Whoever eats this bread will live forever. The bread that I will give is my flesh. (John 6:51)
The Holy Mass: A sacrifice and a Passover banquet. Can’t have the banquet without the sacrifice. And: No point in having the sacrifice without the banquet. [Spanish]
Christ offered Himself, a Lamb slaughtered to atone for all the sins of the world. “This is my Body which will be given up for you.”
Religion always involves approaching the all-good, all-pure God with something to offer Him. Our religion involves approaching the all-good, all-pure God with His Son as our sacrifice.
This sacrifice pleases the Father. The Body and Blood of His only-begotten, the eternal Word, made man. We know this sacrifice pleases the Father because… ?
The Resurrection. Jesus did not offer Himself as a sacrifice in vain. No. The Father accepted, approved, and vindicated the offering. He granted mercy to sinners because of it. He gave creation a fresh start. The Resurrection proves all that.
So: The Mass involves offering the Christ to the Father as a sacrifice. We all do that, together, as the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer. And we offer ourselves, too, with Christ, to the Father. Through Him, with Him, and in Him, all honor and glory is yours, Father.
But: That’s not the end of Mass. There’s more. He didn’t say, “Take this and offer it.” He said, “Take this, and eat it.” He said, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
The Paschal banquet of Holy Communion involves receiving as food the risen flesh of Jesus Christ.
Some people have a hard time featuring the Real Presence. Christ with us–Body, Blood, soul, and divinity—in the Blessed Sacrament. But maybe we can resolve any doubts by remembering: Holy Communion does not involve consuming mortal flesh. Christ’s flesh, since He rose from the dead, is immortal, heavenly, glorified.
Now, that does not mean that Christ’s Body is purely spiritual and mystical. He is not just ‘an idea.’ After all, we know from the gospels: Jesus ate, even after He rose from the dead. And Thomas fingered the wound in His side. Christ is risen in the flesh, real human flesh. But it is human flesh that has passed over from mortal life to immortal life.
Ok. What does God ask of us, to prepare to receive Christ’s flesh in Holy Communion?
- A clear conscience. We have to confess all our serious sins to a priest beforehand.
- Fasting for one hour before Holy Communion.
- Living in union with the Church. Striving for honest harmony with my neighbor. Forgiving others as I have been forgiven by God.
And how does receiving Holy Communion affect us? Well, only a mystic could give a comprehensive answer to that question. But we can name a few effects:
- Holy Communion draws us closer to Christ. Heaven means total union with Him. So every Holy Communion received in a state of grace gets us that much closer to the final goal.
- Holy Communion cleanses us from past sins and protects us from committing future sins.
- Holy Communion unites us with our neighbors, especially with the poor, with those who need our love and mercy.
We cannot fathom the depths of the loving generosity of God. Yet all of God’s love is present in the consecrated Host and chalice. With every Holy Communion, we enter more deeply into the divine love, the generous love, of the Heart of Jesus. And He enters more deeply into us.
Last week we talked about the faithful Catholics with hearts broken over the Theodore McCarrick scandal. This week we have to mourn with everyone brokenhearted by the Pennsylvania grand-jury report on sex abuse by priests.
Namely: All the good Pennsylvania Catholics baptized or given First Holy Communion by priests whose names are on the lists or predators. And everyone confirmed by one of the bishops who neglected their duty.
May the good Lord comfort all those good Catholics.
Above all, however: We need to honor the victims of sexual abuse who had the courage to speak to the grand jury and give the world this report. It took enormous courage, and great faith. They have given us a great gift. The truth.
The truth will set you free. That’s what we believe. Our beloved Jesus has suffered. He suffers in the poor, the sick, the grieving, the lonely. And he suffers in the victims of sexual abuse by priests. That means that the grand-jury report is like a crucifix, held up before our eyes.
It moves us. To despise every act of abuse. To love and admire every victim of abuse who has the guts to stand up against it. To react that way is the duty of every decent human being.
For decades, the Pennsylvania bishops did not react that way. That’s the scandal. The Church owed those victims justice. Instead, the bishops muffled their pain under a cloak of secrecy.
No more. Now the truth of those cases stands before the world in black and white. That’s a gift, a fresh start, a chance for a better future. Thank you grand jurors, and thank you, courageous witnesses who testified.