Archive for August, 2009

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

August 31, 2009

Within our Catholic Faith, we have many Traditions.  Fundamentalist Protestants will oftentimes point to today’s Gospel and claim that it condemns the Catholic Church because at first glance it seems to condemn tradition.  Jesus, in today’s Gospel condemns the Pharisees saying: “You hypocrites . . . You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

Another text that is often pointed to, in order to argue against Tradition, is Saint Paul’s Letter to the Colossians where he warns his audience against false reasoning according to “human tradition.”  Reading these two texts out of context may give one the idea that Scripture condemns all tradition.

These passages of Sacred Scripture have to be understood within their proper perspective and within the larger context of all of Sacred Scripture.  In condemning erroneous human traditions, neither Jesus nor Saint Paul is condemning Apostolic Traditions; quite the contrary is true if we look at the context of the rest of the New Testament: Jesus orally entrusted the deposit of divine Truths to the Apostles and commanded them to hand those Truths on.  We get the word “tradition” in English from the Latin: “traditio,” which means: “to hand on.”

Right before His Ascension, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead the Apostles into all Truth and He instructed the Apostles to go out to the whole world, baptizing all nations and teaching all that He had commanded them.  Jesus never gave the Apostles the command to write anything down.  It wasn’t until later that the New Testament authors began to write; and it wasn’t until much later that the list of the Books of the Bible was actually agreed upon: the books in the Bible were not the only Christian writings of the day.  Nowhere in any of the original texts of the various books of the Bible is there a list of all the books that are supposed to be in the Bible.  It wasn’t until the fourth century that the Canon (or the approved list of Books in the Bible) was agreed upon.  The only thing that the early Church had was Tradition: some of it was oral tradition, some of it was written in various Letters.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are several places in the Bible that actually command the following of Apostolic Traditions.  Saint Paul commends the Corinthians for following apostolic traditions in his First Letter to the Corinthians.  (cf. 1 Cor 11:2)  “I praise you,” Saint Paul writes, “because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you.”  When Saint Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he commanded them: “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.”

The reason that Jesus condemned the Pharisees in today’s Gospel was not so much that they kept human tradition; but rather because they held on to human traditions and disregarded God’s commandments.  A good example of what Jesus is talking about here is demonstrated in another Gospel passage, where Jesus condemned some of the Pharisees because they used these human traditions as an excuse not to care for their elderly parents.  The Pharisees were neglecting the Fourth Commandment to honor father and mother, one of the 10 Commandments directly revealed by God through Moses, and they used a tradition as an excuse to justify breaking this Commandment.

Jesus continues in today’s Gospel: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  What Jesus is really teaching the crowds is that all the outward religious practices in the world do little good if the heart is not converted.  Jesus wants us to give Him our hearts.

Saint James, in our Second Reading this morning says it like this: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.”  The Word of God, and the Traditions that we hold need to have an effect on our lives and on our hearts.  It is good for us to come to Church on Sunday, but Sunday Mass should not be something that only affects us for one hour a week.  What we do here on Sunday should affect our entire week it should affect our entire lives.  Don’t check your faith at the door of the Church as you walk out.  You receive the Living God in Holy Communion; and that union with the Lord should transform your hearts.  We are supposed to take the grace that we receive from the Lord and let it shine before the whole world.  I’m not saying that everyone has to leave here and go get on a soapbox and preach to anyone who will listen.  I am saying that others should be able to tell that we are Christians, just by the way that we interact with them: our lives should preach louder than any words we could ever use.

Let us try to conform our hearts ever more completely to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and let us ask the Lord to help us to worship Him with all our hearts: Lord Jesus, help us to love you above all things; help us to give our hearts entirely to You, as you give Yourself completely to us in the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.  Amen.

