Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Holy Thursday, Day of Love

Holy Thursday! A time to reflect on one of the greatest mysteries of our faith. What mystery? What happened on this day to make it holy? “He took the bread, said the blessing broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.' And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This is cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.” (Luke 22:19-20).

This is the day the Lord instituted the Eucharist, in which he left us a memorial of his sacrifice on Calvary to remind us that he is always with us until the end of the world. Sadly, today many people struggle to believe in Jesus' true presence in the Eucharist, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Some only believe that the bread and wine are mere symbols. However, there are many references in Sacred Scripture and the Church Fathers as well as a variety of Eucharistic miracles that show Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. The greatest proof is the Word of Jesus, Himself. “Do this is memory of Me.”

In light of the New Testament, and understanding that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, we can find the Eucharist prefigured in the Book of Exodus, God gave the Israelites manna in the desert. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is the living bread come down from heaven. In the Passover meal when the Israelites were about to flee Egypt, they ate the lamb that was slain; in the New Testament, Jesus is the pascal lamb, “...unless you eat the flesh of the Son of God, and drink of his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) Ultimately, the synoptic Gospels all tell of the Last Supper and in John 6 we see the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to give us the Living Bread, which indeed is himself.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem: He [Jesus] himself, therefore, having declared and said of the Bread, “This is My Body,” who will dare any longer to doubt? And when He himself has affirmed and said, “This is My Blood,” who can ever hesitate and say it is not His Blood? (Catechetical Lectures: 22 (mystagogic 4),1; Jurgens, #843.

Theodore of Mosuestia: When [Christ] gave the bread he did not say, “This is the symbol of my body” but “This is my body.” In the same way when he gave the cup of his blood he did not say. “This is the symbol of my blood,” but “This is my blood, for he wanted us to look upon the [eucharistic elements] after their reception of grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit not according to their nature, but receive them as they are, the body and blood of our Lord. We ought...not regard [the elements] merely as bread and the cup but as the body and blood of the Lord, into which they were transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit (Catechetical Homilies 5:1).
Today the Catholic Church still maintains this truth as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of love with which he loved us “to the end,” even to giving of his life. In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs the express and communicates this love.”(CCC 1380) Let us continue to pray for an increase in our faith to believe fully in the Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

“That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that 'cannot be apprehended by the senses,' says St. Thomas, but only by faith, which relies on divine authority. (CCC 1381). 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lent A Time for Response!

Lent is the time for us to realize that we are dust and unto dust we shall return. It is the time to heed Jesus’ call to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”. Jesus’ words in the Gospel today bring us, therefore, to the heart of Lent. They remind us that every day we have is a gift from the Lord, but that gift also leads to a task, to bear fruit through a life of faith. They call us to examine our lives honestly and ask if we have been squandering or investing the blessings God has given us— of good health, of talents, of material resources, of life itself. The Lord reminds us that he expects us to bear dividends and that we will be judged on the fruit that we bear.

The image in today’s Gospel (Third Sunday of Lent) makes it clear that we need to do this examination urgently, because God will not wait forever for us to do what he created and called us to do. The Lord, who began this Lent by marking us with ashes and telling us, “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” says to us with urgency as he said to his contemporaries after some local disasters, “I tell you, unless you repent, you will all perish.” We don’t want to perish. Jesus doesn’t want us to perish. Now it is the time for our response in faith.

So we have two crucial questions: First, what is the fruit God wants?” And second, “How do I bear that fruit?”

In response to the first question, the fruit God wants consists of acts of self-giving love done for others. We do this by “loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength” (Mk 12:30) and “loving others as Jesus has loved us” (Jn 15:12). This love is more than a wish or good will toward another, but a work, a concrete act of love. There are fruits that we need to come from our spiritual life, that flow from our relationship of love with God. There are also fruits called the spiritual and the corporal works of mercy that we’re called to do out of love for God and others. Each of us is a fig tree which must produce fruit.

In today’s gospel (Third Sunday of Lent) Jesus reminds us, “life is short. Make the best use of whatever time you have.” And, praise God, we still have time. It is not too late. We, fig trees all, have been given another year. There is time for us to repent and believe.