Christmas 2013

This is the homily I gave on Christmas Eve at Saint John Nepomuk Chapel.  For those not familiar, Saint John’s is an historic church in South Saint Louis.  The church was founded by Bohemian immigrants in the 19th Century.

 

veselé Vánoce!  ‘null-ig hun-a dit’!  Merry Christmas!  That’s Czech because of who you are, Irish because of who I am, and American because of who we all are.  However you say it, I want to wish all of you the very Merriest Christmas ever.

 

What a thrill it is to stand up here in front of such a large crowd.  Imagine that once-upon-a-time the church was filled like this all the time.  But, while the crowds here may not be as big as they once were, we’re still here and that’s a mighty blessing from God.  Beginning next week, we’ll be celebrating our 160th anniversary of worshipping our God at the corner of Lafayette and 11th street.

 

Frankly there are a lot of people who would have bet that we’d never make it, but here we are.  Since 1854 we’ve survived the Civil War, two world wars, a tornado, urban flight, and two interstate highways.  Generations of Bohemian immigrants built this church and today a melting pot of ethnic heritages, including an Irish deacon, are keeping it going.

 

Obviously we have a lot of visitors here this evening and we thank you for being here.  I know it’s an annual tradition for many of you to come home to Saint John Nepomuk to celebrate this greatest of all nights.  Vitame Vas!  Welcome!  Please keep us in your prayers the other fifty-one weeks of the year.  Of course, you’re welcome to come back any time.  In fact, we have a lot of exciting things planned for 2014 and we hope you can join us again for some special celebrations.

 

Christmas is a time when we all look back.  We look back to that night 2,000 years ago when Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to give birth to a very special child; a child the angel promised Joseph who would save His people from their sins.

 

Many of us look back and remember loved ones who have gone on to the next life.  We can’t help but think about our parents and grand parents who were with us in Christmases past but who aren’t physically with us today.  But we know, because of what that special Child promised us, that they’re with us in spirit and they live on in our memories.

 

As a relative newcomer to Saint John’s, I often think about the thousands of members of our church family who have gone before us.  Sometimes, when no one else is around, I like to come here and pray, and to think about all those people who built this chapel, not once, but twice.  I think about the sacrifices they made so that they, and we, would have this beautiful place to worship.

 

As Catholics we share in a two-fold mission.  We want to get to heaven.  That’s what Jesus wants for us.  He wants us to be with Him for eternity.  But our greatest mission isn’t just to get to heaven.  Our greatest mission is to take others with us.  We’re called to share our faith with others.  Our predecessors here at Saint John’s did that by making sure we’d have a beautiful place to worship.  Many of them gave everything they had.

 

When the cyclone destroyed their church in 1896, many of them quit their jobs so they could give their time to rebuilding.  And these weren’t wealthy people.  But they had their priorities, and their first priority was to rebuild God’s house.  Of course they did it for themselves, but they also did it for us.  Let’s never forget that!

 

If you’re visiting us this afternoon, I’ve placed index cards in each pew.  Please take a moment to put your name, address, and email address on one of them and place it in the collection basket.  We’ll put you on the mailing list to keep you up-to-date on our Jubilee events.  You can help us keep the memories of those great people alive.

 

In know, that’s a bit of a long infomercial, but let’s get down to business.  We’re here tonight to celebrate the miraculous birth of our Lord and Savior.  We all know the story.  God came to earth to live as a man and to die for our sins so that we could be saved.  Just think about that!  He’s God.  He created the universe.  He had all the power and all the glory yet he chose to become one of us.  What kind of God would do that?  The answer is a God who is all about love.  He created us, but He wasn’t one of us.  He knew that the best way to reach us was to walk among us.  He would come down from heaven to take us back with Him.

 

But why did He think it was necessary to come as a tiny baby?  Why did He have to humble Himself to be born in a stable, to live among us, then to die a horrible death at the hands of His enemies?  He could have come on a golden chariot with an army of angels.  He could have come in the glory that He deserved.  After all, that’s what the Jewish people expected.  That’s what they still expect.  And they’re right!  He will come in glory when He returns.  But, as they say, God works in mysterious ways.  In His wisdom He chose to be born of a woman just like you and me.

