Sunday, August 26, 2012

John 6;66 - As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Since I am off recuperating from my surgery, I thought I would share a homily from when I was an associate pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle in Crystal Lake. I took many of the ideas for this homily from a talk on the Holy Eucharist from Fr. John Hardon. Please enjoy!!!

Homily for John 6:60-69
B-Twenty first Sunday in Ordinary time,
August 23, 2003
St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, Crystal Lake Illinois
Fr. Steven Lange

Today we end our teachings on the Eucharist that Jesus gives us through St. John. For the past few weeks we have read from the same chapter, starting with the account of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes. Next, we read Jesus teaching his disciples about the meaning of the sign-the meaning of the multiplication- that he would do a greater miracle in giving us the bread of life from heaven. He explained that this bread would be his own flesh for the life of the world. This brought about some opposition, how could Jesus give us his own body and blood as food and drink? Jesus answered them by calling them to faith, that indeed he would give his own flesh as food. This would be done by his dying on the cross and resurrecting from the dead.

Today, we read the last response of the vast majority of his disciples. They had enough. They must have thought something like this, “this Jesus giving us his own flesh as food is just too much.” They left. And even more of surprise, Jesus did nothing to try to get them to stay—He didn’t tell them that he meant it symbolically. The teaching was too hard for the majority of His disciples. Jesus had given them the gift of faith, but when the faith was tested, really believing and trusting in Jesus, in his words, in his divinity, they turned away.

In a sharp contrast to those who left, we read Peter’s profession of faith with the beautiful expression, "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." In other words, Peter was saying, I am not sure how you can give us your flesh and blood to eat, but we believe in you and trust your words. Peter struggled with this truth but he opened himself to grace and allowed himself to be filled with the light of understanding by Jesus.

The two responses to Jesus’ teaching on the bread of life show an interesting contrast; Peter, who had faith and asked God to help him believe, and the other disciples, the majority, who did not believe, rejected grace and left, no longer following Jesus. But John gives us the response of another disciple at the end of this passage. In the very next verses, unfortunately which we did not read today, St. John gives us Jesus response to Peter’s act of faith when Jesus answers them, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?” He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve.” Many of the great saints have explained this passage by saying that St. John is revealing to us who Jesus meant when he said earlier in this gospel passage, “But there are some of you who do not believe.

Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.” It was Judas. Judas’ betrayal began when he rejected Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Eucharist but stayed in the company of the apostles. While the other disciples of Jesus at least left when they didn’t believe, Judas hypocritically stays with Jesus. The betrayal of Judas was really a denial and a refusal to accept in faith Jesus teaching of the Holy Eucharist--that Jesus is the Holy Eucharist. Later on, St. John in chapter 13th tells us that Judas receives the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper and because he doesn’t believe, he receives a sacrileges communion and satan enters into Judas.

For us as well as for Peter and the Disciples of Christ, faith in the Eucharist is the barometer of our Catholic faith. To believe in the Holy Eucharist is to believe in Jesus. To accept his teaching is to accept Christ himself. Every major break in Christianity has been over the meaning of the Eucharist. The vast majority of those who call themselves Christian no longer believe in the real presence at all or believe it incorrectly. There are hundreds of interpretations by protestants and sadly by some Judas’ in the Catholic Church of those words of Jesus “My flesh is real food, my blood is will drink,” “This is my Body…This is my Blood.” “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life you.” Only the Catholic Church in her infallible teachings understands these words correctly, that Jesus really meant what he said, because he is God who can neither deceive nor be deceived. To believe in the Eucharist as a who, that is, to believe that it is Jesus Christ, His whole person, physically, corporally, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, truly present is to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. To deny the reality of the Eucharist is really to deny Jesus and His One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. Why? Because the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church. Without the Eucharist there is no Church. And as one holy Jesuit priest told us, “Because without the Eucharist as a reality, there is no priesthood instituted by Christ, there is no sacrament of Holy Orders. In a word, there is no visible Church which Christ founded on the Apostles whom He ordained at the Last Supper in order that they might consecrate bread and wine to become the living Jesus Christ on earth in the Holy Eucharist.”

