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Pastor's Letter 20210606 - 06 June 2021 - Sharing Life with Christ


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June 6th, 2021

Feast of Corpus Christi

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  A Message from Father †Michael

Today’s Theme:   “Sharing Life with Christ”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Today’s readings are taken up with the theme of Covenant—or partnership:   A covenant is not like the strictly business relationship that exists between trading partners.  A covenant is more like the one between husband and wife.  In fact, this is exactly how some of the prophets described it. They compared the Covenant between God and His people to a marriage relationship (Ezekiel 16:8-14; Jeremiah 31:32; Hosea 2:7; Joel 1:8, etc.)  God’s people, sad to say, have not always been faithful to Him.

We hear of the solemn ratification by Moses and the people of the Old Covenant, made on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:3-8,) in our First Reading today.  The blood of animals featured prominently in these ceremonials.  Sprinkling people with the blood symbolizes the fact that God is sharing His life with them.  

Then, through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, God entered into a new and eternal covenant with His people, as is recounted for us in our Second Reading (Hebrews 9:11-15.)  Instead of animal blood, Jesus’ own blood was shed on Calvary.  The new rite—the Holy Eucharist—was instituted to be a perpetual reminder of the intimate bond that now exists between God and His people.  By the sacrificial death of Christ, the supreme high priest, God has entered into the New Covenant with us.

Our Gospel selection, today, describes the preparation and the celebration of the Passover meal Jesus ate with His disciples the night before He died (Mark 14:12-26.)

The New Covenant

Basic food such as bread and water is no problem for people in an affluent society.  However, for many people in the world, it still is.  Thus, when God intervened to feed His people, they understood it as a real sign of love and care.  Bread and water can be a matter of life and death for some.  But we often hunger and thirst for more than mere sustenance of physical life. In our depersonalized society we suffer from “absence” where there should be “presence.”  We hunger and thirst for values, such as companionship, love, concern, mercy and respect.  Ironically, these are not problems in the families of primitive people.  One might ask, “Whose needs are greater?”

Where we suffer from absence, the Lord Jesus wants to be present to us with all the concern and love one friend has for another.  With the signs of plain daily food, the “orientals” of bread, water and wine—Jesus shows us His intent by being present to us.  He wants to share His life with us.  He wants us to be strengthened by it.  He wants to be truly meaningful to you and to me.  Whenever we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we celebrate the mysterious presence of the Lord Jesus with others, in the community.  In order to make a true “communion” possible, we must open up our innermost selves!  

God has given us freedom to choose, in order to love and to be loved. In this way, the Covenant between God and humanity is more meaningful than simply a matter of an almighty God “laying down the Law.”  If He had done so, God would have our obedience, but not our love.  In order to truly flourish, a covenant of love must be an agreement, freely entered into between free parties.

After the creation story, God’s covenant with Abraham is the key moment in the Old Testament.  This is where the story of our redemption begins.  From that point, the Bible becomes the story of God’s relationship with His people.  It is summed up often in the words, “You shall be My people, and I will be your God.”

In and through Christ, God has formed a bond with us that cannot never be broken.  This is what we “celebrate” in the Holy Eucharist—a perpetual reminder of the intimacy we enjoy with God through the advocacy of Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.  

Retelling the Story

On a hill near Cape Town, South Africa, just below the famed Table Mountain, a gun is fired every day, at noon.  This hill is known as Signal Hill.  The firing of the gun once served a beautiful purpose.  It signaled that a ship, on its way to or from India, had arrived in the harbor with a cargo of goods; in need of supplies of food and fresh water.  A beautiful exchange resulted. There was receiving and giving.

But that was a long time ago.  The purpose no longer exists. Yet, the gun is still fired, dutifully, every day.  However, its firing now is little more than an empty ritual.  Once it has a beautiful meaning, but now, the meaning has been lost, and most people simply ignore it.  Visitors are told, “If you hear a loud bang at midday, don’t worry.  It’s only the ‘gun’ going off.”

However, the ritual has one thing going for it: most people know the story behind it.  If that story were to be lost, then the ritual would become poorer still.

The Holy Eucharist celebrates a wonderful event:  the gift, which Jesus made of His life on our behalf.  Every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist—the Holy Mass—we tell that story again.  But like anything that is repeated over and over again, there is a danger that it may become just a ritual.  

In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus nourishes us with the bread of life.  But it’s not meant to be “one-way traffic.”  Having received from Jesus, we are expected to give something in return—not to Him, but to one another.  Often the eucharist doesn’t produce the effect it is meant to produce…namely, unselfish giving of oneself in the service of others.  

We keep giving out the bread and the cup, “This is My Body, given for you…. This is the Cup of My Blood, poured out for you.”  Yet it seems to have little effect on many people.  We generally don’t see people pouring out their lives in the service of others.  Even the people who “eat the bread and drink the cup” every day often are living self-centered lives.  

For the Hebrews, remembering was not a mere “recalling.”  It was the making present to each generation of the saving events of the past.  In the same way, the Holy Eucharist is no mere “making present of Christ’s body and blood,” but it is a proclamation and a memorial of His “life-giving death.”

The Holy Eucharist is the heart of everything, but it can never be separated from the “washing of the feet”—the ultimate sign of “service” to others.  

The two realities are linked in communion with Jesus so we can be in service to others.

It would be a pity, indeed, if the Holy Eucharist became just an empty ritual, like the ceremonial firing of the gun in South Africa.  Jesus gives Himself to us here, and now, so that we, in our turn, may give ourselves to others.  Truly, then, “we are the hands of Christ.”

May God Richly Bless You!

“If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”

—St. Maximilian Kolbe

Come to the Table Where Bread is Broken.docx

Edited by Father Michael
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