Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Body and Blood of Christ

The Body and Blood of Christ
June 22, 2014
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58

The obscurity of the phrase “a food unknown to you and your fathers” places us firmly before the mystery of the Eucharist today. The term is used in Deuteronomy when Moses and his small band of Hebrew refugees are wandering along the parched and waterless ground for forty years. Throughout their years, God and nature provides for them as they are tested and purified before they reach the Promised Land. The lesson was to teach them that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the Lord’s mouth. Trusting in God will give us everything that we need.

In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus offers his followers an unknown source of bread and drink – that is his real, crunch-and-munch Body and Blood. Many do not know what he is offering them. For them, surely eating the body and drinking the blood of a real live earthly man cannot offer them eternal life. To them, heaven and earth does not intersect that way. It makes sense to us because we are used to dealing with the risen, alive Jesus who is daily part of our world, but many of us would have struggled to accept Jesus in his own day and age.

First Corinthians holds the key: participation. When we bless, when we break, we participate in the life of Jesus. We are to be active in our faith and worship if we are to eat the food that is unknown to us. Our faith is passive in lifeless if we only come to church each Sunday and do our duty, but if we are active throughout the week by blessing those we meet and sharing our lives with them, then we know our faith is alive. We sanctify what we bless, so why not bless the entire world? We give ourselves away when we break bread, so why not risk losing ourselves so others may come to see Jesus Christ through us? The bread and blood Jesus gives us is real crunch-and-munch food. Therefore, we are to chew, to taste, to swallow, to digest. Therefore, we are not to sip, but to drink. We cannot have a part of him unless we actively take him into our body, and then we become like him because we are what we eat.

Our mass is meaningful when we participate in the dialogue with God. If we are silent, unresponsive, not listening to the homily, choose not to sing, and sit isolated from others, then we might find ourselves watching the clock and we’ll go home knowing we went to church. But if we volunteer to read, sing brightly, say hello to our neighbor, and find something meaningful in the homily, we will be fed by a food unknown to us. We have to pay attention to the ways the Lord nourishes us, not only in the Eucharist, but in those unknown, unexpected ways.

Think of the excitement that builds when you find someone has a common interest or attended the same university as you, or a moment when you have a transcendent moment with another because of some event you talked about after mass. Do you think the Lord is not present in these moments? As we live, we find that Jesus is more active in our lives that we ever imagined before. We might want to strike the word ‘coincidence’ from our vocabulary because we learn that the Lord is operative in our life events because he participates in our world a great deal.

Train your spiritual mind to notice the life-giving unknown food that Christ sends you and then celebrate it, first by thanking him, and then by blessing the occasion. Take an inward moment when you can savor the mystery before you and then share your gladness with another person. Our lives must be outward directed if we are going to find happiness. Let us make the ordinary moments of our day into crunch-and-munch experiences. Our active participation will draw us into Christ’s world of the divine and we will behold a great mystery – that God is with us in all things and we are with God. We learn that we are more united than we can imagine because we are one body. We belong to God and nothing will separate us from that bond that we innately desire.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The Jews were attacked by the Assyrians and exiled to the cities near Medes because they have sinned against God and rejected God’s statutes. ~ On the birth of John the Baptist, the church reads Isaiah’s words on the faithful servant who proclaims the Day of the Lord and the advent of the Messiah. ~ The high priest Hilkiah found a copy of the Hebrew scriptures, read it, and realized their fathers did not obey the stipulations of the book causing God’s wrath to fall upon them. He called the elders together and made a covenant with the Lord in their presence. Jehoiachin began his kingly reign at age 18. The Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem and Jehoiachin surrendered. All the people of influence were brought to Babylon and in place of Jehoiachin, Zedekiah was appointed king over Israel. ~ On the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the story of the Lord’s choosing the people of Moses as his dear ones reveals the intimate love God has for his people. The people are to prove that love by honoring the Lord’s commandments. ~ In Lamentations, the sad recollections of the exiled people of beloved Jerusalem is sung. Tears of mourning flow from the sad eyes of those sent to Babylon – a refugee people.

Gospel: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demands that his followers stop being prejudicial of others because they first have to focus upon correcting their own poor behaviors. ~ On the birth of John the Baptist, the story of Elizabeth’s birth of John is told. Zechariah confirms to the people, by breaking his muted penance, that his son’s name is John. ~ Jesus warns against false prophets and asks the people to judge by the fruits of their works, rather than being concerned about their status or wealth. A good tree will produce good works. Jesus warns against presumption because not everyone who merely knows Jesus will be brought into the kingdom. Those who continue to act poorly will not be received. ~ On the feast of the Sacred Heart, Jesus talks to the Father and thanks him for the many blessings he has given to those who love him. He asks God to give the people rest and to comfort in Jesus. ~ Jesus goes up with his parents to the feast of Passover and when it was finished he decided to remain behind without telling his parents because he wanted to converse about matters pertaining to God with the elders.

