jim