September 6th

August 28, 2009

In my article last week, I mentioned the importance of being aware of what it is that we are doing at Mass.  The Second Vatican Council emphasized this very thing when it talked about the importance of “active participation” at the Mass for all of the faithful.  (cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #14ff.)  This “active participation” that the Council recommended is not mere external activity.  All of us are called to actively participate at Mass, whether we are lectors, cantors, or in the pew.  The “active participation” that the Council called for at Mass is first and foremost an internal focus and participation in the prayers of the Mass.  (cf. ibid. #19)

After often repeating a prayer or an action (e.g. the “Sign of the Cross”) it is easy to say the words or perform the action without giving a second thought as to what the words or the action actually means.

Converts, oftentimes are overwhelmed at first by the many things that we, who have been Catholics for a long time, take for granted: “Why do you dip your fingers into that water when you enter the Church?”  It is good to remind ourselves, from time to time, why we do what we do.  It is important to do what we do with attention, and not unthinkingly.  The more effort we make to be attentive, the more we will get out of these actions.

When we first arrive in the Church, most of us take some holy water and make the Sign of the Cross.  This is a praiseworthy practice, but why do we do it?  The holy water is there to remind us of our Baptism.  It was through our Baptism that we were washed of our sins and became children of God and members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.

The Sign of the Cross is a prayer, which is accompanied by an action.  Tracing the Sign of the Cross over ourselves reminds us that Christ died upon the Cross in order to save us from our sins, and by making the Sign of the Cross with holy water we remind ourselves that the merits that Christ won for us upon the Cross wiped our sins away when we were baptized with water and the Holy Spirit.

While we make the Sign of the Cross we also invoke the Name of the Holy Trinity.  This is also reminiscent of our Baptism, for we were all baptized “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The Sign of the Cross is a prayer that should call to our minds the two most important Truths of our Faith: that God is One in Three Persons, and that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became a man and died upon the Cross to save us from sin and death.

When we make the Sign of the Cross, there are several things upon which we can meditate.  While praying the Sign of the Cross, we can make an act of faith, calling to mind Who God Is (a Trinity of Persons).  We can remind ourselves what God has done for us (Jesus redeemed us by His death upon the Cross), and that should inspire gratitude within our hearts.  We can also call to mind that we are His children through Baptism, which should also inspire our hearts to a greater love for our Heavenly Father, Who has given us so many gifts, one of the greatest of which is our Faith.

Let us try our best to make the Sign of the Cross with attention and devotion and use it, together with the holy water provided near the entrance, as a means to help us prepare ourselves as we enter into the Church and prepare to receive our Lord and our God at Mass.

God bless,

Father White

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

August 25, 2009

“Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’”  That is first line of our Gospel today.  The line sort of comes out of nowhere: which saying is too hard?  Over the past four weekends we have been hearing the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel proclaimed at Mass.  We have to look back to the Gospel of the past few weeks to put today’s Gospel into context.

Jesus has just been telling the crowds that He is the bread come down from Heaven.  He has told His disciples that He will give them His own flesh and blood as food and drink.  This week we hear the response of the crowd: they murmur; they complain: “this saying is hard; who can accept it?”

For almost 1600 years, there was only one manner in which this Scripture passage was understood: it was understood literally.  The Catholic Church, for two thousand years has held and taught that when Jesus Christ told His disciples that He was going to give them His flesh to eat and His blood to drink, He meant it.  Further, we hold that Jesus fulfilled this promise at the Last Supper, and He continues to fulfill the promise to give us Himself as food in the Eucharist, each and every time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In the sixteenth century, those who broke away from the Church began to question the reality of Jesus’ presence in the Holy Eucharist.  The so-called Protestant reformers again grumbled at this hard saying: How could Jesus give us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink?  From the time of Jesus and the Apostles, the literal understanding of John chapter six has always been held by the Catholic Church; after the “Reformation”, several interpretations of Jesus’ words sprung up almost immediately.  Today, there are dozens of interpretations of what Jesus meant when He took the bread and said “This is my body.”  Some Protestants think that He only meant it figuratively, as though Jesus were using some kind of metaphor or analogy.  Some Protestants believe that Holy Communion is only some kind of symbol of Jesus’ presence.  There are many different theories held by Protestants, concerning what Jesus meant when He indicated that His flesh was true food.

