Sunday, June 26, 2011

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ -Sunday, June 26, 2011

St. Paul uses the Greek word "charis" for in euCHARISt.
The Eucharist changes everything - starting with us.
Today is Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. We celebrate that God became fully human in order to teach us to live and so that He could sacrifice His body on a cross to pay for our sins. The Church which He began IS His body on Earth, fed and united by the Eucharist- the sacrament which He instituted for His followers on the eve of His sacrificial death.
It's interesting to note that the 1st Eucharist (Greek word meaning "Thanksgiving") was offered up by Abraham. He gave bread and wine to the priest Melkezadek to offer to God in gratitude. Melkezadek was king and priest of the city of... Salem. "Salem" in Hebrew means "peace" and "victory" and "wholeness". At the last supper, Christ promised us peace, victory over evil and death, and the restoration of wholeness with the Father. So once again we see that the Old Testament foreshadows and affirms Christ and His Church. 
The Eucharist is the new and perfect sacrifice in His Temple, the Church. It is the full and total presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. Thus this feast celebrates the identity of Christ, the sacrifice offered on the cross, the identity of His Church, and the Eucharist which sustains and unites us as members of His mystical body. 

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, John 6:51-58
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. […] Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. […] Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
Most, though not all, Protestants wiggle and fidget as they come to the Bread of Life Discourse in the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John; and they have good reason to be disturbed! Our Savior speaks quite plainly of the Eucharist when he states, For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed (John 6:56).
The common solution for many modern Protestants (following the path set out by Zwingli) is to call upon the words which follow toward the end of the discourse: It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life (John 6:64). Appealing to these words, which reference the spirit as opposed to the flesh, these Protestants will claim that the Bread of Life Discourse is an extended metaphor.
There are four reasons why our Savior’s words in John 6:26-72 cannot be understood as an analogy or a metaphor. Among these, the second is perhaps rather unknown. [all four reasons come from Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma]

1) From the nature of the words used
One specially notes the realistic expressions “true” and “real” referring to the “food” and “drink” which is our Savior’s body and blood. Likewise, we note the concrete expressions employed to denote the reception of this Sacrament: the Greek word commonly translated as “to eat” is more literally “to gnaw upon” or “to chew”.
The bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world. […] For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed (John 6:52,56).
2) From the biblical usage of the figure “to eat one’s flesh”
In the language of the Bible, to eat another’s flesh or to drink his blood in the metaphorical sense is to persecute him, to bring him to ruin and to destroy him. Thus, if Christ tells the Jews that we all must eat his flesh and drink his blood, and if he means this metaphorically, we would be led to conclude (following the witness of Sacred Scripture) that our Savior intends us to reject him.
Consider how the metaphor of eating flesh and drinking blood functions in the Scriptures:
Whilst the wicked draw near against me, to eat my flesh. My enemies that trouble me, have themselves been weakened, and have fallen. (Psalm 26:2)
By the wrath of the Lord of hosts the land is troubled, and the people shall be as fuel for the fire: no man shall spare his brother. And he shall turn to the right hand, and shall be hungry: and shall eat on the left hand, and shall not be filled: every one shall eat the flesh of his own arm: Manasses Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasses, and they together shall be against Juda. (Isaiah 9:19-20)
And I will feed thy enemies with their own flesh: and they shall be made drunk with their own blood, as with new wine. (Isaiah 49:26)
You that hate good, and love evil: that violently pluck off their skins from them, and their flesh from their bones? Who have eaten the flesh of my people, and have flayed their skin from off them: and have broken, and chopped their bones as for the kettle, and as flesh in the midst of the pot. (Micah 3:2-3)
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl in your miseries, which shall come upon you. […] Your gold and silver is cankered: and the rust of them shall be for a testimony against you, and shall eat your flesh like fire. (James 5:1,3)
And the ten horns which thou sawest in the beast: these shall hate the harlot, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and shall burn her with fire. (Revelation 17:16)
3) From the reactions of the listeners
The listeners understand Jesus to be speaking in literal truth – How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (John 6:53) – and Jesus does not correct them, as he had done previously in the case of misunderstandings (cf. John 3,3; 4:32; Matthew 16:6). In this case, on the contrary, he confirms their literal acceptance of his words at the rist that his disciples and his apostles might desert him. Indeed, our Savior is willing to test his apostles on this point: Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away? (John 6:68)
4) From the interpretation of the Fathers and the Magisterium
Finally, we can recognize that this text is not to be understood as a metaphor from the interpretation of the Fathers, who ordinarily take the last section of the Bread of Life Discourse as referring to the Eucharist (e.g. St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Alexander, St. Augustine, et al.). Moreover, the interpretation of the Council of Trent confirms this.
The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life
In John 6:64, Jesus does not reject the literal interpretation, but only the grossly sensual interpretation. Our Savior insists that the Eucharist is spirit and life insofar as it gives life. For the body we receive in the Eucharist is not dead flesh, but profits us unto eternal life.
So St. Augustine says, “This Flesh alone profiteth not, but let the Spirit be joined to the Flesh, and It profiteth greatly. For if the Flesh profiteth nothing, the Word would not have become Flesh.” The same (lib. 10, de. Civit. Dei) says, “The Flesh of itself cleanseth not, but through the Word by which it hath been assumed.” And S. Cyril, “If the Flesh be understood alone, it is by no means able to quicken, forasmuch as it needs a Quickener, but because it is conjoined with the life-giving Word, the whole is made life-giving. For the Word of God being joined to the corruptible nature does not lose Its virtue, but the Flesh itself is lifted up to the power of the higher nature. Therefore, although the nature of flesh as flesh cannot quicken; still it doth this because it hath received the whole operation of the Word.”
Hence, we do well to pray: May the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ guard my soul unto everlasting life. Amen.

