Sunday, June 23, 2019

(229) Corpus Christi (the Eucharist): Living With Christ, Who Feeds Us, Through Images of the Holy Land


AMDG


The 4th Century mosaic underneath the altar of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha (Galilee in Israel) – the believed site of the miracle.

       God has always fed us in the abundance of crops that the earth has reaped.  Human work made the crops into products such as bread and wine. 

       We see in Genesis that after Abraham followed God’s call to migrate to what is today the Holy Land, he was victorious in rescuing his family captured by the enemy.  To celebrate: “Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words: ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand.’  Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:18-20).  Little did they know that this incident was the very first prelude to the Eucharist. 

       After the exodus from Egypt when the Israelites were wondering in the desert for 40 years, God first fed His people with manna and then quail.

The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha (Galilee in Israel).

       The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. When Christ was preaching to the crowd of 5000 in a rather isolated rural area and provisions were far away, He fed His people.  It is described in all four Gospels since this miracle is really a prelude to the greatest gift of all, the Eucharist.    God nurtured the people with His word and fed the people to maintain their health and give them the strength and energy to walk back to their homes.  Today through the priest, His Person Christi, He nurtures us with His word and feeds us with His body and blood in the Eucharist, being with us in a real way, giving us strength against the onslaught of evil.     

       According to Matthew who was an eye witness to the miracle: He withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.  When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.  When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves."  (Jesus) said to them, "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves."  But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here."  Then he said, "Bring them here to me” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. 

        Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over----twelve wicker baskets full.  Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children (Matthew (14:13-21).  This miracle along with the fellowship of the meal among the thousands (true communion) was another prelude to the Eucharist.  See a video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=HP4sALWxJZw.

The Bread of Life Discourse Shortly After the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. Jesus answered them and said, "You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal"…....So they said to him, "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?  Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"  

So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."  So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always" Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst (John 6:26-35).

The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”…….”Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
  
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?"  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 (true presence).  

     Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever".  These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum (John 6:41-59).

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"…….As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.  Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"  Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:60-69). 

If Jesus meant the Eucharist to be a mere symbol, as Protestants assert, nobody would have walked away.  Furthermore, when aware of their doubts, He would have clarified that the discourse was merely symbolic and no reason to leave.  On the contrary, it would have been difficult for Christ to be more explicit in saying that the Eucharist is indeed His body and blood, soul and divinity.  Paradoxically, Evangelical Christians interpret almost everything in the Bible literally EXCEPT John 6, probably the most important passage in the Bible.  IMAGINE WHAT OUR SEPARATED BROTHERS ARE MISSING OUT ON…… GOD'S GREATEST GIFT TO EACH ONE OF US……..HIMSELF!!!!!!

       How does Jesus give us the Bread of Life today?  At the Last Supper our Lord instituted the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders.  Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me."  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you (Luke 22:19-20).  This was part of the Passover meal of Christ and His apostles, indicating that the Eucharist is true sacrifice.  

       Today and every day the persona Christi, the ordained priest does the same for us at every Mass (Divine Liturgy).  We have the awesome opportunity to receive the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, Jesus Christ Himself, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.  Don’t pass it up!  The Eucharist is a taste of Heaven on Earth.  For a short period of time the King of the Universe is in your heart!  On Holy Thursday Our Lord gave us Himself in the Eucharist on a deep level to feed us until the end of time.  On Good Friday He gave us salvation and His mother as our mother too.

       Why should belief in the Eucharist be a problem for some?  If God can create the universe and everything in it along with the miracle of human life, the Eucharist is certainly not beyond Him.  After all, He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. 

       The Eucharist is really a consequence of His immense love for each one of us.  In fact Christ revealed to St. Margaret Mary His intense love for humanity and thus His willingness to undergo intense suffering and ignominious death on the cross for each one of us.  Then the Eucharist is a consequence of His intense love for us…….His desire to be united with you and me in a very very special way. 


The rock over which Christ appointed St. Peter as the first Pope.  It is in the Church of the Primacy of Peter in Galilee.