The proof that Jesus did not intend this saying figuratively is today’s Gospel: the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel.  Jesus said that He is the bread come down from Heaven.  The crowd doubted.  He said it again, and again, and again: each time even more forceful than the previous time: “I am the bread of life”; “I am the living bread”; “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”; “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

Jesus knew that the crowd was murmuring; He knew that they were having a difficult time accepting what He was saying.  He didn’t back-peddle or soften this teaching in any way.  He reasserted it again and again.  In seven verses of this chapter of the Gospel, Jesus repeated the same teaching, until the crowd could bear it no more.  They took Him literally, and they refused to believe.  They walked away.  This teaching was just too difficult for them to accept.  “As a result of this [teaching],” we hear in today’s Gospel, “many of His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.

If the crowd understood Him to be speaking some sort of parable, they would not have left Jesus.  They left, because they took these words of Jesus literally.  If Jesus had only been speaking figuratively or symbolically, why did He let His disciples walk away?  If He were merely talking about a symbol, why didn’t He stop them from leaving Him?  If by “eating His flesh” He only meant somehow that you had to “believe in Him” as Protestants hold, then why wouldn’t He have stopped them?  Why wouldn’t He have said: “No, wait.  You’ve got it all wrong.  I didn’t mean ‘eat my flesh and drink my blood’ literally.  I am using a metaphor.  It’s just a sign; it’s just a reminder of my presence among you.”  No.  Instead of stopping His disciples from leaving, He let them go.  Not only did He allow the disciples walk away: He turned also to the twelve Apostles (those who had been with Him from the very beginning of His ministry; those who constantly accompanied Him) and He asked them if they would leave Him also.  Jesus is so insistent on this “hard saying” that He allowed those who followed Him to leave if they were unwilling to accept it.  He is even willing to lose all the Apostles.  But Saint Peter, the Rock upon which the Lord said that He would build His Church, spoke up: “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  In other words, Saint Peter is saying: “I don’t understand how this teaching can be true, but if you say it, it must be true.”  The Apostles witnessed all the miracles that Jesus had performed.  They had faith, and that faith kept them close to the Lord, even when He taught things that were difficult to understand.

If ever you are challenged by Protestants about your belief in the Eucharist point them to this passage.  They will raise many objections, but keep asking the question: “Why did Jesus allow them to leave?”  The passage only makes sense if Jesus meant what He said literally.

Let us also remember to always be grateful for the great gift that we have in our Catholic Faith and in the Holy Eucharist: Lord Jesus, we thank you for the gift of our Faith; we thank you for giving Yourself to us in Holy Communion.  Lord, help us to believe ever more fully and love You ever more deeply; help us to love others as ourselves for love of You.  Amen.

August 30th

August 25, 2009

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Eucharist is to be the “source and summit” of our Christian lives.  (cf. CCC 1324)  Do we believe that statement?  Do we live our lives as if the Eucharist were the most important thing in the whole world?  How often do we allow our minds to wander at Mass?

Mass should not be a chore or a burden.  Mass should be a most intimate encounter between ourselves and the Almighty God, Who is truly present in the Most Holy Eucharist.  It is important that we remind ourselves often what it is that we are doing at Mass as well as why: otherwise we may fall into unthinkingly acting out of habit.

The danger with anything that we do routinely is that it may become devoid of its meaning; as human beings we can easily fall into the habit of doing things by route.  At Mass, our purpose is to worship Almighty God.  We come to Mass to return thanks and praise to the Father, through the Son, in and with the Holy Spirit.  The Mass is the most profound and the most pleasing prayer that we can possibly offer to the Father, for it is the re-presentation of the gift that the Son made of Himself to the Father upon the Cross.

In order to help us in our efforts to be focused on what we do at Mass, I am going to offer a series of reflections on the liturgy.  As a Protestant convert, I personally found the liturgy fascinating when I entered the Church.  We didn’t have liturgy in the Baptist church, in which I grew up.  Baptists are decidedly anti-liturgy.  They don’t like route prayers.  They believe that one should only pray from the heart.  They might think differently if they realized how many of the prayers used at Mass are actually Scriptural, but more on that later.