Lagniappe:  Check out the 6th chapter of John's Gospel, Chapters 10 & 11 of Paul's letter to the Corinthians, Luke's "Road to Emmaus" story, and the Exodus account of the Passover meal for the Biblical basis of Eucharist. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Readings and Commentary:[3]

Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai
as the Lord had commanded him,
taking along the two stone tablets.

Having come down in a cloud, the Lord stood with Moses there
and proclaimed his name, " Lord."
Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out,
"The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity."
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.
Then he said, "If I find favor with you, O Lord,
do come along in our company.
This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins,
and receive us as your own."
Commentary on Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9

The events in this section of Exodus are occurring after Moses came down the mountain with the initial tablets; found the people had fallen to idolatry, and smashed them.  This exchange between God and Moses: ("If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.") demonstrates that the Covenant between God and the people is still intact.


R. (52b) Glory and praise for ever!

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!

This selection is part of a very long hymn known as the “Hymn of the Three Men” referring to the three young men King Nebuchadnezzar had thrown into the furnace (Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego).  The part we given here is part of one of the litanies contained in the hymn – this one is a doxology (“In general this word means a short verse praising God and beginning, as a rule, with the Greek word Doxa.”)


Brothers and sisters, rejoice.
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Commentary on 2 Cor 13:11-13

These verses, which conclude the second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, are perhaps the clearest Trinitarian passage in the New Testament.  It takes the form of a blessing, proposing the peace of Christ; almost ironic after the many stormy passages contained in the letter.


God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Commentary on Jn 3:16-18

This passage is part of the section of St. John’s Gospel that describes Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus.  At this point it has turned into a monologue and in these verses it is clear that the Evangelist is speaking as the promise of Eternal Life is made to those who believe in Jesus as the Only Son of God.


Earlier this week we heard an exchange in the Gospel of St. Mark about Jesus revelation.  As I was doing some research for Trinity Sunday I came across the following for which I must give credit to Fr Munachi Ezeogu:

“Jesus said, whom do men say that I am?

And his disciples answered and said, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.”

And Jesus answered and said, “But whom do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."

And Jesus answering, said, "What?"

I trust none of you took offense at this loving blasphemy that pokes a bit of fun at the difficulty with which we put into words something that cannot be described.  Our understanding of the One God in three persons is itself, while implicit in Holy Scripture, not explicit.  The word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible and it took great scholars many years to formulate an understanding that attempts to describe the relationship in essence between the three persons.

I was once told by a parishioner that he hated it when, on Trinity Sunday, all he could take away from a homily was that it was a “mystery”.  Unfortunately for him – that is what it is and the joke we just heard tells that tale pretty well.  But what is important about our belief in the Trinity is what it says to us, as faith filled believers.

The three persons of the Holy Trinity are mentioned in scripture today.  First we hear Moses, pleading with God to remember the covenant He had made.  Moses tells God that, yes, the people are a stiff necked and stubborn lot, prone to sin.  Of course God knows this.  Then Moses asks for forgiveness on behalf of all the people.  And God, the merciful Father also acceded to that request, but there had to be more, The Law God gave to Moses was not enough.

Next God sent the Prophets, individuals directly influenced by the Father, doing their best to interpret the Father’s will to the people through the flawed mechanism of human speech and understanding.  Still they could not grasp the unfathomable love their Father and Creator had for them.  They saw him as a child sees and disciplinarian, the punishment handed out was quick and often severe.

In love he sent His Only Son, begotten but not made, into the world so we could understand the depth of his love for us.  It was not until the Son revealed the Father that we understood that he indeed had answered Moses request for forgiveness.  It was so difficult for the people to understand this purpose that instead of raising the Son of God upon their shoulders in triumph, they raised him upon the cross in crucifixion.

But the revelation was made, the seed was sown and those whom the Father had given the Son were not lost.  Still they needed an Advocate, the Spirit of Truth needed to reside with them because they must not be alone.  So God gave us the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete that we could have His guidance and a palpable sense of his love for us indwelling.

The Holy Trinity is, in its construct and relationship a mystery but the unified purpose is clear.  It is God the most high, creator of all things, lover of all creation, and guide to all mankind.  It is he who offers us Eternal Life.


[2] The picture used today is “Trinity” by Domenico Beccafumi, 1513
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


When Pentecost had fully come,
And the fire from Heaven did fall,

The mighty wind, the Holy Ghost
Baptized them one and all.

Three thousand were converted
...And were added right away

And the God that lived in the olden time,
Is just the same today.

Pentecost Sunday, which marks the end of the Easter season in the Christian calendar, celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. 
Pentecost 2011 falls 50 days after Easter 2011.
Pentecost rocks!  . . . . . just sayin'!