Saturday, March 24, 2012

The New Covenant (5th Sunday of Lent)

Through Jeremiah, God promised
“a new covenant” with his People.

In the Old Testament,
God showed himself to humanity.
But that wasn’t enough.
God’s People needed God’s total commitment,
So they could be totally converted.

In the new covenant God doesn’t just come near—
He becomes man!
God, pouring his life into us:
Total commitment, total change.

This is what it means to be a Christian;
to become a “little Christ”:
Someone in whom God has come to dwell!

This is why we genuflect when we enter church:
because God has come to dwell here:
in the Eucharist—in the tabernacle.

Total commitment; total change.

Now, some misunderstand this.
Because the Eucharist is still food,
They will say, the Eucharist is only a symbol.

No…the Eucharist truly is Jesus. No hedging.
But, yes, he is also Food.
And the reason is what we’re talking about:
total commitment.

Every other food, when we receive it,
is transformed into us.

The Eucharist is the only Food that, in receiving,
transforms us into Itself!

That’s what communion means!
Comm-union: “union with.”

So let’s talk about something delicate:
We Catholics do something
a lot of folks don’t understand:
we’re strict about who receives communion.

Folks who aren’t Catholic
should not come to Catholic communion.
Likewise, Catholics are not to receive communion
in non-Catholic churches.

The only exception has to do with Eastern Orthodox Christians;
but generally, this is the case.

Now, the only way to sort this out
is to realize that Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant
all come at this subject from different angles.

We don’t start with the same assumptions,
so we end up with different answers.

Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters
will emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus.
And for them, receiving communion
is more on a “Jesus and me” level.

So they’ll come to Mass, and say,
“I believe in Jesus so why can’t I receive communion?”
Or they will just go ahead
and come to communion without realizing they should not.

Here’s why not:
As Catholics, we believe that our relationship with Jesus
is also a relationship with his Church.
Jesus has a Head and Body, the Church.

To be united with the Eucharist
is union with the whole Christ—
which includes his Church;
and it includes all that the Church teaches and believes,
it includes the Catholic way of living—our moral beliefs.

So if your friends ask,
“why can’t I receive communion at a Catholic Mass?",
maybe respond this way:
“When you receive communion at Mass,
it means you ARE Catholic;
you ARE a member of the Catholic Church,
you live the moral life of a Catholic,
and you believe everything Catholics believe.
Is that actually true?”

And, honestly, they have to say, “no.”

Of course, they might say,
“but what if I want to become Catholic?”
Then the answer is, “Great! I’ll help you!”

We have folks who are preparing
to do just that, at Easter;
and that will be when they make their first communion.

So, also, that is why
we as Catholics don’t receive communion
in another church: it would be a false act of faith.

We agree with our fellow Christians on a lot of things,
but we don’t share all the same beliefs—
it’s sad, but we don’t have the unity
that Christ wishes us to have.
So we don’t enter into a ritual that says we do.

Respecting the beliefs of our fellow Christians
doesn’t mean we pretend there aren’t real differences.

Our friends the German Baptists—
we see them bring their produce to town—
They have a distinctive way of living,
and they pay a price to live their Faith, their way…
I’m not going to say
what’s different between them and us isn’t important.
It’s obviously important to them.

So what do we do about the divisions among Christians?
In the Gospel, the Lord talked about
his being lifted up to draw all to him.

Christians being divided doesn’t help.
Christians who give a bad witness—
priests who give a bad witness—don’t help.

It comes back to where we started:
The new covenant—the conversion Christ calls us to.

He said when a grain of wheat dies,
it produces much fruit.
He was talking about himself: his death;
but he’s also talking about us.
Catholic and Protestant and Orthodox can’t get along:
the grain of wheat needs to die.
Two parishes in Piqua can’t always get along:
The grain of wheat needs to die.

In the Gospel, some outsiders
came to the Apostles and said,
“We want to see Jesus.”

You know what?
If we do our job—
they’ll come and ask us that question.
Wouldn’t that be awesome?

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