The Primacy of Peter.  Christ made Peter the first pope (and his successors) through the words: And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16: 18-19).
Again after the Resurrection, Christ reinforces the authority He gave to Peter:  When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"   He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."   He said to him, "”Feed my lambs."   He then said to him a second time, "”Simon, son of John, do you love me?"   He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."   He said to him, “Tend my sheep."   He said to him the third time, "”Simon, son of John, do you love me?"   Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "”Do you love me?"  and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."   (Jesus) said to him, "”Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
                                            The site of Christ’s ascension into Heaven.
        At the Ascension Jesus said to them, "”All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age"  (Matthew 28:18-20).  Christ directed this command not only to His disciples, but to us too.  

      So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.  But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs (Mark 16:19-20).

         Christ directed this command not only to His disciples, but to us too.  So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.  But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs (Mark 16:19-20).

       To this day the Church continues under the authority of the Vicar of Christ and the Successor to St. Peter, namely the Pope and the leadership of the successors to the first apostles, the bishops.  The Church continues to teach all nations, feeding us with the word of God, and feeding us with the Eucharist, His body and blood, soul and divinity to complete its mission of guiding and helping us to obtain the reward of Heaven.  The Eucharist remains as the source, the center, and the summit of Church belief, the liturgy, and the motivation for all of its work.    



Friday, June 14, 2019

(228) SOLDIERS OF CHRIST SEMPER FIDELIS, ALWAYS FAITHFUL......... Confirmation is the beginning of a great adventure in the Faith, not the end.

AMDG

The First Confirmation…….the Birthday of the Church.  
Today it’s our turn.
       Where have we seen “Semper Fidelis” before?  You probably saw the motto of the United States Marines on its flag.  It’s Latin for, “Always Faithful”.  What’s that got to do with the sacrament of Confirmation which 20 of our youth will be receiving this Sunday?  It’s our largest Confirmation class ever at St. Louis Church in Gallipolis, Ohio.

       Our youth will be anointed as soldiers of Christ and will receive many graces to combat the forces of evil.  Evil affects us as individuals (personal sin) and as members of a society engulfed in a deadly cultural spiritual war on many levels over abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, promiscuity both heterosexual and homosexual, gender change, same sex marriage, drugs, corruption, violence, social injustice, violations of religious freedom, laxity regarding the faith, etc.

       To be an effective soldier of Christ, one must be first and foremost, faithful.  What does that mean?  Our Lord founded a Church to guide us to eternity through teaching us what He taught, passing it down from generation to generation with the help of parents.  The Church’s mission is to help us to get to Heaven.  Christ uses His Church as the primary source of the graces we need through the sacraments to help us along the way.  The Church brings us closer to God through the sacraments and prayer during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and devotions.  

       Holy Mother the Church applies the teachings of Jesus Christ to the reality of today’s problems.  If we rely on ourselves to determine what is right or wrong, we can play mind games and talk ourselves into believing that almost any evil is OK, such as abortion when carrying the baby to term is inconvenient.  Holy Mother the Church settles theological disputes and moral dilemmas; she establishes certain rules such as the grave Sunday obligation and Confession at least once a year to keep us on track to Heaven and closer to God.
 
Faithful to Church Teaching.  When everyone interprets the Bible in his own way, we have chaos and some 35,000 different Christian religions.  The Magisterium of the Church is a tremendous gift for preserving the unity, consistency, and coherence of the teachings of Christ over the centuries as our understanding of doctrine develops while theological disagreements and new problems occur.  The foundation is the Bible and also tradition passed down from the apostles.  The great secular historian, Arnold Toynbee was amazed by this as unprecedented. 

The Pope, the Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter as a shepherd and teacher, has the last word on matters of faith and morals after prayer, discussion, and study when he speaks “ex cathedra” which is rare.  We know that the Holy Spirit is there to guide the Church and keep it from doctrinal error.  

We know that “the gates of hell shall never prevail (Matthew 16:15-20)” despite the presence of some corrupt laymen, priests, bishops, and even popes over the centuries.  That’s why Pope Pius VI told Napoleon after arrogantly declaring that he will destroy the Church:  “We ourselves tried to destroy the Church and couldn’t do it; you won’t either”.
      