 

We have free will.  That’s part of the deal.  He wants us to love Him because we want to, not because we have to.  To paraphrase Father Thomas Merton, one of the great Catholic writers of the twentieth century, God never gives us the whole answer.  If He did, we’d have no choice but to believe him.  That would be the end of free will.  He just gives us part of the answer, leaving us to fill in the blanks.  We fill in those blanks with something called “faith”.  Faith is when we believe in something that can’t be proven.  For centuries philosophers have tried to “prove” the existence of God and failed.  A + B = C is a human concept.  It’s just math.  But A plus something that we have to accept on faith equals C is a divine concept.

 

 

Jesus was a miracle worker.  Tonight we celebrate the miracle of His birth.  He was born of a woman without the help of a human father.  He continued to work miracles up to and including His rising from the dead.  He still works miracles today.

 

And so, we come together today, in this beautiful church to celebrate His birth.  We listen to the music, we hear His words, and we thank Him for loving us enough to become one of us.  Salvation isn’t just for the rich and famous.  It’s for everyone, including you and me.

 

Ironically, the days leading up to Christmas can be the most hectic and frustrating days of the year.  We’re bombarded with commercials for stuff that we just have to have.  We have cards to send, parties to go to, and a long to-do list of things that just have to be done.  Hurry, hurry, hurry.  Now, at least for one day, that’s all behind us.  Silent night, holy night is more than just a song lyric.  It’s what it’s all about.

 

My friend, Father Bruce Forman, leads a group called the “Young Catholic Musicians”.  Each year they put on a Christmas concert of music and narration on the birth of Christ.  It includes my favorite lines about Christmas.  Because of the census, Bethlehem was filled with people.  Some of them were very important businessmen, politicians, and Jewish leaders.  With all those VIPs in town, why did God chose to announce the birth of His Son to shepherds, the lowliest members of society?  The answer is simple and profound.  “God speaks to those who sit quietly and listen.”

 

That’s my wish for you on this Christmas Eve.  I pray that you’ll take time out to just sit quietly and listen to God.

veselé Vánoce!  ‘null-ig hun-a dit’!  Merry Christmas!

 

 

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4th Sunday of Advent

(This is my homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent)

Today  is the fourth Sunday of Advent.  All the candles on the Advent wreath have been lit.  Now, it’s time to take the wreath down and decorate the church for Christmas.  Father and I will hang up the purple vestments until the first week of March when Lent will begin.

 

For the past three weekends we’ve been hearing about John the Baptist and his ministry of preparing the way of the Lord.  Remember Jesus called John the greatest man ever born of a woman.  But He promised us that the least person in heaven would be greater even than John.  We have hope because that includes you and me.

 

But today the Gospel takes a different tone.  There’s no mention of John.  Today’s story is about Mary and Joseph.  It’s a critical story because it gives us some insight into what these two people had to do to fulfill their part in salvation history.

 

The angel of the Lord has visited Mary and told her that she would bear a son.  In Friday’s  Gospel reading from Luke the angel tells Mary, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”  As we all know, Mary told the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”

 

Now, Mary was engaged to Joseph.  When Joseph realized that Mary was pregnant his first impulse was to “divorce her quietly.”  Remember, things were much different in Mary and Joseph’s world than they are today.  In our world unmarried mothers are not scorned.  They’re not ashamed of their situation and some even brag about it.  Famous people, especially members of the Hollywood crowd go on talk shows and talk openly about their pregnancies.  They are proud of what they’ve done and don’t seem the least bit concerned about their sinfulness.  But for about the first 1,900 years of the Christian era, being an unwed mom wasn’t something to be celebrated.  It was the cause of great shame and embarrassment.

 

So, it’s not hard to understand how Joseph felt.  Mary had brought shame on herself and on him.  Guys, put yourself in his place.  What would you have done?  Matthew tells us that Joseph was a “righteous man”.  He was “unwilling to expose her to shame.”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would have been as gracious as Joseph.

 

But the angel appears to him in a dream and explains what’s going on.  Mary has conceived through the Holy Spirit.  Her son will save His people from their sins.

 

The experts tell us that Mary was young, probably a teenager.  Joseph was older.  Imagine what his friends and family must have said.  “It serves your right, Joseph.  You decide to marry this young girl and she turns up pregnant.  What did you expect?”  Think about the gossip.  But, he ignored the taunts of his so-called friends and did what the angel told him to do.  I’m sure he spent a lot of time in prayer.