The first point that comes to mind when thinking about the liturgy is the importance of preparation.  Father Acervo, in his recent bulletin articles, has been writing about the preparation prayers that priests say as they put on their vestments.  These prescribed prayers are aimed at helping the priest to prepare himself, interiorly, to celebrate the sacred liturgy with attention and devotion.

Preparation is not only important for the priest, however: every single one of us should take time to prepare our hearts and minds, in order that we may more attentively participate at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  If we prepare our hearts ahead of time, we will not be as easily distracted during the Mass.  If we rush into Mass at the last minute, with the last song that we heard on the radio in our heads and a list of things to do right after Mass running through our minds, we will likely find it difficult to focus on what is happening at Mass.  It is important to take at least some time (it doesn’t necessarily have to be a lot of time) to quiet ourselves and call to mind the reason that we have come to Church: to adore Our Lord and Our God.

God bless,

Father White

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

August 25, 2009

“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”  In our First Reading this morning, we hear about how the Prophet Elijah was miraculously fed by God in the wilderness.  Elijah was fleeing for his life from the Queen, who wanted to have him put to death as she had had done to all the other Prophets of that day.  Elijah felt completely overwhelmed.  Every single one of his fellow Prophets had been put to death.  The mission, on which God had sent him, seemed to have failed and now his own life was in jeopardy.  Elijah, completely discouraged, sat down and prayed for death.  “This is enough, O Lord!”

Twice God provided a jug of water and a hearth cake.  This miraculously provided food gave Elijah the strength that he needed to get up and continue his journey.  After receiving the food that God provided, he travelled through the desert and came to the mountain of God and there, he encountered the Lord.

This bread by which the Lord strengthens Elijah for his journey prefigures the True Bread from Heaven, which we hear about in today’s Gospel.  Jesus says that He is the “Bread of Life”, the “living bread,” the bread that once eaten, will give life that will last forever.  Jesus then tells us that the bread that He gives is His own flesh, which is given “for the life of the world.”

When Jesus speaks of giving His flesh for the life of the world, He is predicting two things.  First, He is referring to His own death on the Cross.  He knows that He is going to undergo a most cruel death, in fact it was precisely to die in atonement for our sins that He became man in the first place; He willingly laid down His life to save us from sin and death.  The second thing that Jesus is referring to when He speaks of giving His flesh for the life of the world is the gift that He gives to us in the Holy Eucharist.

In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ gives Himself completely to us: body, blood, soul, and divinity.  He holds nothing back.  He loves us so much that He willingly left behind the glory of Heaven and became a man; He died for us and gives Himself to us as food that He might be united to us.

There are many ways in which the Lord is present to us.  It is true that Jesus is God, and as God is present everywhere.  We also know that Jesus said that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He is present in their midst.  Our Faith teaches us that the Lord is present when the Scriptures are proclaimed at Mass.  It is Jesus Christ, Himself, Who acts through the priest to effect the Sacraments: the priest not only represents Christ but acts in the very Person of Christ: in Persona Christi whenever he celebrates the Sacraments.

All of these ways in which Jesus is present to us, are real and true; and yet the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is greater than all of them.  In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is really, wholly, substantially Present.  It is not a representation, or some kind of a simile or metaphor.  The Eucharist is not a mere symbol or just a sign.  The Eucharist IS Jesus Christ: the One Who has been with the Father, from the beginning of time; the One through Whom and for Whom all things were made; the One Who became a man, died, rose from the dead and reigns triumphantly in Heaven, the very same One comes down to our altar at the words of the priest; so that He can be united to you.

