Whatever happened to Easter finery?

As a yout’, I worked for a national department store in the “Boys’ Department’.  I’m not sure in this day of political correctness that’s the proper name for it, but what else do you call a department where you sell boys’ clothes?  Anyway, that’s what we called it in the late 60s when there were only two genders.

I thought about those days over the past weekend.  In my department store days, we were slammed the last weekend before Easter and Easter weekend itself.  Every mother wanted to get her male offspring a suit and tie to wear for Easter.  These weren’t wealthy people.  But tradition said that her ten husky had to be properly dressed for Easter Sunday.  Either a two-piece or even a three-piece suit with a new dress shirt and a clip-on tie were absolutely required.  It was a madhouse.

The Easter dressing expedition seemed to be a mother-son affair.  There weren’t a lot of dads around.  The Girls’ Department was on another floor but I assume bedlam reigned there too.  It was a ritual of spring and nobody was immune.  The only people more hassled than the workers in the Boys’ Department were the poor alteration ladies.  Of course, every suit had to be altered in one way or another.  There were no perfect ten huskies.

I got to reminiscing about those days last weekend.  Don’t get me wrong.  Lots of families come to mass on Easter dressed to the nines.  It is the day Jesus was raised from the dead and certainly calls for our best outfits.  But there are some people who just can’t be bothered.  I don’t think it has to do with money.  Some of the blue jeans I saw in church cost more than a pair of dress pants.  The hockey jersey costs just as much as a sports coat.  I think it’s just a sign of the respect we have for one another (and for God).  And as much as I hate to say it, I think it’s more prevalent among Catholics.

There is another side to this argument:  “Would Jesus turn someone away because they weren’t properly dressed?”  No, I don’t believe He would, but that’s not the point.  It’s about respect:  respect for our fellow Catholics, respect for God’s house, and respect for God Himself.

I wonder, if the Holy Father was coming to your parish and you were one of the lucky ones invited to meet him, wouldn’t you dress up?  I think you would.  Well, guess what, Jesus is the Pope’s boss and he’s in every Catholic church every Sunday in the Blessed Sacrament.  Are tank tops and tattered jeans really proper apparel?

While we’re on the subject of disrespectful behavior in church, I offer for your consideration, without comment, this article from the Catholic Herald.

If you don’t want to read the article, watching the following video should be enough.

 

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Corpus Christi

francis eucharistic adorationI know you’ve heard the expression “you are what you eat.”  Normally it refers to ordinary food.  If you eat healthy food, you’ll be healthy.  If you eat unhealthy food, you’ll be unhealthy.  If you eat too much of anything, it’s not good for you.  Some of us, myself included, struggle with food issues for our whole lives.  Between diabetes and chronic stomach problems, the list of things I’m not supposed to eat is longer than the list of things I should eat.

 

Without getting into a biology lesson, we know that the food we eat is metabolized by our bodies and gives us energy and nutrients to keep us going, like fuel in a furnace.  If we eat the wrong things, or too much of the right things, and we don’t exercise, what we don’t use is turned into fat.  Burn more calories than you take in and you won’t have a weight problem.  Eat a double cheeseburger then sit on the couch for four hours watching television, that double cheese will go right to your hips.  Eat a salad then go for an hour walk, you’re on the right track.

 

The funny thing is that I didn’t just make this up.  We all know what it takes to live a healthy lifestyle, but some of us just refuse to do it.  I guess it’s just human nature.  To add to our frustration, there are some people who can eat everything in sight and never gain an ounce.  I REALLY don’t like those people.

But the topic today isn’t ordinary food.  On this feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, I want to talk to you about spiritual food.  Our bad eating habits may stay with us for a lifetime, but our partaking of the Eucharist will lead us to eternal life.  Even skinny people have a place in heaven if they regularly receive Christ’s Body and Blood while they’re in a state of grace.

 

On March 15, 2011, Archbishop Carlson wrote concerning the Eucharist, and quoting from Blessed John Paul II,

“The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift—however precious—among many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work.