At the root of the great crisis in our Catholic faith today is a crisis of true faith, a crisis of faith in the Eucharist. True faith in Jesus is one in which a person believes with one’s whole mind and will, with one’s whole being that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ. We do not make any qualifications. The Eucharist is the exact Jesus who was conceived at Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, died on Calvary, rose on Easter Sunday, and ascended into Heaven on Ascension Thursday. A person with true faith is one who believes that although Jesus is in heaven, he is also just as truly still on earth. He is truly in every tabernacle and on every altar of the world in which, through a validly ordained Catholic priest acting in the person of Christ offers Holy Mass.

Jesus uses the body and voice of the priest. It is Jesus through the priest who says the words of consecration making truly present the whole Christ, with his Humanity and Divinity, with His eyes and lips and hands and feet and His Sacred Heart. A true believer believes that without the priest there is no Eucharist, there is no Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and hence there is no way, no way to reach Heaven. Without the Mass salvation ends. A true faith believes that Jesus Christ is now offering Himself in every Mass. He is on earth, with His human body and blood, and human will. A person with true faith believes that we receive Him in Holy Communion. That we receive Him no less than the Apostles did in the Last Supper. That He is now gloried. His body enters our body, His soul enters our soul. A person with a true living faith believes that this is no mere symbolism or metaphor. It is real, really, truly.

We need to take this information and what we have learned from these past weeks listening to the Sixth Chapter of St. John to prayer and study. Yes this is a “hard saying” so we must, like St. Peter, we must beg God to help us in our struggle to believe, in struggle to understand more deeply the mystery of the Eucharist. We must all personally become very devoted to the Holy Eucharist as the real, true present of Christ, as the Sacrifice of the Mass, that is his sacrifice on Calvary and to the Eucharist as Holy Communion-Christ coming intimately, and truly into our bodies and souls. We must come to realization that there is no solution to the problems of the world, to the problems of the Church or to the problems in our families except through the Holy Eucharist.

We must all do everything in our power to promote by word and example a deeper faith in the Eucharist as Real presence, Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy Communion. We must prayer for a deeper understanding of the Blessed Sacrament especially among priest. And we must live lives of reparation, begging God to pardon and enlighten those who neglect the Holy Eucharist by deserting Jesus, or by distorting the truth about His true presence in the Holy Eucharist. We must ask God to renew our reverence for the Eucharist and our reverence when we are in the sanctuary of the Church in front of the tabernacle. And finally, and I mean this literally, we must pray for the grace to be ready to pay any price, to suffer any pain for our belief in the Holy Eucharist and to suffer for those who don’t believe or who believe and don’t love the Holy Eucharist-Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ wants to work great miracles in our lives, in our Church and in the world, even greater miracles than we hear about in the gospels. But we must pray for a true faith, we need the help of God’s grace in order to truly choose Christ by believing in his teaching on the Holy Eucharist, we must love Him above all things and share His love, which he gives to us in the Holy Eucharist, with others.

Let us pray, Lord Jesus truly, physically present in the Holy Eucharist, we believe You are with us in the Blessed Sacrament. We believe You are inviting us to join with You in conquering the world for Your heavenly Father. But we are blind. Enlighten our minds. We are weak. Strengthen our hearts. Make us Apostles of the Eucharist in our day; make us Apostles of life through the Eucharist. Help us to understand the Eucharist now on earth by faith-as a prelude to seeing You, our Incarnate God, face to face, for all eternity. Amen. Holy Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, pray for us.

My Dear Friends in Christ,

I continue to recover from my surgery to remove a cancerous polyp from my colon. The test reveal that the cancer had spread to one of my lympnodes. These means I will have to undergo Chemotherapy. From all indicates I am free of cancer; however, the chemotheropy needs to be done to be sure that the cancer will not return. The prognosis is excellent. Please continue to keep me in your prayers.

