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Monthly Archives: August 2018

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

August 26, 2018

Deacon Bill Hough


Listen



Over the last several weeks we have been reading the sixth chapter of John which began with the feeding of the five thousand, followed by Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse. In this chapter, Jesus tells us in order have eternal life with Him, we must eat His flesh and drink His blood.

Today we come the end of this chapter and His disciples must to choose to believe and follow Him or choose to walk away. Many do choose to return to their former way of life. But then we hear one of Peter’s great professions of faith, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced you are the Holy One of God”.

Throughout these weeks, Father Jacobi has stressed that if we truly believe in these words of Jesus which He emphasized at the Last Supper, “This is my body, this is my blood” then we will come to Church each Sunday with an attitude of thanksgiving and reverence.

As Catholics, we believe that by these words of institution spoken by the priest, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ – we call this transubstantiation. Not all Christians believe this – some believe in consubstantiation – that Jesus is present in some way for a short period of time. Others only see communion as a symbol. However, Jesus Himself told us that this truly becomes His Body and Blood and that we need this Body and Blood to have life within us.

I encourage you to really listen to the words that are spoken today – not just the readings, but the whole Mass. Justin Martyr, one of the Fathers of the Church who lived in the second century wrote about the worship service of the early Church. He describes the breaking of the bread and the epiclesis where the Holy Spirit is asked to come down during the consecration of the bread and wine. He talks about praying the psalms and reading from Scripture followed by exhortation – the homily.

Whenever I’m at a wedding or funeral Mass, I am always more aware of what’s being said because I know there can be a lot of non-Catholics attending the Mass. I try to listen through their ears and wonder what they are thinking when the priest says, “Do this in memory of me – This is my Body, this is my Blood”.

We can rejoice that we are still being fed by the same Word and Eucharist that fed the Church from the very beginning. We celebrate as Jesus commanded us. If we truly believe this, Christ tells us we will have eternal life with Him.

A gentleman came up to me one time and had a serious question, “If we are working to get to heaven, then shouldn’t we want to die?” My first reaction was to say, “Well, we all want to go to heaven, but God probably has something He wants us to do while we are here on earth”. He went away thinking that was a reasonable answer.

Now, though, after reflecting on these Gospel passages of John, I want to change my answer. We may have to die to go to heaven, but we don’t have to die to taste eternal life in the Eucharist and in our relationship with Christ. Jesus provides that for us here and now if we let Him.

We can have a lot of gods in our life – obsession with money or power, prejudice, hatred, and (sometimes my favorite) holding grudges. Satan is very good at feeding us with these desires. However, they don’t satisfy our spiritual hunger.

Only the Good Shepherd has what we need to be truly satisfied. He is the Bread of Life who wants to radically change our life with His Word and with His Body and Blood.

We read that the Apostles believed and received Him by faith.

Others “murmured” and walked away. They could not listen to these “hard sayings”.

Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life”.

He gives us the same choice today – to believe or not.

To whom shall we go?


20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

August 19, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi



In this part of the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus uses very vivid physical images to emphasize an essential spiritual truth—communion with Him is only way to true life. Some people hear these words—“”Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”—and think Jesus is promoting some kind of cannibalism— but that is not the case at all. Rather he is referring to the complete gift of himself to us, and as we receive the Risen Lord we are granted a new kind of life—eternal life. We hunger and thirst to take all that Jesus is into ourselves, that he might transform our hearts and minds into his.

This spiritual food of the Eucharist transforms us into “other Christ’s.” Communion with the Risen Jesus means integrating his consciousness into ours. The way Jesus communicates his consciousness is by his death, as he says: “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” His total self-gift on the cross is the heartbeat of the Mass and the foundation of love.

So, when Jesus expresses his desire for us to eat his flesh and drink his blood he is emphasizing this complete giving of himself to us and for us. Entering more fully into this life giving relationship with him, we come to an abiding awareness of divine love transforming death into new life. That in him, joining ourselves to Him in a very intimate way in Holy Communion, we die to an old way of living, and with him we rise to new life.

When we respond “AMEN” to the words, “The Body of Christ”, we are committing ourselves to the person of Christ, to His way of life: to thinking and living and loving and acting like Him. Every time we come forward to be nourished by His Body and His Blood we are committing ourselves to Him, not simply saying that we believe he is really present in the Eucharistic elements. Our belief in the Real Presence is only manifest by the effect that our relationship with the Risen Jesus has in transforming our lives to be more like his.

So, communion with Christ means union with his heart, a heart open to all people, a heart full of compassion for those who suffer, a heart open to refugees and immigrants, to those who live on the margins. Communion with Christ helps us think with Christ, to put on the mind of Christ, for he is always intent on doing the will of the Father.

This is the way to wisdom, while fools follow their own will, yielding to shallow desires. Those who are in Communion with Wisdom-Enfleshed put out into the deep, exploring with Christ’s help the deepest desires of their life. There, illuminated by Christ’s love, they discover the will of the Father.

The point of eating the flesh of the Son of God and drinking His blood is to the deepening of our relationship with Him, of growing in Communion with Him. The point is the bond with Him that such a sacred ritual meal establishes. It is about Comm-UNION, uniting our lives to the life of the Son of God.