Whenever you receive Holy Communion you are united, in a most intimate manner, to the all-holy, all-powerful God: Who IS love.  That is why we should never receive Holy Communion when in a state of mortal sin.  If we have committed venial sins we are cleansed of them by our reception of Holy Communion.  When we attend Mass, we participate in the Sacrifice that Jesus made of Himself to the Father on Calvary.  When we receive Communion worthily, the merits that Jesus won on the Cross are applied to our souls.  Receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist strengthens us for our journey through this valley of tears: when we receive Jesus, He pours His grace into our souls for when we receive Communion, we receive the Author of all grace.  We may not always be aware of how God is working in our souls; the Lord usually works in a quiet way.  We can be sure, however, that the Lord is working on our hearts.  Holy Communion increases grace in our souls: grace is our share in the very life of God.

After you receive Communion, spend time with the Lord.  Thank Him for giving Himself to you; ask Him for whatever you need: whether the needs are material or spiritual.  Pray for those whom you know are in need of prayer.  Ask Jesus to transform your heart; pray for the grace to overcome whatever it is you most struggle against.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, as Elijah was in the First Reading, bring your troubles, anxieties, fears, and frustrations to Jesus in the Eucharist.  Jesus gives Himself to us as food so that we can receive from Him the strength that we need on our journey.

God wants us to bring all that is on our hearts to Him.  We should also not forget to thank Him for all that He has given to us and all that He has done for us.  Open your hearts to Him and allow Him to work in you.  Jesus wants to draw you closer to Himself; He wants to free you from sin.  He desires that each and every one of us become a Saint.  If we pray for His grace, surely He will grant it.  If we are not Saints, it is our own fault.  What area of our lives do we refuse to turn over to the Lord?  What sin am I just too attached to?  I challenge you to examine your lives this upcoming week.  Ask yourselves those questions; then pray for the grace to surrender more fully to God.  It is only when we give our hearts completely to Him, that we will ever be able to find the true joy and lasting happiness that we all seek.

Lord Jesus, help us to give our hearts completely to you, as You give Yourself completely to us in the Holy Eucharist.  Amen.

August 23rd

August 25, 2009

This is the fifth Sunday in a row on which we have heard the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel proclaimed at Mass.  As you already know, this chapter contains what is known as the “Bread of Life” discourse.

In this discourse, Our Lord reveals what He will fulfill at the Last Supper, on Calvary and ultimately in the Eucharist: He gives His flesh to us as food and His blood as drink.

The Catholic Faith is the only Church that takes Our Lord’s words literally.  Every Christian denomination tries to soften or water-down those words of Our Lord.

Even in Our Lord’s own day those words (“My flesh is true food”) caused scandal: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Most Protestant denominations take the Lord’s words in John chapter six to be figurative or only symbolic.  This is clearly NOT the way that the Lord meant them, and today’s Gospel reading is the proof.

Our Lord says several times that He IS the Bread come from Heaven and that unless we eat His body and drink His blood we will not have life.  The crowd takes Jesus’ words literally and they find His teaching to be too difficult to accept.  If Jesus was only speaking figuratively, then He should have corrected their misunderstanding when they began to grumble and murmur at His teaching.  Not only does He not correct them, He continues to say the same thing in even stronger language.

As a result on His insistence that His flesh is true food, some of His own disciples “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.”  If He were only using a metaphor, why wouldn’t He stop the disciples from leaving?  Why wouldn’t He say: “Wait, you misunderstood me; I wasn’t speaking literally.”  He didn’t stop the ones who wanted to leave; instead He let them go and asked the Apostles if they, too, would leave.

For fifteen hundred years (until the Protestant “Reformation”) there was only one way to understand what Jesus did at the Last Supper: it was the fulfillment of what He taught in John’s sixth chapter.  The Catholic Church continues to faithfully teach this Truth, which was taught by Christ and handed on through the Apostles.

God bless,

Father White

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

August 25, 2009

I am sure that we all know fallen away Catholics.  Every single one of us probably knows someone who has quit practicing his or her faith: whether it is a friend or a family member.  Many of you have likely heard the excuse: “I can worship God just as well at home.  I don’t need to go to Church.”