Every year I like to share the following spiritual testimonny of St. King Louis to his son. It is good advice that should be given by every father to his son (and mother to her daughter). It is timely in that many sons (and daughters) are heading this time off to college:

From a spiritual testament to his son by Saint Louis
(Acta Sanctorum Augusti 5 [1868], 546)

A just king rules the earth

My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.

If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts.

Listen to the divine office with pleasure and devotion. As long as you are in church, be careful not to let your eyes wander and not to speak empty words, but pray to the Lord devoutly, either aloud or with the interior prayer of the heart.

Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Be just to your subjects, swaying neither to right nor left, but holding the line of justice. Always side with the poor rather that with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. See that all your subjects live in justice and peace, but especially those who have ecclesiastical rank and who belong to religious orders.

Be devout and obedient to our mother the Church of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff as your spiritual father. Work to remove all sin from your land, particularly blasphemies and heresies.

In conclusion, dearest son, I give you every blessing that a loving father can give a son. May the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the saints protect you from every evil. And may the Lord give you the grace to do his will so that he may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see him, love him and praise him unceasingly. Amen.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!"

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 12th, 2012

For the last couple of weeks we have been reading from the sixth Chapter of St. John on the Holy Eucharist. These readings should have moved us to beg our Lord for a deeper faith in the great mystery of the Holy Eucharist, a mystery that sadly most of Jesus disciples denied in his day, and most Christians deny today. The Eucharist is however, THE MYSTERY OF OUR FAITH. Let’s do a short recap of what we heard thus far.

We started this Chapter a few weeks ago with the miracle of multiplication of the loaves and fishes. We learned that Jesus gave them bread to eat as a sign of a greater miracle to come. But the crowd misunderstood and instead wanted to make him an earthly King-president, a political leader, in order to fill only their earthly bellies, only their earthly desires.

And so Jesus confronts them for their lack of faith, for not looking for Him in faith. He wants to give them so much more than they want for themselves, so he tells not to look just for earthly food but for the bread that will sastify their deepest desires-the Bread of eternal life. But, instead of believing Jesus in faith, they appeal to Moses as the one who gave them bread from heaven. Jesus conters by telling them it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven but my Father you gives you the real bread from heaven.

And then Jesus gives them a real shock by telling them that He, Himself is the true bread come down from heaven-the Bread of Life sent by his Father for the life of the world and that all who believe in Him will have life and have it to the full, including eternal life.

This brings us to today’s Gospel. Today, we hear the Jews murmuring amongst themselves, refusing to believe that Jesus Himself is the true bread that satisfies our deepest hunger, which is for love. Here is God Himself teaching them the truth, He who is Truth Itself, speaking to the them and yet they refused to believe.

Our day is really no different, there are still those who murmur amongst themselves and deny Jesus’, that is, God’s teaching on the Holy Eucharist—the truth that Holy Eucharist is God Himself, Truth Himself. As well, many deny the Holy Mass is that extraordinatry event by which the power of the Holy Spirit-God working through the gift of the ordained priesthood, makes sacramentally, but really and truly physical, bodily present the true Bread of Life, which is Jesus in Person, He who alone is the One we seek.

Sadly, there are those even within the Church herself who murmur and deny this teaching today, trying to make the Holy Mass into a ordinary event where we build merely a human community (not a supernatural one) by gathering together around a table sharing ordinary bread and wine as we remember what Jesus did for us—a special action, but only in meaning not in reality, a mere human action, something we do, not something that God does for us.

These present day murmerers too, like the Jews, really only want an earthly messiah who is only an earthly king. And so, they deny the sacrificial nature of the Mass, deny any supernatural action in the Holy Mass, that it makes present in reality to us Calvary and the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus for our Salvation. And so they deny that the bread and the wine are literally transformed through the miracle of transubstantiation into the physical Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, his whole self in order to become our heavnly food; thus they close off their hearts and minds to Jesus’ desire to come truly and deeply into their hearts.

