Sunday, April 06, 2008

"This Saying is Hard; Who can Accept It?"---Part I

John chapter 6 is a difficult passage for those who say that Jesus is not really totally present in the Eucharist. The bread and wine at Mass actually change and become Jesus' Body and Blood! As Catholics however, we seem to think that we do believe and that others who deny it are the ones in the wrong, but have we ever examined ourselves regarding our real Faith in this "hard saying"? So what do we believe? The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "The Eucharist is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus which he instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until his return in glory." (insert #271) Meditate on that for a moment: "...the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus..."!

Now imagine for a moment that you are not Catholic (if you are). You are just some person who considers themselves "non-denominational", but you are invited one Sunday by a co-worker to attend Mass with them. Since you like this co-worker very much as a friend and since he has done a lot for you, you decide to go. You walk in the Church and you take a look around. You're friend oddly dishes some water and starts hitting himself really quick in the form that you think you've seen a football player do before (okay, you'd probably know what the sign of the Cross is!). You're friend makes an awkward curtsy (and hand flinging thing again) before entering the pew and you were afraid he almost fell down but realize he's okay. You look around to see a people coming in greeting each other loudly, telling jokes, laughing, and catching up with each other since last Sunday. You're eye then stops on a quiet individual who is kneeling and praying, sticking out in this environment, and a few others who are doing the same. The Mass begins and the church breaks into singing a song about welcoming everyone and that we are all equal, except you notice that the only singing you hear is coming from the cantor in the loud sound system---everyone else is staring at a hymnal grunting or still shaking hands with late-comers. The priest gives a homily about loving our neighbors through not making fun of them, or at least that's how you best summarized it. It was kind of hard to get anything out of his 20 minute talk that kept hitting unrelated points. You're friend then tells you that this next part is the "Liturgy of the Eucharist", whatever that means. Everyone kneels down at for about five minutes while the priest reads really fast from a book on the table and oddly "falls down" a couple of times like my friend did earlier--there must be something to this falling down stuff. Everyone comes forward receiving Communion and your friend makes an uncomfortable comment quickly saying that you're not supposed to receive Communion because you're not a registered member of the parish. You shrug your shoulders and sit down,-- this is what all those songs about being welcome were about? Then the service ends quickly with another more upbeat song where everyone claps their hands off beat to the music. Everyone starts talking again and go quickly to get some donuts and coffee, but there wasn't any left when you get there.

Okay, now getting back to reality. As a Catholic, (or a non-Catholic) does any of this sound familiar? I honestly hope that you have never run across anything that happened in the above story, but realize that all of that (and worse), or at least very similar events have happened in Catholic parishes. How could you convince a non-Catholic that we as Catholics truly believe that Jesus Christ is REALLY present in the Holy Eucharist when we constantly deny Him through our actions. If Jesus is really present in the tabernacle at Church, then why would we be talking to our friends whom we see during the week or could talk to some other time? If Jesus is really present then why do we do gestures such as making the sign of the Cross and genuflecting as repetitive actions instead of doing them as actions of worship? Are we ashamed of Christ? Do we not really believe He is present in the Eucharist just as the person sitting next to me is present beside me? I will address the other points in this story in further blog posts, but for now, as Catholics, let us meditate on how our lives and how our actions are testifying to our Faith that Jesus Christ is truly present as He says He is in the Holy Eucharist.

"For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." (John 6:55)

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