There is an element of truth in those statements.  God is everywhere.  We can pray to Him no matter where we are and He does hear us.  That being said, those who say those types of things cannot possibly understand what happens at Mass.  They do not realize the great gift that God wants to give to them in the Holy Eucharist.  If they did, they would never say that they don’t need to go to Church.

When one doesn’t understand the Catholic Faith, it can seem like a list of rules: “Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; go to Church on Sunday, etc.”  When one isn’t practicing the Faith, the rules can feel like a cage: restricting what one can do and cannot do.  God does not give rules to restrict us; He loves us.  He wants us to be happy and He knows what will make us happy and He knows what will make us miserable.  He created us.  He knows how He made us and He knows best how to fulfill us.  Through the Church we have rules, but these rules aren’t to restrict or control us; they are to help us grow closer to God and avoid what draws us away from Him.  Yes, the Church asks us to keep holy the Lord’s Day, but when we understand what the Mass is, and all the graces available to us through it, why would we willingly stay away?  We wouldn’t.

Next time you hear someone say that they don’t need to go to Church, ask them if they understand what they are missing by not going to Mass.  Mass is not just some obligation: Mass is an opportunity for an intimate encounter with Almighty God.  Jesus, Who Is God, says in today’s Gospel: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  Mass should not be a miserable experience I endure because I have to.  It is meant to connect us to God in a far more exalted way than we can attain to on our own.

In next week’s Gospel, we will hear about how the Israelites misunderstand what Jesus is saying when He talks about the “bread of life”: they are looking for earthly food that will fill their stomachs, but Jesus wants to do more for them than just give them earthly food; He wants to satisfy their souls.  Our hearts were made for God.  Nothing but God can ever satisfy us: “Our hearts are restless,” Saint Augustine says, “until they rest in God.”  All the money and possessions in the world will never make us happy; the only thing that will ever fulfill us is belonging entirely to Jesus Christ.  Many people have a misconception of the Saints.  There is often a stereotype that the Saints were unhappy people.  The truth is just the opposite.  The Saints are the only people who were ever truly happy and content.

There is a spiritual hunger that every single human being experiences.  Some people think that they are unhappy because they are not married; some people think that they are not happy because they are married.  Some think that they would be happy if they had the right job or more money or a bigger house.  The desires of our hearts are infinite; actually, our hearts desire the Infinite.  It is not that if we have more, we will be happy; our hearts actually desire God, Who Is Infinite.  Oftentimes people try to substitute things for God, thinking that material things will fulfill them.  This type of desire is precisely the hunger and thirst that Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel.  We all desire happiness.  We all have restless hearts, which ultimately are seeking a deeper union with the Lord; whether we realize that is what we are thirsting for or not is another question.  What Jesus is really saying, when He says that He is the bread of life is: “Without me, you will never be happy.”

We were made in the image and likeness of God, and God is love.  We were made for love.  No one loves you as much as God loves you.  He wants to satisfy your hearts.  He wants you to love Him more than you love anything else in this world.  He wants to communicate Himself to you and He does just that in Holy Communion.  In the Eucharist, we receive Jesus Christ whole and entire: body, blood, soul and divinity.

Yes, we can pray anywhere and everywhere, but only in Holy Communion can we be so perfectly united to our God.  At Mass, the sacrifice that Our Lord Jesus made of Himself upon Calvary is re-presented to the Father.  The Mass is the most perfect prayer that can be offered, because it is the offering that the Son made of Himself to the Father on behalf of all of us.  There cannot be a more pleasing prayer.

Besides participating in the most efficacious prayer possible, we are also given the greatest gift that the Father could possibly give: the gift of His only Begotten Son.  St. Augustine once said of the Eucharist that “Although God is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give.”  How could someone be aware of this great gift that God wants to bestow and say: “I don’t need that.  I’ll just say some prayers at home.  It’s just as good”?

It is important to pray for those who have left the practice of their Faith.  Let us keep them in prayer and also ask the Lord to enlighten our minds and our hearts, that we may ever more fully appreciate the great gift of the Mass.