 

So here we have two ordinary people who’ve been asked to make huge sacrifices so that the prophet Isaiah’s words would be fulfilled:  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means God is with us.”

 

Joseph, being a “righteous man” and a devout Jew, surely was familiar with Isaiah’s prophesy.  Surely he and Mary spent a lot of time talking about what was about to happen.  Maybe they both had planned on having a big family.  Maybe Joseph had big plans for his carpentry business.  If they were engaged, they must have spent a lot of time talking about what their lives would be like as a married couple.  But all that changed in an instant.  And today we thank God that they were willing to give all that up for the greater glory of God.  If either one of them had said no 2,000 years ago, our lives would be very different today.  By agreeing to God’s plan they set things in motion that would change the world forever.

 

You and I also play a part in God’s plan.  Even though we will probably never be recognized by the world, every time we say yes to God’s plan, we start a chain-of-events that changes the world.

 

Is there anyone here who’s never seen It’s a Wonderful Life?  It was on TV last night.  George Bailey was given a wonderful gift.  He gets to see what his world would have been like if he’d never been born.  Of course it’s fiction, but it’s definitely a story that should make us think.  What would our world be like if we’d never been born?  What little things have we done that have changed other people’s lives?  Chances are, like George, we have no idea.  God does great things through ordinary people and things.

 

If you’ve been following the news this week, you know about Phil Robertson.  He’s been attacked for stating his Christian beliefs.  And the whole thing has had some remarkable results.  There’s a Facebook page called “Bring Back Phil Robertson”.  In just two days it’s received more than a million “likes”.  Americans are standing up for their faith (and Phil’s) in amazing numbers.  God is working a miracle with something as simple as a duck call.  It’s a beautiful thing to happen just a week before Christmas.

 

My recent blog post on Phil-gate has had more hits than all my previous posts put together.

 

I could stand up here all day and talk about things that have happened in my life that can only be explained by God’s intervention.  He put the right person in the right place at the right time to give me something that I needed.  Maybe it was something they said.  Maybe it was something they did.  But, God’s hand was in it.  I know all of you could do the same.

 

So, as we prepare to celebrate the greatest event in the history of mankind, it’s good to reflect on today’s story.  Two ordinary people from a very small town said yes to God and changed everything.  That’s what Christmas is about.  That’s what our Catholic faith is all about.  Christmas is a time when we focus on a great miracle.  But miracles happen every day.  We may be the catalyst for a miracle and never even know it.  Thank you Mary and Joseph for saying “yes”.

 

 

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Merry ChristmasAlright, it’s time for my annual rant.  When are Christians, who happen to be a majority in the United States, going to stand up and defend the faith.  Here we are, getting ready for the birth of Christ, you know, the guy who let Himself be crucified to save us from our sins.  There has never been a greater sacrifice, yet we’re allowing non-Christians deny us our celebration of this greatest day.

First, many  of the largest retailers refuse to recognize Christmas, even though they have no problem selling us tons of stuff.  Signs and ads proclaim “Happy Holidays”, “Seasons Greetings” and other politically correct nonsense while refusing to wish us a Merry Christmas.  Next we have the relatively new phenomenon of “Black Friday” creeping into Thanksgiving.

Of course, the government has joined in the fun by refusing to allow Christmas displays on public property, though that’s been kind of hit-and-miss.  Some places allow it.  Some don’t.  But the attack are getting more serious and at the same time more ridiculous.  Here are just two examples posted by Tod Starnes of Fox News.

Georgia School Confiscates Christmas Cards.  For years the teachers at Brooklet Elementary School have posted Christmas cards outside their classrooms…..until this year.  School administrators have removed the cards calling them “offensive”.  After all some of them contained the word “Christmas” and some featured Nativity scenes

Next, homeowners in Orange County, CA have been ordered to remove their outdoor Christmas lights.  One community is known for their light displays and draw visitors from great distances, similar to “Candy Cane Lane“, here in Saint Louis.  The county claims the lights are “an obstruction” and violate local ordinances.  Give me a break!

Abraham Lincoln once said that America wouldn’t be destroyed by outside forces, but from within.  Complacency is our greatest enemy.  Every little attack on our faith that goes unchallenged adds to the total religious persecution that we’re experiencing right here in the once God-fearing United States.  We need to wake up!  Don’t just accept anti-Christian persecution.  Don’t say, “Oh, it’s just one school.”  or “Hey, it’s just one neighborhood.”  Speak up.

