All this Easter Season,
we’ve emphasized Jesus rising from the dead.
Next Sunday we’ll celebrate the Ascension,
Jesus returning to heaven.
In the Gospel, Jesus is talking about this, when he says,
the world will no longer see me…
but you will continue to see me.
It is hard to “see” Jesus present among us,
just as real as when he was with the Apostles.
That’s why it does seem like he’s “leaving us as orphans.”
That’s what it means to receive the Holy Spirit;
It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to “see.”
Sunday, at Noon, we’ll celebrate
First Communion for members of our two parishes.
On Thursday, I met with the 2nd graders.
I asked if they were excited—they said, “yes!”
Were they a little nervous? “Yes!”
I told them, when they went back to their classrooms,
they would be able to taste the bread and wine,
so it would be familiar for them—
but did they understand that what they would receive,
at Mass, was not, and would not be, bread and wine?
They said “YES!”
What will they receive? “The Body and Blood of Jesus,”
several of the children said.
Yet, what do we see? We see bread—we taste wine.
How do we explain that?
Some explain that it’s still really bread and wine,
and we just call it Jesus’ Body and Blood.
But that is not what Catholics believe.
We believe a miracle takes place—
actually, two miracles, and you can’t separate them.
The first miracle is the harder one to see.
We believe that when the Mass takes place,
this is more a gathering for prayer;
Christ is here, and He is in charge.
That’s one reason we carry out the Mass a certain way, from beginning to end;
the first words we sing are from Scripture—that is, they are supposed to be;
to the last words, “Thanks be to God!”
Some find this constraining;
but it serves to remind us, especially the priest:
“This isn’t about me, I’m not in charge: Jesus is!”
The summit of the Mass
is when Christ takes us to Calvary; to the Cross.
That’s why the Crucifix is so important in church—
not just a “reminder” and not just a “symbol”—
his sacrifice happens right here, in our midst.
That is our focus.
So there is some discussion, by the pope and bishops,
about whether, at the moment of sacrifice,
should the priest face the people…
or should all turn to the Lord, together?
Maybe you see an article about this from time to time.
Now, because of that miracle—the Cross happens here—
then when we share communion,
it can’t be mere bread and wine:
Bread and wine didn’t go the cross!
Bread and wine cannot save us!
But his Body and Blood were offered on the Cross;
his death and resurrection are what save us!
It can be hard, because we don’t “see” any of this.
That’s why I have a crucifix facing me on the altar
to help the priest see what the Lord is really doing.
That, too, is something Pope Benedict has emphasized.
But it is still hard…
How else to explain some don’t mind missing Mass?
Would they miss it, if they really saw what happens?
So what shall we do? How can we “see” this miracle?
That’s what Jesus tell us in the Gospel:
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you…
the Spirit of Truth.”
It is the Holy Spirit who assures us,
despite what our eyes can see,
that Christ is here, we are not orphans!
And that, again, is the deep meaning of “communion.”
We Catholics take this very seriously,
not everyone understands why.
It is not just a mere ritual.
There is no moment, no action we can take,
more solemn, more freighted with consequence, than this!
Some of the grownups remember buying a house:
how many documents do you sign?
Did two lawyers show up? That’s serious!
But that’s nothing to communion!
In communion, we are saying, yes,
we are united to Jesus, our God who is in our midst.
So, there are delicate questions here:
Should people come to communion,
if their lives don’t reflect that union with Jesus?
And since being united with Jesus
includes being united with his Body, the Church…
there’s the delicate issue
between Catholics and Protestants, about communion.
So, we acknowledge these delicate issues.
But at least we try to appreciate what’s at issue here.
Jesus said: not everyone will see me, but you will see me!
It is the Holy Spirit who will enable us to see;
through the Mass, and the Eucharist,
Jesus does what he said:
“Because I live, and you will live.”