       Thus a faithful Catholic will: attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every single Sunday and worthily receive the Eucharist each time.  The faithful Catholic will go to Confession every few months to assess how he or she is doing, what he has to work on in the development of virtue, and obtain advice from his confessor.  The faithful Catholic will follow Church teaching as outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  He won’t go off on his own as a “Cafeteria Catholic” and believe what s/he chooses to believe.  

       He or she will have a strong prayer life……..daily Bible reading, daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration when able.  Pray for God’s will in everything you do.  One cannot be a good soldier of Christ without prayer.   A good soldier needs constant training.  That includes participating in Bible studies, doing spiritual reading, watching EWTN and DVDs, using CDs, attending conferences, etc.
                    
       If one misses Mass when simply tired or for no grave reason, he or she will start to drift.  Confession disappears from his or her life.  That soldier is derelict of duty.  Soon s/he goes to Mass only when convenient, then only Christmas and Easter, finally not at all.  That soldier of Christ is no longer a soldier at all, but a deserter.  DON’T BECOME A DESERTER.  ALWAYS REMAIN A FAITHFUL SOLDIER OF CHRIST TO THE END when our Lord will tell you:  “WELL DONE GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT!” (Matthew 25:23).  Win that super bowl trophy……Heaven!


The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ as the head and we are the parts 
(1 Corinthians Chapter 12).
        For the first apostles, Confirmation was the beginning, not the end…….the birth of an eternal Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.  The first apostles were set on fire to go out and spread the Faith, to defend the Faith, to make any sacrifice, to endure any hardship, to even suffer martyrdom if necessary.  Christ told His apostles and us too: “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16).  We are not any different from the first apostles.  Confirmation is not the end of the Parish School of Religion (PSR), but the beginning of a lifetime adventure in serving the Lord.  DON’T JUST KEEP THE FAITH; SPREAD IT in little or big ways…….by prayer, your example, your witness, by word, or deed.
 
There’s probably a big mission field right in your own extended family!  Every extended family has fallen away Catholics and non-Catholics.  Take advantage of little opportunities to evangelize with courage by boldly standing up for the truth, by courageously defending the faith when attacked, by talking about the Faith when moral or spiritual issues come up in conversation.
   
       Through the graces of Confirmation, Our Lord expects us to be His witnesses for the truth and in the never ending battles between the forces of good and evil.  Whose side are you on?  God gave each one of us a special mission in life.  Each one of us has a part in the battle and the graces of Confirmation equip us for the battle.  In Confirmation we are anointed for a special mission with the strength and help to accomplish it, to be witnesses……..SOLDIERS OF CHRIST!

Confirmation increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us.  Pray that the gifts may grow in you throughout your life.
      What is Confirmation?  As in any sacrament, it is Christ who administers it through His Persona Christi, the priest or bishop.  Jesus invokes the Holy Spirit to complete the sacrament of Baptism and its graces.  By the sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized person is more perfectly bound to the Church and is enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit against sin and evil.  He or she is anointed to be a true witness of Christ, is more strictly obliged to spread and defend the Faith by word and deed (#1285 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church).  In Confirmation we become more firm in the Faith and are consecrated to the Lord as we receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit the same as at the first Pentecost and with the first converts, noted in the Bible’s New Testament Acts of the Apostles.

Confirmation makes us better disciples and increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us and unites us more closely to Christ.  In Baptism our godparents professed the faith for us.  In Confirmation we individually profess the faith and become more firm in it.  The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are: wisdom (to discern what is important in life as God sees it); understanding (to see how God works in our lives); counsel (to see what is right and wrong); fortitude (courage to do what is right despite the consequences); knowledge (the ability to see things from God’s perspective); piety (faithfulness to God); and fear of the Lord (reverence and respect for God in awe with fear of offending Him).  

When one allows himself to be completely formed by God, he or she reaps the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (Galatians 5:22-23).
 
A Closing Short Daily Prayer:  Dear Holy Spirit: always tell me what to do, what to say, and what to write.  Never let me do or say anything against your will.  Renew in me your seven gifts and the graces of Confirmation.