Sunday, April 30, 2017
Do you know what you're saying yes to, in receiving the Eucharist? (Sunday homily)
Let’s look closer at what happened in that Gospel we just heard.
Two friends of Jesus are on a journey.
They are talking about Jesus being killed on Good Friday.
Then Jesus – without them recognizing him – comes alongside.
He explains to them, from the Bible,
how it was “necessary that the Christ should suffer all these things.”
After a couple of hours of walking and talking, they sit down to eat,
and then, Jesus takes bread, blesses it,
breaks it and gives the bread to them;
at that very instant, he causes them to recognize him.
And in that same moment, he disappears.
The whole point is this moment:
to have them “recognize him in the breaking of the bread.”
This means, of course, the Eucharist;
but more than that, it means the Holy Mass.
When we come to Mass, what do we do?
We come together, we listen to God’s Word,
and the priest or the deacon helps us understand it better.
Only then do we move to the moment when we, too,
recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
Now notice, Jesus didn’t start with sharing the Eucharist.
Sometimes that is what people would like.
When I was in another parish, I remember someone asking me,
“Father, can we have one of those short Masses
without all the stuff in the middle?”
At first, I didn’t understand, but then I realized,
she wanted me to distribute communion, without the actual Mass!
What she called, “the stuff in the middle”?
That’s the heart of the Mass!
The priest is at the altar, and Jesus acts, through the priest,
to make his dying and rising present.
That “stuff” is the all-important “stuff”!
Without that, there is no Mass; and without the Mass,
there is no Eucharist.
First Jesus gives himself in the sacrifice,
and that’s why he changes the bread and wine into his Body and Blood, for us to share.
That’s what “communion” means: to share in something;
and what we share in – by taking communion –
is the dying of Jesus and his rising from the dead.
At Mass, the priest is at the altar acting for us, in our name.
And when he turns and brings us the Eucharist,
and if we then share the Body and Blood,
by sharing it, we’re saying several things all at once:
1. I am a sinner and but for this sacrifice, I would be going to hell.
2. I believe Jesus is my Savior, my Lord and my God.
3. I am a baptized member of the Catholic Church,
and I am in a state of grace. That means,
if I have any mortal sins,
I’ve gone to confession and been absolved.
4. By sharing the Body and Blood of Jesus,
I am entering into the “new and eternal covenant”
Jesus makes through his death and resurrection,
and I accept all that means – including giving
my whole life to Jesus; being prepared to die to sin
and this world, and live in and for Christ,
every hour of every day of my life.
That’s a lot to say yes to all at once!
But that is what our “amen” means
when we take the Body and Blood of Jesus to our lips.
It is not all that different, really,
from what Jesus himself said “yes” to on the night before he died.
Remember? He said: “Father, if it be possible,
let this cup pass from me; but not my will, but your will be done.”
The “cup” is the Cross. He accepted it.
And when you and I take the Body and the Blood,
we are accepting the Cross as well.
So, yes, that’s a lot to say “amen” to, and that’s why we,
like those disciples on the road, need help to understand it.
So when someone says, I want to become a Catholic,
it takes time to consider, and learn, and pray.
That’s why Jesus took time to open the Scriptures for those disciples.
So let’s make an obvious application.
If our hearts are going to be open to these realities,
then we had better be prepared to invest some time and effort.
And this explains the logic of Mass every single Sunday.
Not once a month, not a few times a year, but every single Sunday.
And that’s still not enough. If you and I come to Mass
without any spiritual preparation during the rest of the week,
what happens? We’re like these two disciples:
we don’t really understand what’s happening.
Now let me put some of this on myself.
It is the job of the priest to open up the Scriptures for you.
I do what I can for about ten minutes each Sunday;
notice Jesus spent a couple of hours with these two.
This parish does provide resources that you can tap into
the rest of the week. And that costs money;
and this year, we ran a deficit.
So this is why I’ve been asking folks to help more,
so I don’t have to cut back on what we offer.
We have lots of opportunities for our children,
and we do what we can for our adults. You see the books we put out;
and the talks and events we schedule.
And because this doesn’t work for everyone,
we have materials available online – for free! – at Formed.org.
You can access them, at home, at any hour, day or night.
Even so, you can help me do a better job for you.
And I mean more than giving in the collection – although that will help!
If you go out of Mass and you aren’t clear on something,
please, please tell me!
I get plenty of “attaboys” and I appreciate that;
but it would be awesome if people wrote or said to me,
“I don’t really understand when the Bible or the Church says X”
or “This or that teaching is unclear to me.”
It would only take a few such comments for me
to decide to give that subject more emphasis in a homily;
or else, look for another way to do it.
I’ve done what I can today to explain these Scriptures.
Only Jesus can open our hearts – and that, only if we let him.
At this and every Mass, Jesus offers us his own Body and Blood.
Saying “yes” – saying “amen” to his Gift – changes everything.
This will happen here in a few minutes.
What will you say to Jesus?