Tag Archives: communion

Homily Sunday OT 27 B – It Is Not Good that Man Should Be Alone

Instead of preaching on Marriage this Sunday, I spoke about something else, something tearing away at my heart in my current ministry, something of a rather urgent character in our world and in our Parish community. (For a Homily on Marriage, see below.)

It’s almost 30 minutes, but I encourage you to listen, because it speaks to one of the reasons why renewal in our Parish –– indeed in the whole Church –– is so deeply needed today.

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Homily – Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity


Prov 8:22-31
Ps 8     R/. O Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
Rom 5:1-5
Jn 16:12-15


Audio: soundcloud.com/pereroger

When we examine Scripture and the history of salvation, one of the things that stands out very clearly is God’s desire for us to be in relationship with Him. From the Fall of Adam and Eve to the gathering of the people of Israel to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus until this very day, God is searching out for us, calling us to come to Him so that we might be in relationship with Him.

But not just any kind of relationship. God doesn’t just want to be friends: He wants us to be in communion with Him, to be one with Him. This is the heart of the Gospel message we’ve been hearing for several weeks now, and which, in a sense, culminated in the celebration of Pentecost last Sunday. God want’s us to be one with Him; that’s why He sent His Son Jesus to teach us about Him and His love for us, and to show us how to respond to His invitation; and that why He sent us the Holy Spirit, to make that union possible and to deepen our knowledge and experience of His love and mercy.

Trinity_StainedGlass.jpgAnd this is why now we celebrate this Sunday the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity,
because God is not isolated or alone, but is in His very being a relationship of love. Last year I described to you the notion of the Trinity as a communion of love: the Father is the One who loves; Jesus, the Son, is the One who is loved and who loves in return; and the Holy Spirit is the One who is the mutual love.

In celebrating this great mystery the Sunday after Pentecost, we also celebrate the reality that God wants us to be participants in that relationship of mutual love, in this communion of divine Persons. God created us not to be independent and solitary beings, but to be one with Him. That’s why He created us in His image and likeness: so that we, too, can love as He loves. In fact, loving is at the very core of what it means to be human.

But our capacity to love isn’t to be focussed on ourselves, on being loved. To love means to reach out to the other for the sake of the other, to desire for the other what is good for the other. And this is what Jesus teaches us most perfectly by reaching out to us in our sinfulness and bringing us mercy so that we might truly live.

As disciples this is key for us, because we’re called to imitate our Master. Jesus brought us into communion with the Trinity through Baptism, and He continues to sustain and nourish our union with Him through the other Sacraments. But He does this not just for our individual sake: we’re not united to Jesus just for ourselves alone. Precisely because we’ve been called to share in the life and love of the Trinity, we’re also called to share in Jesus’ mission to bring that same communion to the world.

Love, precisely because it always looks to the other, also always seeks to expand itself toward another. That’s why Mother Teresa wasn’t satisfied to just embrace one dying person, or why missionaries don’t stop after just one conversion. Jesus thirsts for everyone to share in His Trinitarian life, and so must we.

If we’ve truly experienced the love and mercy that Jesus has come to bring, then we need to share it with others; like Him, we need to desire that others may come to know and experience His love for them. This is our mission as disciples.

But we also need to love one another; we need to seek communion with each other as well. As a children’s book once put it, “If Jesus loves me and He loves you, too, then I ought to love you, too”. We need to reach out to each other to build communion, and not just as a closed-off group of mutual affection and appreciation, but as a community that is constantly reaching out to others to invite them in also. This is particularly the mission of the family and of the Parish, because it’s through us that the world will come to know and experience the love of Jesus. By the way that we greet others; by the way that we welcome them and include them, others will come to know that God loves them and wants them in communion with Him. But if we ignore them, give them the cold shoulder or push them away, then that becomes the experience of God we give them. This is why Jesus said, By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:35).

When we ponder on this reality of being called to communion with God and with each other, we can begin to get a glimpse into what it means for the Trinity to be a communion of love.

As we celebrate today this great mystery of the God who reveals Himself as a communion of love, may we open our hearts to His invitation, allowing Him to draw us into this communion with Him, so that in turn, we might work to bring others in as well. Amen.

