When we talk about the Eucharist, or communion, or the Lord’s Supper,
all Christians are reading the same Scriptures, and in some way,
trying to do what Christ asked us to do.
And a lot of folks--Catholic or Protestant--ask: isn’t it pretty much the same?
With total respect to our fellow Christians who love Jesus--no, it is not the same;
even though a lot of the language and ritual can be very similar.
So, I want to explain what’s different and why.
But two quick notes: first, this isn’t criticism of anyone; just explanation.
Second, to avoid going too long, this has to be broad strokes.
We Catholics--as well as Eastern Orthodox--believe that the Mass,
offered by a priest, is a true sacrifice.
We believe what happened on the Cross on the first Good Friday,
really and truly becomes present on the altar, but in a different way.
When Martin Luther and others began the Protestant movement,
this was a key bone of contention.
They came to believe that the Mass was not--and could not be--a true sacrifice.
A remembrance? Yes.
But does the sacrifice of the Cross really become present on the altar? No.
This goes with our understanding of the priesthood.
Along with our Protestant brothers and sisters,
we believe baptism gives us a share in Christ’s priesthood.
But as Catholics, we go further. We believe in a unique, ordained priesthood.
Catholics and Orthodox believe that when a man is ordained a priest,
a true change happens in him.
He becomes conformed, in an unchangeable way, to Christ himself.
That alone is why a priest can forgive sins in the sacrament of confession--
because it is Christ in the priest who forgives.
And it is Christ in the priest who makes Calvary present on the altar.
Here again the Protestant movement took a different view,
and they see only the common priesthood of all believers.
As a result, Protestant churches almost never call their pastors “priests,” and for good reason: the essence of a priest is to offer sacrifice. If there isn’t one, there isn’t the other.
When our fellow Christians remember the Lord’s Supper, it’s very important to them;
but it means something different.
This is why when we Catholics visit another church,
we are not to take part in their communion.
Sometimes they will invite us, other times not;
but the right thing to do is respectfully to decline.
And this is why we don’t believe in sharing the Eucharist
until people choose to become Catholic.
There’s actually a rare exception, but ask me later about that.
So…what’s the upshot of all this?
Number 1, this is why coming to Mass on Sunday matters.
We can pray anywhere.
But if you want to be truly present at Calvary--that why we come to Mass.
Second, when we talk about the Real Presence of Jesus--
that the Eucharist truly is Him, His Body and Blood,
this is how that happens:
because a true priest offered the Sacrifice of his death on the Cross.
If there is no priest and no sacrifice, where do the Body and Blood come from?
That’s why so many of our fellow Christians say, it’s just a symbol.
Third is a double-reason.
While this is obviously a reason to want to become Catholic;
it also means that something very powerful happens
for those who, for various reasons, cannot come to communion.
Maybe folks will say, “I can’t come to communion, why go to Mass?” This is why.
We aren’t here, just passively observing, or waiting till we can receive communion.
Some will say, only the priest, or the reader, or others, are “doing” something. No.
Everyone here is called to “do” something as part of the Mass:
to join our hearts and wills together with the ordained priest, and with Jesus our High Priest.
Remember, this Mass is the same sacrifice as Jesus on the Cross.
If we wonder what Mass is for, ask what the Cross was for:
He did it to open heaven and to rescue us from hell.
To save us and to save the world.
That’s what every Mass is “for.”
Our nation is in a financial crisis--and we all wonder how it will work out.
Our world is in a spiritual crisis.
The fate of governments and the economy, the end of wars and famine,
are ultimately about whether we will accept Christ as our king.
And if you want to pray for our nation, for family, for the world--
there is no more powerful prayer than Jesus giving his all on the Cross!
We just heard Paul say that nothing can conquer the love of Christ--it will triumph.
But the “love of Christ” isn’t just his warm feelings for us: it’s his death on the Cross.
It’s the Mass!
In the first reading, God promised to renew his “everlasting covenant” with us.
In the Eucharistic prayer we pray at every Mass, we hear Jesus say,
“this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant…
shed so that sins may be forgiven.”
In a moment, I’ll go to that altar and I will offer this Sacrifice.
Know that I am completely unworthy of it.
It truly frightens me because I am a sinner.
That’s how awesome this is. Pray for me, please. Join with me.