Let’s take a brief moment to open our hearts and minds and remember why we are here.
We are called to love Jesus Christ. We are members of the church He created. There is no doubt that he knew what he was doing. He told Peter “…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.” That still holds true today. If you are like me then you are feeling, especially after this past week, that the devil is hard at work attacking our church, and us, from both inside and outside. There is no doubt about that. This scandal is the result of pure, unchecked, unmitigated evil. Fr. Jolly addressed this in his homily Wednesday- The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was a Holy day of obligation so the noon Mass was well attended. He said that there is no excuse for that behavior. NONE. It cannot, and will not, be tolerated. That we should all be assured that it will not happen here on his watch. He means it. Will we allow this negative news, rumors or innuendo to undermine our core belief in Jesus Christ and His church? Our faith, and church, give us the tools to use to fight off these attacks. We have to muster the courage and fortitude to fight these attacks off. Jesus gives us the opportunity, desire and strength to prepare for, and overcome, challenges.
The Catholic Church, Mass and the Eucharist have endured for over 2,000 years because it is the Church created by Jesus Christ. Its gifts and traditions give us the strength to face evil. Evil comes from within and from outside. In fact the most damaging attacks by the devil are those we face from within. The self-inflicted kind. The word evil is spelled out in the last four letters of the word devil. The devils temptations, attacks on us, will not be with things we dislike. We will be tempted by things we do like. That is why they are tempting. We can face, and defeat, temptations every time they come up when we ask for God’s help. One-by-one we will defeat them. As the Nike commercial says “swoosh. Just do it”
Now on to better topics
We are about to start one of our favorite seasons- football. Football is a season right? College/SEC and the NFL. Those teams show up to play a game every week. Teams practice five, sometimes six, days a week and play on the seventh day. The team that prepares the best, mentally and physically, and practices the hardest, will almost always win on game day. The New England Patriots and Alabama are examples of teams that are very successful. They spend a lot of time preparing. We spend hours getting to, or watching, a game.
All Jesus asks of us is to give Him just one hour a week, at Mass, so we can receive His messages. A powerful form of prayer is our preparation, attendance and participation at Mass. If we take just a few minutes ahead of Mass in preparation for it we will get a better understanding of the message Jesus is teaching us. There are many people who do more than the minimum. We can also receive God’s messages by praying the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Eucharistic adoration or numerous other prayers the Church gives us to talk to God.
One of the beauties of Catholicism is its traditions, its teachings and the Mass. Did you notice that these past five weeks- starting July 22- and next week’s gospel, are all from John chapter 6? These readings are called “The Bread of Life Discourse”. The first readings of those weeks are all from different Old Testament books and are similar in meaning, and actions, to what occurs in the gospel reading for the same week. The common message during these six weeks is that Jesus Christ- nothing and nobody else- is our savior. He tells us that He is the bread that came down from heaven. If we want to get to heaven then we have to partake in His Body and His Blood. That my friends, brothers and sisters is why we go to Mass.
We all like to be invited to dinner. We will often go to lengths to have an enjoyable time. That could mean picking a nice restaurant, putting on a suit or your best dress. Do you remember those first dates with someone special when it seemed like you just did not have as much time with them as you wanted? Many years ago, when Sarah and I were dating, we both lived in CT. I lived about 60 miles away from her. I would travel every weekend to my parent’s house so that we were only 8 miles apart and I could see her on weekends. However, that was not enough so we would often meet mid-week for dinner at a restaurant that was halfway. It could entail an hour of driving for each of us. The 2 lane highway there might be almost as wide as White Station. Now CT is not flat. It also gets the whole basket of winter goodies- snow, blizzards, ice, sleet and freezing rain. We would brave the weather unless it was really bad.
Jesus wants us to feel that way, and make that type of effort, for Him. He invites us to share a meal with Him that is available at every Mass every day. He wants us to be there at least once a week for that meal. He is the bread of life. He has been repeating that mantra these six weeks to His disciples and the crowds that have followed Him. He is persistent in His message. He is practically begging people to believe in Him.
We are here to be an active part in His dinner party. At every Mass the Priest or Deacon pours a drop of water into the wine and prays “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.” We are asking permission to share in Christ’s divinity. The same Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity and, in His humanity, died for us. Are we willing to sacrifice our lives to share in Christ’s divinity? I know we all want to say yes but is that reality? Most of us will never be asked to sacrifice our lives for Christ. That does not mean we are off the hook. Christ does want something from all of us. He wants us to spend some of our time with Him beginning with the Mass.
Shortly after that, the Priest, praying ‘in persona Christi’, prays “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like a dewfall, so that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ”. This is the miracle of Transubstantiation and it happens at every Mass-the dinner party hosted by Jesus Christ. The table has been set and the meal- the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ- the bread of life- has been readied. Jesus promises us “whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” He goes on saying “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” and concludes with “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.” We would have to be very rejecting of Him to not hear this message which is repeated in some fashion six times alone today.
The Eucharist is the reason we attend Mass. We do not attend Mass because of a certain Priest, Deacon or Bishop. Those people are just the vessels that the Holy Spirit works through to deliver the same message being delivered in every Catholic Church around the world on the same day. Do you know that the word “Catholic” means “universal?” A few weeks ago I attended the 40th anniversary of Archbishop Sartain’s priestly ordination. I have never seen this church so packed. You would have thought Justin Timberlake was here. He wasn’t. An exemplary servant of God was here. That servant would tell you that Mass is not about him. That Mass is about the Eucharist. I am sure Archbishop Sartain was honored by the turnout for his celebration but his focus during the Mass was on the Eucharistic. That is the purpose, the crux, the center of our faith. It gives us the strength we need to face and defeat every challenge.
Now I like movies. I am a big fan of most styles except sci-fi, horror or supernatural kinds of things. Has anyone seen the movie “When Harry Met Sally” starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan? It reminds me of life and how so many relationships start. First there is uncertainty, then maybe some conversation exploring likes and dislikes, then friendship, then maybe dating and maybe marriage. Harry and Sally had met years before and their relationship developed pretty much like that, having its ups and downs like many do. They both end up living in NYC. Well the last scene in the movie shows Harry wandering the streets on New Year’s Eve. This is NYC and the streets are empty. Harry is alone. Sally is at a party with mutual friends but not with a date. Harry suddenly comes to the realization that it is Sally that he wants, actually needs, to be with when the chimes strike midnight. He starts running to get to the party in time. He barely makes it. He finds her. She asks him what he thinks he is doing and then asks why is he so exasperating. He replies “because when you suddenly realize that you want to spend the rest of your life with one person you want that moment to begin right now.” That was his, and her, come to Jesus moment. They realized they needed each other. The movie ends. We don’t know what happens after that. We do not know our future. We do know how to prepare for it and face challenges. This is the Jesus moment in our lives that the bread of life is calling us too. We want to prepare ourselves, families and friends so that all our lives will be filled with Jesus in order to “live forever” with Him.
Please. Make the most of this dinner party. Come taste and see the goodness of the Lord. With Christ’s strength in us we will defeat the devils attacks on our Church- those local and around the world.
 The Gospel of Matthew 16:18