Take My Breath Away

Corpus Christi (June 22, 2014)

Dt 8:2-3,14b-1a

Psalm 147

1 Cor 10:16-17

John 6:51

There have been a few moments in my life when I have had my “breath taken away.” When I stood in front of the altar at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in 1999 and first saw my bride in her white wedding dress walking down the aisle towards me; When I looked into the eyes of my newborn sons for the first time; On September 11, 2001 when I saw a plane crash into the World Trade Center in New York on the morning news; When I saw white smoke come out of the small chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel indicating the election of who we all have come to know and love as Pope Francis. These are just some of the bigger moments that I can recall.

Well, it happened again last week while driving to Lexington in my car. I was listening to a CD by Vinny Flynn titled, “7 Secrets of the Eucharist.” He was talking about St. Mary Faustina.

St. Faustina

St. Faustina

For those that don’t know, St. Faustina reportedly had a number of apparitions, conversations and visions with Jesus Christ and wrote them down in her diary, which later was published as a book. Before I read you the quote that “took my breath away,” I want to give you a little background as to why it was so powerful for me to hear…plus this way I can build suspense and you won’t fall asleep during my homily!

Today on the Church calendar we celebrate the solemnity of “The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ” or more commonly known as “Corpus Christi.”

CorpusChristi

Next to Easter and Christmas, this is probably my next favorite feast day on the calendar. I love it because today we celebrate a uniquely Catholic teaching that comes straight from the mouth of Christ in the 6th chapter from the Gospel of John. “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven.” “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

Today we celebrate the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist (Holy Communion). Today we are reminded that when we approach this altar, we receive a LIVING God into our very bodies. Nine times in today’s Gospel, Jesus uses a derivative of the word “living” to describe Himself. This is not just some ordinary bread or cheap wine. I fully realize the Catholic belief that ordinary looking bread and wine are actually the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of a living God is hard to grasp and accept.

eucharist

Even the Jews who heard Jesus speak the actual words from John 6 “quarreled among themselves” asking how this could be possible. But notice what Jesus did NOT say after the Jews questioned Him in the Gospel. He did NOT say, “Hold on people, I didn’t mean that literally. You don’t have to eat my flesh and drink my blood. It was just a figure of speech.” No, Jesus intensifies his speech by saying, “Amen, amen” (which is code word for “listen up people, this is important”) and then He goes on for seven more sentences reaffirming that He really meant what He said. This should be mind-blowing stuff for us…especially if you’ve never contemplated what you are TRULY receiving when you come up for communion. This is what we are celebrating on the feast of Corpus Christi today. The Living God comes down from Heaven and gives us Himself every time we receive Holy Communion at Mass.

John6

Ok…so are you ready to hear the quote from St. Faustina that took my breath away last week? In her diary, she wrote that Jesus appeared to her and said, “When I come to a human heart in Holy Communion my hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul, but souls don’t even pay attention to me. They leave me to myself and busy themselves with other things. They treat me as a dead object.

When I first heard it I got a little defensive actually. I’m an ordained Catholic Deacon for crying out loud! I know Church teaching! I understand the Eucharist and the true presence! I never miss a Sunday Mass, I go to Eucharistic adoration every week and I pray daily! But I kept wrestling with these words and finally I remained quiet enough to let them really sink in. I then asked myself, if I really did believe that Jesus Christ is alive and present in the consecrated bread and wine at Mass, why don’t I show Him more reverence? Why do I become so easily distracted sometimes when I am up here next to the priest assisting at the altar? I realized that I was getting defensive because I knew, deep down, these words were true. That’s when it hit me. Jesus wasn’t talking to “that Catholic over there,” He was talking to me. And if you humble yourself enough to let those words He spoke to St. Faustina really sink in, I think you’ll find He’s talking to each and every one of us. I don’t doubt one bit that everyone here loves God. I just have a feeling that we can all do better, myself included.

Ever hear the phrase, “You are what you eat?” If we claim to believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, we should be acting more like Him in our actions. He is the real food and the real drink that nourishes and strengthens our very souls. Spend some time in prayer asking God to show you how you can better love Him. If you are patient and quiet enough, He will show you the answer.

But until that happens, I think it’s time we acknowledge that we are eating from the heavenly banquet. I think it’s time we eat the best of wheat, the bread of angels, food for the pilgrim journey. I think it’s time we start being more Christ-like as we “become what we eat.” I think it’s time to reclaim the sacredness of the Eucharist and our reverence for Him. I think it’s time we allow Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist to “take our breath away” every time we approach His altar.