We share in this life in Christ with one another. We only come to know and experience and taste the goodness of the Lord in our union with others, which is also the bond that Holy Communion establishes. We are joined to the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, as we share in this holy meal.

From this community of faith we call “Church” we have received wisdom which has been passed down to us through the ages. This wisdom, this Living Tradition, guides and forms our relationship with the Lord of all life. So that it is not enough to simply “believe” that the bread and wine have been forever changed into the “Body and Blood of Christ.” Something more is required, and it is revealed in the very word, “Communion.” By receiving this great gift, when we say “Amen”, we are also stating that we are in union with our brothers and sisters in the beliefs we hold in common. Such as our belief in the role of the Pope as the leader of the Church and primary teacher of the Faith, or our belief in what the church teaches about the God-given dignity of every human life, or our assent to the moral teachings of the Church. That’s why if someone who has not become Catholic, but who believes that Christ is truly present in this bread and wine, needs to also come to learn about what we believe in order to be in “communion” with us.

Receiving the Eucharist demands that we prepare for such a great gift. We will never be completely worthy to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, but we can properly dispose ourselves to receive this wonderful gift. The Church offers us some basic regulations for properly disposing ourselves to receive Holy Communion.

One needs to be free of mortal sin by confessing such sin in the Sacrament of Penance. A mortal sin cuts us completely off from God and is a rare sin. Examples of mortal sin are murder, adultery, apostasy. If you have chosen to cut yourself off from the Church and her sacraments and have been away from Mass for more than a few months, then celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Sacrament of Penance) is necessary.

The Church requires all Catholics to confess their sins at least once a year in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Fast from food & drink for one hour before receiving the Body & Blood of Christ.

If married, then be married in the Church. One of the laws of the Church is to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony. If you need an annulment for a previous marriage, one of the deacons or I can help with this process. Those who are divorced and not remarried are able to receive Holy Communion.

Those who are not Catholic, or Catholics who are not properly disposed, can come forward in the Communion line for a blessing, including little children.

As we eat the bread of life and drink from the cup of salvation, we discover a mysterious truth–we are never fully satisfied. That in being given a share in divine life, we hunger and thirst for more. We discover that the God who comes to us cannot be possessed by us, or captured and held onto.

Which is why we keep coming back, some of us daily, others weekly, to be fed.

So that eventually everything we hold onto, even our very life, can be given as a gift to God.


Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 15, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi



A teacher asks his students: “Who can tell me what the Solemnity of the Assumption is about?” A little boy offers this response, “It means that Mary was so holy that we just assume she went to Heaven.”

This little boy’s response connects with the Gospel passage from Luke proclaimed on this holy day. Mary’s holiness flows from this simple truth— she does ordinary things with extraordinary love.

We are called to do the ordinary day-to-day things with love, and what happens without us ever being fully aware of it is God works through us to bring His Son into the world. God does great things in and through us when we respond with simple deeds of love for those we encounter in our daily lives. Matthew Kelly speaks about this in terms of “moments of holiness”.

We mistakenly think that holiness is made up of extraordinary acts of sacrificial love every day, when the truth be told, holiness comes from ordinary acts of love every day. There is no way that every hour of our life can be filled with extraordinary deeds of faith, hope, and love, but there are moments each day when we can ask what another needs and act. This is the road to holiness, the path to abundant life.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, upon hearing that Elizabeth is pregnant, asks a simple question: “What does my cousin Elizabeth need?” In doing so, Mary leaves behind her own concerns and affairs and goes to Elizabeth’s side. When a visit seems appropriate, Mary acts. No piddling around here. She goes in haste to the hill country to help her elderly cousin Elizabeth in her time of need.

We should not ignore the simple ordinary things that in the end, when taken all together, make a person great, noble, or holy. Mary is taken body and soul into heaven as a consequence of an ordinary life lived by a mother and faithful servant of God. For Mary and for us, it will be the ordinary days that determine who we are.

The pattern here is asking and acting. What does someone need followed by an action responding to that need. The result is something more than we might imagine, for like pregnant Mary we bring Christ to others, to everyone we serve.

When Mary is visited by the archangel Gabriel, she is told she will be the mother of the Son of God. She has to trust that this will happen through the power of the Spirit, the mysterious workings of the Spirit. She is not told that her son will be tortured, executed on a cross, and rise again. She says “Yes” to a future she does not know. But the One she says “Yes” to, the God of the covenant, is worthy of her trust.

Mary does not try to figure it out. She trusts that God’s promises to her will be fulfilled. She is an example of letting God do God’s work, without trying to figure it out. Sometimes I think we spend too much time trying to figure out life instead of trusting that God will work it out.

When we can pray with Mary’s response of trust at the beginning of the day, “Let your will be done in me” and seek to carry out that will by asking and acting, then at the end of the day we will moved another step forward on our long journey home. Then at the end of our life we will find an open door in the home of heaven.

For the glory of Mary assumed bodily into heaven is simply a preview or foretaste of our glory. Her risen body is with the risen body of Christ her Son in the new creation. So it shall be for us who say “Yes” to the love of God by acting in ordinary ways of love.