Lord Jesus, we entrust to Your care all those who have fallen away from the practice of the Faith and from Your Church; we ask You to inspire them to come home.  Lord, help us to ever more deeply appreciate the great gift that You give to us at Mass: the gift of Yourself.  Amen.

August 16th

August 25, 2009

Over the past several weeks we have been hearing the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel proclaimed at Mass on Sundays.

In the sixth chapter, we hear about how Jesus fed the crowd with the loaves and the fish and they are looking for more food.  Jesus tells the people that He is the “Bread of Life”; He doesn’t just want to satisfy their physical hunger, He wants to nourish their souls.

God is present to us in many ways.  God is omnipresent: He is everywhere.  Jesus says that He is present wherever two or three are gathered together in His name.  (cf. Mt. 18:20)  The Lord is present in the Scriptures as they are proclaimed at Mass; the priest stands in Persona Christi: in the very Person of Christ and yet all these instances of God’s presence pale in comparison to the True Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

The gift that Our Lord gives to us in the Holy Eucharist is the greatest possible gift that He is able to give, for it is the gift of Himself: body, blood, soul and divinity.

After the priest pronounces the words of institution over the bread and the wine at Mass, the bread and wine are completely changed.  After the consecration, the bread and wine are no more: all that remain of them are the appearances.  By the miracle of “transubstantiation” what looks like ordinary bread and wine is truly, really and substantially Jesus Christ.

St. Augustine once said of the Eucharist that “Although God is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give.”

God bless,

Father White

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

August 25, 2009

The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.  This is what the Catechism teaches us about the relationship between the two Testaments of the Bible.  The First Reading and today’s Gospel illustrate this point for us very well.  Elisha, the Prophet, tells the man who brought him 20 loaves of bread to give it to the people to eat.  Despite the man’s objections, Elisha tells him that not only will it be enough, but there will be some left over and it happened, just as the Prophet predicted.

In the Gospel we hear about how Jesus did a similar thing: only He fed a lot more people with less bread and had more fragments leftover.  The Israelites of the day knew their Scriptures; they knew about the miracle that Elisha had performed.  Knowing something about the Old Testament can help us better appreciate what is happening in the New Testament.  The Old Testament sets the background for what is taking place in the New.  Many things that Jesus did or said came seem a little strange if we don’t know the historical context and the culture in which He lived: and the culture of that day was integrally connected to the Old Testament Scriptures.

The people of Jesus’ day were awaiting the coming of the Messiah and they knew that when He came He would perform great signs as Jesus had just done before their very eyes.  But the Israelites of Jesus’ day had a misunderstanding of the Messiah’s mission.

Israel had been conquered by the Roman Empire: they were under pagan rule and they didn’t much like it.  The Romans heavily taxed the Israelites, they had to follow Roman law and they were forbidden from carrying out some of their own laws, which had been given to them by God through Moses.  They knew from the Old Testament that God was going to send a Messiah; a Savior and they wanted the Messiah to come and free them from their Roman rulers.  They wanted a political Messiah.

The Israelites were awaiting the promised Messiah, the one that the Old Testament said would be a Prophet greater than Moses, and when they saw Jesus miraculously feed so many (as God had done through Moses in the wilderness), they wanted to take Jesus and proclaim Him king: essentially, they wanted to start a revolution against Rome.  Jesus knew what they wanted to do and He withdrew to a mountain.

Over the course of the next three weeks, we will continue to hear about what happens next in the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.  The sixth chapter of Saint John is often referred to as the “Bread of Life” discourse.  Next week we will hear about how the crowds again catch up with Jesus and He tells them that they don’t understand what He has just done in the multiplication of the loaves.  Jesus tells the crowd that they are seeking Him because He gave them something to eat; but He wants to give them something even greater than a meal: He wants to give them Himself.  Jesus says that He Himself is the Bread of Life, and whoever eats that Bread will live forever.  He did not come to overthrow the Roman Empire: He came to conquer hearts.  He loves each and every one of us so much, that He was willing to become a man and sacrifice Himself for us: to save us from sin and to show us how much God loves us.