Happy Birthday

Pentecost (June 8, 2014)

Acts 2:1-11

Psalm 104

1 Cor 12:3b-7,12-13

John 20:19-23

I love birthday parties. To be clear, I love attending birthday parties that I don’t have to plan. I get to hang out with friends, eat good food, play games and over indulge in cake. cakeAnd as a bonus, my wife Angie doesn’t like cake icing so she scraps it off and gives it to me. That is the secret to our successful 15-year marriage! A newer trend that I’ve noticed is where the party guests get a gift bag before they leave. So not only do we get cake, but now even the party guests get a gift! And I’ve seen some of the extravagant gift bags you parents have given out at parties my kids have attended. They are pretty impressive. I only wish I was a kid so I could get one too!

Now, let’s not forget one of the best parts of having a birthday party…the presents for the birthday boy or girl! When I was really young, I wanted a GI Joe aircraft carrier named the “USS Flagg” for my birthday. It was 7 and ½ feet long! It practically needs it’s own room in the house.

GI Joe

And if you get that behemoth of a toy, you of course need to get at least two GI Joe fighter jets, two or three helicopters and all the GI Joe soldiers to man the ship. But how boring would it be to just have the good guys? I also would need GI Joe’s archenemy, Cobra and all of the enemy boats that go with them. That way I could have a big battle. I’m sad to say, at a price tag of $100 in 1985, I never got that aircraft carrier as a birthday present. I did, however, have a friend who got one. I think I still may be a little jealous that he had gotten a gift that I always wanted but never did.

But enough about my psychologically damaging childhood let downs…let’s get back to talking about birthday parties. Today we are celebrating a very special birthday. It’s the birthday of the Church itself. We refer to this as Pentecost. The word Pentecost in Greek simply means “fiftieth” because it’s celebrated 50 days after Easter. Pentecost marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles after Jesus ascended to heaven ten days earlier. St. John Paul II said, “we can speak of this event as the birth of the Church, as we speak of a person’s birth at the moment when he comes forth from his mother’s womb and ‘is manifested’ to the world.” Today marks the Church being manifested to the world in a visible way.

Pentecost

I can think of no better way to celebrate Pentecost than by having a little birthday party right here, right now and every one of you are invited (hear me out Father). We are already surrounded by good friends. We already have an exquisite banquet planned to take place at this altar very soon. We already have songs planned. We even have games ready…there’s “Stand, Sit, Kneel” (Catholic calisthenics) plus one I like to call “What’s the Response?” In case you don’t know this one, let’s give it a try:

         “the Lord be with you…”

                                             “…and with your spirit.”

See, wasn’t that fun!

with your spirit meme

Plus, remember those gifts bags I talked about earlier? We’ve even got those too! There are seven gifts in the gift bag that the Holy Spirit has prepared for each of you for attending the party: wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. Who wouldn’t benefit from these gifts? These are better than getting a candy bar and bouncy ball right? Possibly even better than a GI Joe aircraft carrier?

Now…the best part. The presents! What present did you bring to the party today? Seriously, what did you bring? Ok, I know some of you probably didn’t know about the party so I’ll let you off the hook for now. But I want you to seriously consider what present you are willing to give to the Church. If you’re needing an idea, here are a few suggestions: prayers – pray for Christ’s Church worldwide and for us here at St. Andrew’s. Eucharistic adoration – spend one hour each Wednesday in our chapel adoring our Eucharistic Lord. Join a committee – statistically, the same 7%-10% of people volunteer to do everything. Money – who doesn’t like getting a little cash on their birthday? Just like everyone else, the church has bills that need to be paid. Visit the homebound – some of our members can’t make it to church on Sundays so let’s go to them. Become a catechist – we need good Catholics that are willing to teach the faith to our younger generation. Regardless of the present you decide to give to the Church, as long as it’s from the heart and given out of love, the Church will be happy to receive it.

So we’ve covered the party for the most part. I personally think it’s going to be a great time and I’m glad you’re here with me to partake in the festival. But I can’t help notice one more thing. I’ve noticed that there are some empty seats out there in the pews.

empty-pews

Look around…are there some people that we perhaps forgot to invite? If we’ve got this heavenly party planned, why in the world would we not want to let others share in the fun? When was the last time you invited someone to Church? I know…there’s that scary “E” word that sends a cold shiver down the spines of Catholics everywhere. Evangelization. But isn’t that how our Church started? The Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles and gave them the strength, faith and courage to go out and build Christ’s Church. The Apostles sent out invitations to the party…probably even hand delivered them…and now there are an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. And it all started with a few inspired people on fire for their faith. Why can’t we do the same?

Today we get to welcome two new people to the party. Carla and Dustin were extended an invitation by the Holy Spirit and praise God they accepted it. The same Holy Spirit that breathed new life into them at baptism will now strengthen them at confirmation so they can go out and proclaim the truths of the faith to others.

So again, on behalf of the Holy Church, thank you for coming to the party today. I hope that you keep coming back on a regular basis and next time, don’t be afraid to bring a friend.