 “Keeping in mind that the Eucharist is the heart of our relationship with Jesus Christ, we must never forget that whenever we participate, fully, actively, and consciously in the Eucharist we encounter not merely an article of faith, but rather, the living person of the risen Christ, our Lord.”

 

I was talking with some people the other evening and we were discussing how much more strict the Church used to be about receiving Christ’s Body and Blood.  Most of us are old enough to remember that we were to fast, beginning at midnight, before receiving Communion.  We can also remember when the first mass on Sunday was at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning.  There were no noon masses because no one wanted to go without food for twelve hours and Saturday afternoon mass was out of the question.  Nowadays we only have to fast for one hour, and there are even exceptions to that short period, mainly for the elderly and the sick.

 

Blessed John Paul II wrote in “Dominicae Cenae” (1980) of the problem of some people not being properly disposed to receive Holy Communion, even to the point of being in a state of serious mortal sin. He said, “In fact, what one finds most often is not so much a feeling of unworthiness as a certain lack of interior willingness, if one may use this expression, a lack of Eucharistic ‘hunger’ and ‘thirst,’ which is also a sign of lack of adequate sensitivity towards the great sacrament of love and a lack of understanding of its nature.” We must make a good faith effort to prepare ourselves properly to receive the Lord.

 

Jesus gave us the Eucharist so that He could always be with us, not just spiritually, but also physically.  I’m afraid that sometimes we take this gift for granted.  Think about how you would react if Jesus showed up at your front door.  You would be so humbled and excited that you wouldn’t know how to act.  Of course, you’d invite Him in.  You’d be in awe of his presence.  You’d probably react like either Martha or Mary, either making sure He was comfortable in your home, fixing Him a snack and giving Him something to drink, getting out your finest china and crystal, and fussing over Him.  Or, you’d want to sit with Him and listen to what He had to say.  His physical presence would put you on your best behavior.

 

In a few minutes, we’re going to have the opportunity to receive Him, not just in your presence, but within your own body.  Just as you wouldn’t ask Him to sit on an uncomfortable chair and offer Him a beer without a glass in your home, we shouldn’t invite Him into our bodies, unless we’ve prepared ourselves to be a vessel for His Body and Blood.

 

On the other hand, suppose your best friend invited you out to dinner at the finest restaurant in town.  You would put on your best clothes, maybe get a haircut, and be on your best behavior for such a fine meal.  After an hour or two, your dinner would be over and all you’d have left are the memories.  The meal you’re about to receive here today will stay with you forever!

 

According to the EWTN website, “Each time we receive Holy Communion we should try to be as devout and fervent as if it were the only Communion of our lives.”  I think that’s good advice.  What if we all approached the Altar as if this were the last time we’d ever receive Christ’s Body and Blood?  There are people in Catholic churches all over the world who WILL receive communion today for the last time.  Only God knows the day and time when we’ll be called home.  If we knew that today was our last day on earth, I think we’d all look at things a little differently.

 

Everything we do at mass leads up to the Eucharist.  All the prayers, and the readings are designed to put us into the proper frame of mind.  We ask God for forgiveness and mercy.  We praise Him in the Gloria.  We learn about Him in the readings and the homily.  Representatives of the community bring the gifts of wine and bread to the altar for Father to consecrate.

 

Notice that in today’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t provide the fish and bread.  He leaves that up to the Apostles.  He didn’t have to do it that way.  God, the Father, made food fall from heaven for the Hebrews in the desert.  Jesus himself made wine out of water.  But Jesus wanted the people to provide the food just like He wants you to bring up the bread and wind.

 

We don’t use paper plates and styrophoam cups on the altar, we use sacred vessels because Christ’s Body and Blood are holy.  We don’t keep the leftovers in a drawer or cabinet, we reserve them in a tabernacle, a sturdy, locked receptacle in a place of honor in the Church.  If we spill His Sacred Blood, there are procedures that we follow to make sure there’s no desecration.