When a store clerk says “happy holidays” smile and say, “Merry Christmas.”  Maybe you don’t like to make a fuss.  Maybe you don’t want to embarrass someone else (or yourself).

Tell it to the Guy hanging on the cross.

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Rosary...

Rosary… (Photo credit: miqul)

Here we are at the beginning of the 1st week of Advent.  Once again, the secular media and the retail industry are trying to get us into the “holiday” spirit, which means we should spend, spend, spend.  Don’t get me wrong.  I spent most of my adult life in the retail and/or wholesale business.  I understand the need for a company to make a profit.  Millions of jobs depend on companies staying in business and it’s no secret that the month of December is make it or break it time for most companies in the consumer products businesses.

In fact, the term “black Friday” (which I never did like) stems from the fact that most retailers (if they’re lucky) run at a break-even pace for the first eleven months of the year and only begin to make a profit (get “in the black”) on the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s often true.  I have no problem with that.  In fact, my annual bonus in my previous life depended on lots of people buying lots of stuff in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But, here’s the thing.  You and I, as faithful Catholics, are called to spend the four weeks of Advent preparing ourselves for the coming of the Savior of the world.  It’s a time to pray and reflect on the meaning of Christ’s coming.  Sometimes it’s hard to focus on this critically important day in the history of the world when we’re overwhelmed with ads, and sales, and special events.  It’s just the 2nd Day of December and I’m already tired of all the hype.  If I see one more luxury car with a big red bow on top I may throw my shoe through the TV screen.  Enough!

Father John Mayer was the celebrant at our 4:30 mass this past Saturday.  In his homily he made an excellent suggestion.  He was speaking of the evening news, but I would suggest you try this whenever you’re sitting in front of the television.  When the commercials come on hit the mute button.  There are 44 minutes of actual programming in the typical prime time hour.  That means there are 16 minutes of commercials per hour.  If you were to spend those sixteen minutes talking to or reflecting on God every hour that you’re in front of the TV, how much better a person might you be by December 25?

How long does it take to pray the Rosary?  About 15 minutes?  How often are you praying the Rosary now?  See what I mean?  I know this blog isn’t going to change the world, but imagine  how the world would change if every Catholic in America prayed the Rosary once each day instead of watching commercials, every single day.  I’m just sayin’…….

Why not give it a try.  After all, you’ve probably heard all the commercials you really need to hear.

Christ the King

Today is the solemnity of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the liturgical year.  Next week we begin a new year with the season of Advent.  The Church calendar follows a very logical progression.  We begin Advent waiting for the coming of the Christ Child.  We follow that with the Christmas season, which begins on December 24, not on the day after Thanksgiving as the retailers and advertisers would like you to believe.

 

After a short period of Ordinary Time we begin the season of Lent, a time of penance and reflection on Christ’s life, which is followed by Holy Week and Easter.  Again, our Easter season begins on Easter Sunday and is followed by a second period of Ordinary Time.  Obviously I’ve left out some things but the point is this.  Everything leads up to this celebration.  The year ends with our recognition that Christ is King! 

 

All through His life on earth people wondered who He was.  Was He a prophet?  Was He the Messiah?  Today we announce with certainty, He is all that and more.  He’s the King of the World!  Everyone, even earthly kings and presidents, answers to Him, whether they like it or not.

 

It’s interesting that the Solemnity of Christ the King is a fairly new feast.  It was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925.  He wanted to affirm the “Kingly dignity of Christ” and to correct the false ideologies of nationalism, materialism, secularism, and anti-clericalism.  Sound familiar?  Let me repeat them:

  • Nationalism
  • Materialism
  • Secularism
  • Anti-clericalism

When he first established this feast, Pius called on the people to boldly proclaim the truth of the Gospel and to promote and defend the rights of Christ and His Church against those who were ignoring basic human rights.  Things really haven’t changed much in nearly 90 years, have they?

 

Cardinal Dolan recently wrote to his fellow bishops, “We are united in our resolve to continue to defend our right to live by our faith, and our duty to serve the poor, heal the sick, keep our apostolates strong and faithful, and to insure our people.”