Basically, the Old Testament Prophet, Elisha, that we heard about in the First Reading was a sign of the coming Messiah; Jesus fulfilled the sign by multiplying the loaves and feeding the crowd in the wilderness, but He goes on to tell the crowd that what He has just done is itself a sign: a sign that will be fulfilled at the Last Supper.

All that we have is a gift from the Lord.  Health, money, family, whatever it is, it is a gift from the Lord.  There isn’t anything that you have that you haven’t received.  But the Lord doesn’t stop there.  If our Faith were just about the good things we have in this world, it would be kinda nice . . . for a while.  But all the riches in the world PALE in comparison to what God wants to give to us.  Jesus said: “What good would it profit a man to gain the WHOLE WORLD and forfeit his soul?”  God created us to know Him and to love Him.  The Lord provides for our needs, and we should be grateful for all that we have, but He doesn’t stop by simply providing our earthly needs.  He wants us to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.  He made us for Himself: Jesus wants to communicate Himself completely to you.  And He does just that: He will unite Himself completely to you in Holy Communion.

At the Last Supper, Jesus took the bread and the wine and gave them to the Apostles and said:  “Take this: this is My body; this is My blood.”  So great was His desire to be united to the Apostles that He gave Himself to them as food.  He has the same desire to be united to us.  In order that He could continue to unite Himself to His followers in Holy Communion, He gave us the priesthood.  He told the Apostles to do what He had just done at the Last Supper in memory of Him.  The Apostles received the power to effect the Eucharist; and they handed on this power through the laying on of hands.  When a priest takes the bread and the wine and repeats the words of Jesus over them: they become for us the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.  In other words, Jesus becomes really and truly present upon the altar during the Consecration and He allows us to receive Him under the appearances of bread and wine.

The Father didn’t hold anything back from us.  He allowed His own Beloved Son to die upon the Cross so that we might be saved.  Jesus endured torture and death to save us.  How do we respond to Him?  We are asked to love the Lord with our whole heart, mind and strength.  He has done so much for us: He gives us so much.  He gives us Himself entirely.  What do we do to show our love to Him?

August 9th

August 25, 2009

Often, in the cycle of readings that we have in our Lectionary, we get to hear a particular passage of Scripture over the course of a few weeks.  This week’s Gospel Reading, for example, picks up where the previous two week’s left off.

Two weeks ago, we heard about the multiplication of the loaves and fish; last week we heard the beginning of the “Bread of Life” discourse.  This discourse of Our Lord is continued in this week’s as well as in next week’s Gospel.  Then we will hear the conclusion of it in two weeks.  Over the course of five weeks we will have heard the entire sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel.

One of the charges that Protestants often level against Catholics is that we don’t read the Bible.  Not only do we read the Bible, we tend to use more Scripture in our Liturgy than most Protestants do in their services.

Our Lectionary has a very wide selection of Sacred Scripture.  With the three-year cycle of Sunday readings, by attending Mass every Sunday for three years you will have heard almost all of the New Testament as well as many of the significant parts of the Old Testament (not to mention a lot of readings from the many Epistles of the New Testament).

Besides the Readings from Sacred Scripture, many of the prayers of the Mass are Scriptural themselves.  The Words of Consecration are the words that Jesus said over the bread and the wine at the Last Supper.  The Our Father is the prayer that Our Lord taught His disciples to pray.  The prayer that the priest prays before Communion time, as he holds up the Host (“This is the Lamb of God”) should call to our minds Saint John the Baptist as he pointed to Jesus on the bank of the Jordan and proclaimed that Jesus is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world.

The idea that Catholics don’t use Scripture is a false notion that many Protestants have.  It is important that we Catholics know Scripture so that we can engage Protestants in intelligent dialogue.  If they quote Scripture and Catholics just shrug with a glazed-over look in their eyes, they will think that they are correct in their assumptions.  Catholics are exposed to the Scripture at every Mass, but we have to make the effort to better understand and appreciate it.  There are many opportunities here at OLGC to study the Bible.  If I can be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me.

God bless,

Father White