IN today’s Gospel, Jesus said they will all be taught by God. This is what happened during the Second Vatican Council, when God Himself taught, through the bishops of the world united to the pope, that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” And again, when through Blessed John Paul’s Encyclical on the Holy Eucharist, God Himself taught us again the truth that, “the most Holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ Himself, our Passover and living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, God continues to offer the fullness of life to men."(God’s own Life). Consequently, blessed John Paul said, "the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to her Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which the Church discovers the full manifestation of his boundless love.”

Today more than ever, in our great hour of need, we need to beg our Lord to increase our faith in the great and awesome gift of the Holy Eucharist. We need to have a firmer and deeper faith in order to open ourselves to the grace of the Holy Eucharist which is the gift of the Holy Spirit. When we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist He stays within us sacramentally for just a few moments; but if our hearts and souls are open to Him, He leaves us the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower our lives and to transform us into His other-selves. We open ourselves up only by our faith, adoration, hope and trust and love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist; we open ourselves up only by being made pure by fequent reception of the Sacrament of Confession; and we open ourselves up only by accepting with our intellects and striving to live with all our strength and will all of the Teachings of the Catholic Church as we continue to be taught by God through the Pope and the bishops in union with Him.

If however on the contrary, we receive the Holy Eucharist without all these necessary dispositions we grieve the Holy Spirit with which we were sealed for the day of redemption. However open to the Holy Spirit, this divine Guest that Jesus leaves with us after receiving Him in Holy Communion, we can with His divine light and power remove from our lives, our families and our parish family all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling along with all malice. We will be able to be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. We will then truly be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love.

Faith in the Holy Eucharist is what we need most in the present life to sustain us. As the angel of Lord in our first reading stated, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" that is rise up from your unbelief and receive faithfuly and worthily the Bread of Life, Jesus Himself, or else the journey of your life will be too hard for you…when the cross comes for you, whether in the struggles of ordinary life or in the pain of suffering of the illness or death of someone you love or in your own illness and impending death, you will not have the strength to bear it all; when the current world is punished by God because of its madness in turning away from Him and His laws you will lose hope, thus failing to see these earth shaking events as an all loving Father intervening in His Divine mercy and Justice to save us from destroying ourselves. And if we fail to faithfully and worthily receive the Holy Eucharist we will become the murmurers and grumblers as were the people of today’s gospel and we will lose the gift of eternal life promised only to those who believe that Jesus Christ is still bodily on earth for us to adore and to receive as our heavenly food in oder to fulfill the deepest desires of our heart and soul and gives us the fulless of life, here on earth in the eternity to come.

With a true and living faith in Jesus in the Holy Eucharist that is lived by adoring before Him on our knees when ever we can, we will be able to turn to the Lord with great confidence in His mercy and submit ourselves to His Holy Will which is love and mercy itself.

And so, Let us in this Mass truly open our hearts to the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist. We don’t have to be perfect in order to do this, we just need to become like little Children trusting in God for what we lack. We can come to the Mass in our brokenness and sinfulness in order to receive what we need to change, to be able grow in love. Jesus will make us worthy and He will increase our love, by taking our human hearts and uniting them with His Sacred Heart, so we can love with His love, a divine love and so be truly fulfilled and happy, blessed. But we must repent of our sinfulness and our stubbornness and we must freely and with great trust give him our whole heart and all of our wills. Impossible? No, with God all things are possible….

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us lift up our hearts in adoration to the Lord. To adore ultimately means to give ourselve totally in a loving sacrifice to the God who gives Himself to us totally and sacrifically in the Holy Eucharist. What an awesome God we have who love us us so much that He comes to us as our daily bread in order to become one with us in a Holy Communion of love now earth and forever in the world to come. How can we not respond to such love, by believing, adore, hoping, loving and begging pardon for those who don’t believe, don’t adore, don’t hope and don’t love?

Let us pray: Eternal God in Who Mercy is endless and the treasure of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase your mercy in us, so that in difficult moment we might not despair or become despondent by with great confidence submit ourselves to Thy Holy Will which is love and mercy itself. Amen.