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Homily for Sunday OT 20 B – John 6, The Bread of Life Discourse (part 4 of 5)


Prv 9:1-6
Ps 34         R/. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Eph 5:15-20
Jn 6:51-58


Portion of 'Christ Crucified', by Diego Velasquez, 1632.

Portion of ‘Christ on the Cross’, by Diego Velasquez, 1632.

We continue this Sunday with chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, the ‘Bread of Life Discourse’, and now this week we enter into the heart of Jesus’ explicit teaching on the Eucharist, the most important section of the whole chapter.

Since the crowds didn’t understand Him, Jesus now strengthens His language to clarify His meaning: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. […] and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (Jn 6:51).

Whereas before Jesus was using a spiritual language the crowds didn’t understand, He now switches to a more literal language so that they might understand. And we see that the crowds are beginning to do so: The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ (Jn 6:52). They understand very well that Jesus is speaking of having them eat His flesh.

Here John uses irony again: though they understand His words plainly, the crowds, in fact, still don’t understand what He’s actually going to do. They now think He wants them to eat His living flesh, perhaps even at that moment. They hear Jesus’ words and immediately think of cannibalism, and this rightly confuses and even repulses them. They understand the what, but they don’t understand the how.

But notice Jesus’ careful choice of words: He didn’t say ‘the bread that I am giving is my flesh’, but rather, the bread that I will give … is my flesh (v. 51). The giving of His flesh for food is a future gift, not a present one. At the Last Supper, Jesus will change this to the present tense when He gives the Apostles His Flesh and Blood as bread and wine: ‘Take, eat; this is my body. […] ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood (Mt 26:26-28; cf. also Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-20; 1 Cor 11:24).

You see, the Flesh and Blood that Jesus gives us to eat isn’t the flesh that was living at the time He spoke these words to the crowds, but His crucified, risen, and glorified Flesh. The gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus, while instituted at the Last Supper and given to us on the Cross, in a sense, only becomes the Eucharist after the Resurrection. Had He given us His flesh to eat before that, we could rightly ask with the crowds, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ (Jn 6:52), for once having eaten Him, there would be nothing left: He would be consumed.

Rather, Jesus is pointing us precisely to the Cross and Resurrection. First, He’s pointing us to the Last Supper, where gives us the gift of His Flesh and Blood in word, and then literally gives us His Flesh and pours out His Blood on the Cross — (this is also where the Sacraments of Marriage and the Priesthood intersect with the Eucharist, but that’s for another time). It’s in this moment that He gives His Body and Blood for the life of the world — that is, in atonement for our sins, for our redemption and salvation; that we might once again have access to eternal life in God’s presence.

Second, it points us to the Resurrection, where His Body now has eternal life; death has no more power over the Body of Jesus. And, as we see for the Resurrection accounts, neither do the laws of physics: Jesus appears and disappears, and He even ascends into Heaven with His Body (cf. Mk 16:19; Lk 24:13-31, 50-53; Jn 20:19-29; Acts 1:9). Not being bound by death, space, and time, after the Resurrection Jesus is able to give us His Flesh and Blood without being Himself destroyed — this is part of the meaning of the miracles of multiplication. Since He’s conquered sin and death with His Body, He’s able to give us His eternal and divine Body and Life so that sin and death will be destroyed in us. This is also contained in the phrase for the life of the world (Jn 6:51): in the Eucharist, Jesus gives us life, His life.

We can understand this now because we’re looking back with the lens of the Resurrection and the centuries of meditation on this text, but in that moment in the synagogue at Capernaum, as we’ll see more clearly next week, neither the crowds nor the Apostles understood this. (It’s interesting, though, that no one seems to have thought of asking Jesus what exactly He meant and how He was going to do it. John only shows us that the crowds continued in their stubbornness and lack of faith.)

But going back to our Gospel text: instead of correcting their mistaken understanding, Jesus actually intensifies His language, repeating the same phrase five more times in our Gospel passage (Jn 6:53-58)! And not only this, but Jesus now changes the word He used for ‘eat’ from the usual term for eating to the more graphic term, ‘chew’, usually only used for animals. (Here we have a beautiful link to the Nativity: He who was to become our Food already pointed to this as a newborn by lying in a manger, an animal trough!) There is no room here for symbolism or metaphor! Jesus is very clear that He is being literal in His words: we must indeed eat His flesh and drink His blood!