 

Throughout the mass we’re reminded that we’re not worthy to receive such a great gift.  “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Each of us knows our own hearts.  We know our sins and our shortcomings.  So does Jesus.  As we prepare to celebrate His great gift, especially on this feast of His Body and Blood, lets all examine our consciences, be aware of our sins, be aware that we’re not worthy, and ask Him for His forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–“The Jesus Cookie”

“Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”  John 6:53-56

Isn’t it ironic that so many protestants who insist that everything in the Bible be taken literally write this passage off as being only symbolic?  They believe that God could part the Red Sea, that Jonah could escape from the belly of the giant fish, and that Jesus could walk on water, but somehow they can’t imagine that Jesus could make His Body and Blood present in bread and wine.  Let’s read on:

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.cAnd he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

OK.  Jesus has been sent by His Heavenly Father to proclaim the good news and to create a Church, gathering as many disciples as possible.  He’s doing pretty well, then He makes this statement.  “Eat my Body and drink My Blood.” and people start to walk away.  They left.  Shouldn’t Jesus have stopped them?  Shouldn’t He have said, “Wait!  I was only speaking symbolically!  Don’t leave.”

But He didn’t.  He knew what He was saying was true and He knew how He was going to make it happen.  Tomorrow we will celebrate Holy Thursday.  It’s the day we celebrate Jesus’ last meal with His disciples and His creation of the Eucharist.  It was at this Passover meal that He said,

“Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you.”

Then, when supper was ended he held up the cup and said,

“Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Do this in memory of Me.”

This is what the late Paul Harvey would have called “the rest of the story”.  Taken along with the quote from John’s Gospel, this explains what is happening.  He told them to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, and now He’s explaining how they can do that.  He commands us to do this in memory of Him.  It’s almost an insult to Jesus to think that He couldn’t do this.  He’s God.  He can do whatever He wants.

Sure, there’s some mystery attached to the Eucharist, just like there’s some mystery to everything else He does.  We’re called to have faith.  If everything were crystal clear, if the bread and wine changed their appearance and texture at the Consecration, then faith wouldn’t be necessary.  We sing at the Benediction of Holy Hour, “Faith will tell us God is present, when our human senses fail.”  The bread and wine change to the Body and Blood of Christ but our “human senses” just aren’t sharp enough to see it.  Again, our belief is based on faith.

So, what’s the deal with anti-Catholics who take such vile offense in our belief in the Eucharist?  What’s their problem?  The phrase “Jesus Cookie” is one that anti-Catholic Jack Chick uses in many of his works.  It’s a phrase that’s designed to get a response from Catholics.  It’s about as offensive a statement as someone can make about our beliefs.  We must realize that when someone has no logic or facts to support their position, they often resort to name- calling and abusive language hoping to get a rise out of their opponent.

Some haters refer to Catholics as “cannibals” because we eat Jesus.  Former Catholic Jim Walker writes,

“Not only did I drink blood and eat flesh, but they made me do it in front of a statue of a bloody corpse hanging by nails on two pieces of lumber, a representation of the human whom I had just eaten. (Imagine eating a hamburger in front of an image of a freshly slain cow.)”

Obviously that’s a ridiculous statement.  The appearance of the bread and wine doesn’t change.  It tastes like bread and wine.  It looks like bread and wine.  But the essence of Jesus Christ is contained in both substances.  When we consume the Eucharist we aren’t taking a bite out of Jesus or just drinking a sip of His blood.  His entire Body and Blood are contained in each particle of bread and each drop of wine.

I think the real issue is this.  It takes a heap 0f faith to believe that Jesus can change bread and wine into His Body and Blood.  It’s so hard to believe that only true believers can accept it.  If a person refuses to accept this teaching the problem isn’t with the teaching or with the teacher, the problem is with that person’s lack of faith.  Rather than admit their weakness they choose to ridicule those of us who do have faith.

How sad it must be to be a nonbeliever.