Saints of the Week

June 21: Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J., priest (1568-1591), gave up a great inheritance to join the Jesuits in 1585 in his dreams of going to the missions. However, when a plague hit Rome, Gonzaga served the sick and dying in hospitals where he contracted the plague and died within three months. He is a patron saint of youth.

June 22: Paulinus of Nola, bishop (353-431) was a prominent lawyer who married a Spaniard and was baptized. Their infant son died while in Spain. He became a priest and was sent to Nola, near Naples, where he lived a semi-monastic life and helped the poor and pilgrims.

June 22: John Fisher, bishop and martyr (1469-1535) taught theology at Cambridge University and became the University Chancellor and bishop of Rochester. Fisher defended the queen against Henry VIII who wanted the marriage annulled. Fisher refused to sign the Act of Succession. When the Pope made Fisher a cardinal, the angry king beheaded him.

June 22: Thomas More, martyr (1478-1535) was a gifted lawyer, Member of Parliament, scholar, and public official. He was reluctant to serve Cardinal Woolsey at court and he resigned after he opposed the king’s Act of Succession, which would allow him to divorce his wife. He was imprisoned and eventually beheaded.

June 24: Nativity of John the Baptist (first century) was celebrated on June 24th to remind us that he was six months older than Jesus, according to Luke. This day also serves to remind us that, as Christ is the light of the world, John must decrease just as the daylight diminishes. John’s birth is told by Luke. He was the son of the mature Elizabeth and the dumbstruck Zechariah. When John was named, Zechariah’s tongue was loosened and he sang the great Benedictus.

June 27: Cyril of Alexandria, bishop and doctor (376-444), presided over the Council of Ephesus that fought Nestorian the heresy. Cyril claimed, contrary to Nestorius, that since the divine and human in Jesus were so closely united that it was appropriate to refer to Mary was the mother of God. Because he condemned Nestorius, the church went through a schism that lasted until Cyril's death. Cyril's power, wealth, and theological expertise influenced many as he defended the church against opposing philosophies.

June 28: Irenaeus, bishop and martyr (130-200) was sent to Lyons as a missionary to combat the persecution the church faced in Lyons. He was born in Asia Minor and became a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus asserted that the creation was not sinful by nature but merely distorted by sin. As God created us, God redeemed us. Therefore, our fallen nature can only be saved by Christ who took on our form in the Incarnation. Irenaeus refutation of heresies laid the foundations of Christian theology.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jun 20, 1626. The martyrdom in Nagasaki, Japan, of Blesseds Francis Pacheco, John Baptist Zola, Vincent Caun, Balthasar De Torres, Michael Tozo, Gaspar Sadamatzu, John Kinsaco, Paul Xinsuki, and Peter Rinscei.
·      Jun 21, 1591. The death of St Aloysius Gonzaga, who died from the plague, which he caught while attending the sick.
·      Jun 22, 1611. The first arrival of the Jesuit fathers in Canada, sent there at the request of Henry IV of France.
·      Jun 23, 1967. Saint Louis University's Board of Trustees gathered at Fordyce House for the first meeting of the expanded Board of Trustees. SLU was the first Catholic university to establish a Board of Trustees with a majority of lay members.
·      Jun 24, 1537. Ignatius, Francis Xavier, and five of the companions were ordained priests in Venice, Italy.
·      Jun 25, 1782. The Jesuits in White Russia were permitted by the Empress Catherine to elect a General. They chose Fr. Czerniewicz. He took the title of Vicar General, with the powers of the General.
·      Jun 26, 1614. By a ruse of the Calvinists, the book, "Defensio Fidei" by Francis Suarez was condemned by the French Parliament. In addition, in England James I ordered the book to be publicly burned.
·      Jun 27, 1978. Bernard Lisson, a mechanic, and Gregor Richert, a parish priest, were shot to death at St Rupert's Mission, Sinoia, Zimbabwe.
·      Jun 28, 1591. Fr. Leonard Lessius's teaching on grace and predestination caused a great deal of excitement and agitation against the Society in Louvain and Douai. The Papal Nuncio and Pope Gregory XIV both declared that his teaching was perfectly orthodox.