 

Too many people today, just like in Pius XI’s time, seem to have forgotten who Jesus is and who they are.  Remember when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life?”  If He is the truth, then everything He said must be true.  To put it another way, if He ever said anything that wasn’t true, then nothing He said was true because He claimed to betruth.  If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, (and if you don’t, why are you here?) then you have to believe everything He said.  And one thing He said was that He would leave us a Church that’s protected from error by the Holy Spirit.  So……….if you believe in Jesus then you MUST believe in His Church and everything it teaches.  There is no such thing as a “cafeteria Catholic”.  That’s something that the media made up.

 

In the second reading, Paul’s first letter to the Colossians, he writes “He is the image of the invisible God.”   No one has seen God the father, but if you want to know what He looks like, take a good look at Jesus.  That’s what He looks like.  He does not look like George Burns.

 

“All things were created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  Remember the creation story in Genesis?  He speaks everything into creation.  “Let there be light!”  Who was He talking to?  John tells us in the beginning of his Gospel.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Jesus is the word!

 

“He is the head of the body, the Church.”

[pause]

In Luke’s Gospel the rulers, the soldiers, and even the thief being crucified along with Christ question Him.  “If you are who you say you are, why don’t you save yourself?”  That’s a good question.  A king should be able to save himself but Jesus didn’t.  Why?  It’s what an earthly king would do.  Because, in addition to being King, He was also an obedient Son.  He knew from the very beginning that this would be His fate.  He was born so He could die for our sins.  But He also knew that this world, as good as it is, is nothing compared to Heaven.  He was the only person who ever walked the earth who knew what heaven is like.  And, He knew that by going back to heaven, He could take us with Him.  Now, that’s a benevolent King!

 

Sadly, as Pius XI recognized in 1925 and as you and I recognize today, some people never learn.  Remember those four things:

  • Nationalism
  • Materialism
  • Secularism
  • Anti-clericalism

They’re even worse today than they were in Pius’ day.  Why?  Because too many people fail to realize that Christ is still King.  He’s King whether we know it or not; whether we believe it or not, whether we like it or not.  It doesn’t matter.

I may not believe in the law of gravity.  I may not like the law of gravity.  But if I jump off the roof of this church, I’m going to smash into the concrete sidewalk.  Truth is always truth.  It has nothing to do with my opinion.

 

Remember, Jesus is the truth.  He can’t lie.  And it’s a good thing.  He promises us some pretty good stuff and I, for one, am looking forward to meeting Him face to face.  Long live the King!

 

What’s Up with Some Protestant Ministers?

So, I followed a link someone sent me today to a sermon by a protestant minister.  The video is humorous and interesting and I decided right away that I would probably borrow some of it for a future homily of my own.  But, if you’ve ever used YouTube, you know that they give you other suggested videos that you might be interested in.  Here’s a sample of some of the titles:

I could go on and on but that would mean having to watch this stuff and frankly, I don’t have the time or the desire.  I’m also not providing links because I don’t want to encourage you to watch either.  But, if you insist, just go to YouTube and type the name of your favorite preacher followed by the word “exposed” and you’ll have enough to keep you busy all day.

Then, of course, you can find thousands of videos telling you everything that’s wrong with the Catholic Church.

Here’s the thing.  Jesus never said anything bad about people who believed differently from Him.  In fact, He often used non-Jews in His parables to make the point that there’s good in everybody.  He never said that the Samaritans were going to hell but He did say that many of his Jewish brethren were.  (See this coming Sunday’s Gospel).  Jesus was all about faith and love.  Shouldn’t we all follow suit?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m a Roman Catholic through-and-through.  I have major disagreements with everyone listed above.  But, I don’t think it’s my place to call them out, by name, and tell you why they’re wrong.  My place is to tell you why I believe I’m right.  I guess that’s the salesman in me.  I believe you must have a pretty weak case if the only way you can sell your product or service is to criticize the other guy.  Most people are too smart to fall for that.

It just seems strange to me that so many people who say they believe in God, and Jesus Christ, and everything else that makes up Christianity, feel like they have to attack one another.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not mad at anybody.  The false prophets will be found out soon enough.  They don’t need me to point out their faults.

Besides, as I write this, Christian churches are being torched in Egypt.  This might be a good time for all of us to get together and support all believers who are being persecuted for their faith.

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.