And in this repetition, Jesus also mentions that those who eat and drink His Flesh and Blood will share in His life: [as] I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me (Jn 6:57). To receive the Eucharist is to participate in the very life of Jesus. That’s why we call it communion (union with), because in receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus, it’s He who lives in us, and us who live in Him. Again, since it’s His glorified Body we receive, it isn’t He who’s consumed in us, but rather we who are consumed in Him, to be increasingly re-created in His image and likeness. This is the true ‘personal relationship’ to which Jesus invites us!

And to tie this in with what He said earlier, Jesus speaks again of the manna (v. 58). The Eucharist, like the manna, is a free gift from God to sustain us on our journey to the Promised Land. It’s physical food for our bodies and spiritual food for our souls, to strengthen us in faith and keep us faithful to the God who loves us and calls us to be His people. The Eucharist is our true daily bread from Heaven. (This is also a reference to the Our Father.)

That’s why we speak of the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Church: it’s in the Eucharist that we’re united to Jesus and to each other, thereby being made Church; and it’s in the Eucharist that we express most profoundly the mystery of being God’s People, by being joined to Jesus in His offering of love to the Father. As Christians, we’re made by the Eucharist, and made for the Eucharist!

I invite you now to kneel.

[Kneeling toward the Tabernacle:]

Lord Jesus Christ, we firmly believe that you are truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. Humbly kneeling before you, in union with all the faithful on earth, we adore you and worship you with all our heart. Grant, O Lord, that we, who declare our faith in this fountain of your love and mercy, may drink from it the water of everlasting life. Amen.

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Homily – Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Deut 8:2-3, 14-16
Ps 147             R/. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
1 Cor 10:16-17
Jn 6:51-59

 

LastSupperCommunionOn Holy Thursday we celebrated the institution of the Mass and of the Priesthood. Today, we celebrate a special feast in honour of the Holy Eucharist itself, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

The Church has celebrated this feast for almost 800 years now, as a means to remember and celebrate the tremendous gift of the Eucharist. And so this feast, then, is one of great joy and gratitude, because the gift that we celebrate today — the Eucharist — isn’t a mere ‘friendly meal’ or some symbolic sharing of bread and wine; the gift we celebrate with this Solemnity is the gift of Jesus Himself, given to us on the Cross in flesh and blood.

As we hear in during the Eucharistic Prayer at each Mass, Jesus, at the Last Supper, said, Take this … for this is my Body… the Blood of the new and eternal covenant… (Words of Institution). Now every Sacrament in the Church happens through a combination of word and an action — in Baptism, the minister says I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, as he pours water on the child; in Confession, after sins have been confessed, the Priest lays his hands over the penitent and says the formula of absolution; in Marriage, the couple give themselves to each other through their vows at church, and then fulfil that gift bodily in the marital act.

The words of gift that Jesus makes of Himself at the Last Supper are fulfilled in body on the Cross, where He literally gives us His flesh and blood for our salvation. When we put these two parts together — the words of the Last Supper and the gift on the Cross —, we have the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

This is the Mass! It’s the gift of Christ made present for us today, so that we might receive from Him that very gift of His flesh and blood, that we might be fed and strengthened by His sacred Body and Blood.

And just as when a husband and wife come together to give of themselves to each other in body, so too, in the Eucharist, Christ’s love for us is expressed and our love for Him is strengthened.

In receiving the Holy Eucharist we’re united to Jesus in the most intimate communion possible in this life. So much so that, through it, we receive His divine life, for now His Body and Blood live in us, and work in us to transform us ever more into His image and likeness. Become what you eat!, St. Augustine used to say.

This is why the Church speaks of the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life. Source, because it’s through the Body and Blood of Christ given to us on the Cross that we’ve been saved; it’s through the Body and Blood of Christ given to us in Communion that we’re made into more perfect disciples and are strengthened to live the Christian life.

Summit, because its through the Body and Blood of Christ celebrated at Mass that we offer to the Father the greatest gift and thanksgiving possible, and through that, experience our most sublime heritage as the people of God; and because through the Body and Blood of Christ, God makes Himself near to us, not just in Spirit, but also in Body.

These are challenging truths that we celebrate today, and they always have been. As we heard in John’s Gospel, many disciples found it hard to believe in what Jesus said: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?, they asked (Jn 6:52); many even abandoned Jesus as He continued to explain how His Body and Blood are true food and drink (Jn 6:66).