19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

August 12, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


Listen



The bread of life which Jesus gives his disciples are both his teaching and the sacramental breaking of bread that we call the Eucharist. It is easy to forget that the precepts of the Gospel are a communion with Christ comparable to the grace we receive through the sacraments. So, the Church teaches us that Christ is present in the Mass not only in the bread and wine transformed into His Body and Blood but also in his word. (GIRM #27)

The table of God’s word and the table of the Eucharist go together. They cannot be separated—the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are one inseparable act of worship on which the Mass is founded.

The General Instruction on the Roman Missal, which lays out the Church’s understanding of the Mass, states the following about the Liturgy of the Word (GIRM #29): “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel.” God speaks! Christ is present!! We need to pay attention and listen carefully.

In the Scripture readings at Mass, the table of God’s word is spread before us like a great banquet, so we might taste and see the goodness of the Lord. It is appropriate that our response to this gift is one of gratitude: “Thanks be to God.”

In order to fully benefit from this living bread come down from heaven, we have to prepare our hearts and minds to receive this great gift. In order to receive the seed of the living word of God, we need to prepare the soil of our hearts.

So, it would be a good practice during the week before coming to Sunday Mass to take 5-10 minutes to read the Sunday Scripture readings. You can also come to church early before Mass, pull out your hymnal, and prayerfully read over the Scripture readings. The hymn board always lists the number where these readings can be found. When we prepare in this way, then we can actively listen and receive more fully this living bread come down from heaven. I encourage you to actively listen to the Scriptures proclaimed during the Mass by putting aside your hymnal and resisting the temptation to read along. Instead listen and be surprised by what you hear. Because people are actively listening to God’s word, do not come into church during the proclamation of the Word of God. Our eyes control what our ears hear, so we can be easily distracted by movement and then stop listening attentively to the word being proclaimed. The ushers have been instructed to only allow people into the church during the singing of the Responsorial Psalm between the first two readings or during the singing of the Alleluia.

Therefore, prepare to receive the living bread of God’s word by being at Mass on time. The Introductory Rites of the Mass leading up to the Liturgy of the Word— the opening song, the Kyrie, the Gloria– all prepare our minds, hearts, bodies and souls to be fed by God’s Word.

In the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, the Church also notes that Christ is present at the celebration of the Mass in the assembly gathered in His name. (GIRM #27)

How can we best honor Christ’s presence in others at the Mass? I’ve already mentioned one way—come early for Mass so you can enter fully into worship with brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

Come early, but do not leave early! God is not asking much of us—one hour out of 168 hours in a week to worship Him in communion with our brothers and sisters. After all, as Matthew Kelly points out, the founder of the movement of those who leave right after taking Communion is the one who left early during the 1st celebration of the Eucharist—Judas Iscariot. Certainly there are exceptions when you may have to leave early, when there is something very important, like having to get to a job on time, but this should be the exception, not the norm. Stay through the singing of the closing song. After the singing of the closing song, we have a tradition here at Holy Spirit of everyone kneeling in silence to say a short prayer in gratitude.

We honor Christ present in others by being hospitable in the pew. Don’t be a pew-end hugger, making people crawl over you, but move to the middle of the pew so that others will feel welcome to sit in your pew.

Show respect to others by not leaving the church during the Mass, unless for an emergency. Parents may need to leave Mass with an infant or small child in order to calm them down or take them to the nursery, but children should not be leaving during Mass on their own. Parents please take your kids to the restroom before Mass begins, so that they will not be leaving Mass and serving as a distraction to others.

The way we dress for Mass is also a way of honoring Christ present here. This is not a sports arena or stadium where we come as spectators to be entertained but rather the temple of the living God where we meet the King of Kings. The way we clothe ourselves should reflect this knowledge, and also be a way of respecting the presence of Christ in others here. People dress up when they go to a wedding. Here we are participating in the wedding of the Lamb. Here we receive the one who has “married” humankind by becoming one with us, and who joins his body to ours in an intimate communion of love.

Finally, do not remain in church after Mass talking to others for more than a few minutes. Extended conversations should be carried out in the gathering area or hall or outdoors out of respect for your brothers and sisters who want to remain in the church and pray, or out of respect for those coming to the next Mass to pray.

Christ Jesus is present in those who gather in His Name to celebrate the Mass, and we honor and respect Him by the way we honor and respect one another.

Our Communion is not just a gift from God. It is not something we get. It is something we become. When the gift is accepted, it changes us and becomes a bond by which we become a people in covenant who care for those around us and for all who are children of God.

You cannot put our your hand or open your mouth to receive the Body of Christ without receiving the whole body and all its members. The bond of our friendship in Christ is reflected in our attentiveness to each other.

Look around at your sisters and brothers, who are the dwelling place of Christ. See the beauty and the suffering, the young and the old, the tired and the lonely, and those filled with promise. In communion, we are all of these things.

When we are exhausted from trying to be kind, compassion, and forgiving, when we are worn out from trying to be who we are—the Body of Christ, God will provide a little cake or some water, some nourishment to get us going again on this wonder-filled journey of faith.