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Pastor's Letter 20210815 - 15 August 2021 - The Eucharistic Celebration


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August 15th, 2021

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time  

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“I am the Living Bread”

A Message from Father †Michael Today’s Theme:  

“The Eucharistic Celebration”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Today’s First Reading is an extended comparison on Wisdom, whose message and beauty become more poignant in conjunction with its counterpart, Folly—both portrayed as “women”—and offering a sumptuous banquet (Proverbs 9:1-6.)  The reader is urged to seek the source of all true wisdom in God alone.  The protagonist herein is given a choice between competing delicacies that each one offers.  Wisdom’s banquet of meat and wine… (actually, wisdom and teaching—the flesh and blood of the Lord, Himself—) results in life for the participant, whereas, Folly’s meal of bread and water leads only to death.

We continue our reading of †Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, which takes up a similar tack: the wise Christian will make the most of “the present,” remaining alert to the will of God, and shaping their conduct accordingly (Ephesians 5:15-20.)  Christians, replete with the “wine of Wisdom” of Jesus’ own Spirit, are led not to acts of depravity and wanton behavior, but to righteous living, prayerful meditation and liturgical rejoicing. (This text is seen as one of the earliest references to the use of hymns in praise of God by the early community.)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus, as the Bread of Life is to be understood exclusively in a “Eucharistic” sense (John 6:51-58.)  John’s long discourse, which has comprised our Gospel readings for the past several weeks, has undergone extensive analysis as to its meaning and application.  Early Church scholars argued for the Eucharistic interpretation, while later pundits argued for a “spiritual” intention—suggesting it to have two themes: revelatory—the Word; and sacramental—Holy Communion.  Bishop Sheen also captures a two-fold meaning, seeing unity flowing from this Divine Sacrament—both the Church, as the unity of Christ and His Mystical Body, and the members of the Mystical Body, with each other (The Mystical Body of Christ: 1935.)  

In Communion with the Lord

Physical presence is a great thing—but we don’t always realize this until a loved one is absent.  It is brought home to us even more forcefully, as the emptiness felt when they die. But, physical presence is not everything….  It doesn’t always produce the intimacy that we long for.  In fact, people can be sitting side by side without being really present to one another.  We witness this daily, in the plethora of electronic devices, which are everywhere, today.  

There may be little communication between such people, let alone communion.  For all that passes between us, we may as well be “miles away.”  But then the opposite may also occur:  people can be separated by a great distance, and yet be very much “present” to one another.  (This is demonstrated by our being able to “pick up a conversation” from our last encounter with someone, when we are reunited after a lengthy separation.)

We believe Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist—but not physically present.  Nevertheless, He is really and truly present.  The mode of His presence is beyond our understanding. We call it “the real presence,” because it is presence, in the fullest sense.  To receive the gift of the Eucharist is to receive the Lord, Himself.

Of course, an act of faith is required.  But for those who believe that God is present in all things and in all places, His unique and special presence in the Holy Eucharist ought not be a big problem.  Besides, we have the words of Jesus: “This is My body…this is My Blood.”  We should not hesitate to believe this is true, for our Savior cannot lie!  

However, the expressions, “to eat His flesh,” and “to drink His blood,” must not be taken with crude literalism.  “Body” and “Blood,” stand for the whole person.  When we eat the bread and drink the wine of the Holy Eucharist we are not receiving an actual “body,” and “blood.”  But we are receiving a person—a living person.  

In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus comes to us, not under the form of something like an iPhone, or a coat or even, medicine.  He comes under the form of something more basic still—something and essential for life—as food….  More specifically, He comes under the form of bread.  Bread nourishes us and gives us life.  But it is also something we can take into ourselves, and make part of ourselves.  Through the food of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus nourishes in us the undying life of God, which we received in Baptism. This is why He said: “Anyone who eats this Bread will live forever.”

When we receive the Holy Eucharist, Jesus comes to each of us, personally—as though each of us was the only person in the world at that moment.  We are able to enter into a deeper intimacy with Him than if He were physically present!  We are not merely in communication with Him, but in communion with Him—a holy communion.  Through the Holy Eucharist, a spiritual bond is forged between us and Jesus.  The Holy Eucharist enables us to grow in intimacy and friendship with the Lord.  Through our shared intimacy with Jesus in Holy Communion, we are also united with one another, something we must try to live out in our ordinary lives, through mutual love, forgiveness and concern for one another.

From Eucharist to Life

We must never forget that the Jesus we receive in the Holy Eucharist is the same Jesus Who gave His life for us.  The words of the consecration remind us of this:  “This is My Body, given for you…This is My Blood, shed for you….”  Therefore, Holy Communion should evoke a spirit of sacrifice in us. To receive this food is to be reminded that, like Christ, we also must be willing to give ourselves in the service of others.  

In her ministry to the poor people of Calcutta, Mother Teresa required each of the nuns of her order to minister, directly, to them—particularly to those in the Home of the Dying.  In doing so, they got a sense of working with the very bodies of those in their charge.  And encountering them so intimately, they found “Jesus’ wounded body”—as it were, they were touching the wounded body of Christ.  To be able to make this kind of connection we need the help of the Lord Himself.  It is above all in the Holy Eucharist that He gives us this help.

The Holy Eucharist is the banquet that Jesus provides for His followers.  All of us come to the banquet hungry; all of us need the bread that only Jesus can give—the bread of eternal life.  And all of us come before God as paupers.  But here, all of us are nourished; all of us are honored, because every place is one of honor.  Furthermore, through the Holy Eucharist, a spiritual bond is forged between us.  Through our shared intimacy with Jesus, each of us is united with one another.

May God Richly Bless You!

“By nature, each one of us is enclosed in his own personality. But supernaturally, we are all one.

We are made one body in Christ because we are nourished by one flesh. As Christ is indivisible, we are all one in Him”

~~†Cyril of Alexandria ca,376-444~~ 

To view a live stream of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/14EIwc3Z71M

Edited by Father Michael
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