The Church continues to profess this same truth today: the bread and wine that we offer at Mass truly does become, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ. And so the Communion that we receive, then, is none other than the Body and Blood of Christ: the same Body which was given up for us on the Cross; the same Blood which was poured out for us on the Cross.

This is the food with which our Lord feeds us on our journey of faith; this is the extent to which He loves us; this is the gift that we celebrate today and receive at each Mass. There can be nothing greater in this life than to witness this miracle of God’s love and to receive this gift for our life and our salvation. This is why the Eucharist is sacred; this is why we celebrate with joy!

The Eucharist is our glory as children of God, and a foretaste of the eternal communion promised us through the covenant of Christ’s blood. May we continue to grow in our love and understanding of this great mystery, so as to better appreciate and adore this wondrous Sacrament. Amen.

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Homily – Most Holy Trinity A

Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9
Canticle: Dan 3:52-56     R/. Glory and praise for ever!
2 Cor 13:11-13
Jn 3:16-18 

Icon of the Holy Trinity at Vatopedion Monastery, Mount Athos, Greece.

Icon of the Holy Trinity at Vatopedion Monastery, Mount Athos, Greece.

The great St. Augustine spent more than 30 years writing his book De Trinitate [On the Trinity], trying to find a clear way to explain the mystery of the Trinity. The story goes that, one day, while walking by the sea, pondering the mystery of the Trinity, he saw a young boy running back and forth from the water to the shore. The boy was using a seashell to carry water from the ocean to a small hole in the sand.

The Bishop approached him and asked, “My boy, what are doing?” “I am trying to bring the whole sea into this hole,” the boy replied with a sweet smile.

“But that is impossible, my dear child,” said Augustine. The boy stopped, and looked up at Augustine, saying, “It’s no more impossible than trying to understand the mystery of the Trinity.” Then he vanished.

*          *          *

If Augustine, one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church, had a hard time understanding the Trinity and putting it into words, then it’s no surprise that we do too, and that’s okay! That’s why today, as we celebrate this great mystery, we marvel at God’s greatness. And we rejoice, too, because in His great love for us, God allows us to participate in His life, in His very Being, in the Trinity!

You see, we began Lent by hearing the voice of God calling us out into the desert. Then we followed Jesus through His Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension. Then last week we closed Easter by rejoicing in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Today, we reflect on that time by rejoicing in God, who’s revealed Himself to us as Father, Son and Spirit.

But we rejoice today, not merely in knowledge, but in the experience God. Because God has revealed Himself to us, so that we might be able to participate in His divine life!

The Trinity can be explained briefly in this way: God the Father is, by His very essence, love, and allowing His love to flow from Himself, He begets the Son, who receives this love. But because the Son is also God and shares in the same nature as the Father, He, in turn, overflows with love to the Father, returning love for love. And it’s in this dynamic of mutual love that the Spirit proceeds from them both.

But the really cool part about all of this, is that, through the Incarnation — by joining our human nature to His divine nature — Jesus has brought us into this dynamic communion of love! In Baptism we were united to God — Father, Son and Spirit —, and received a share in His divine life. And that’s what it means to be saved: to have God’s very life within us! That’s why we belong to Him, why He is our God and we, His people. Through Baptism, we enter into the Trinity. And this is God’s desire for everyone; God wants everyone to be saved!

But as we say during the Rite of Baptism, this divine life needs to be “kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in [our] heart” (no. 177). Just because we’ve been Baptised, it doesn’t mean that we’ve got a free ticket to Heaven. If we don’t live, here and now, according to this gift we’ve received, then we will lose it; the divine life within us can be killed.

That’s why Jesus gave us the Sacraments: in particular, Confession to heal and forgive us, and the Eucharist to make us stronger. And every time we receive any of the Sacraments — but especially Confession and the Eucharist —, we’re sanctified and increasingly conformed to Christ, and enter more deeply into the life and mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. This — and only this! — is salvation.

This is the mystery we celebrate today, indeed that we celebrate at every Mass, as we marvel at the mystery of the one God in three Persons who shares His love and His life with us. By opening our hearts to the Spirit, and living more and more according to the law of Christ, may we come to share fully in the Father’s life. Amen.

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