More than half of all Catholics stay home from Sunday mass. To make it even worse many ex Catholics attend services in a Protestant church. One has to ask whether we really understand the Mass at all.
Millions flock to be in the same places that famous people have been. Men walk in reverence through the halls of West Point because Robert E. Lee, General s Grant, Custer, Mac Arthur and Eisenhower walked there. Hundreds of thousands have flocked to Independence Hall where Jefferson, Hancock, Washington and Franklin once worked. How many have gone to Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park or Wrigley Field to see where greats like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Ernie Banks played? How many have gone to Hollywood or to Rome to tread where the great have walked?
We do these things because we want to connect with greatness, to feel we have a connection with someone we have admired greatly. We travel great distances and spend a great deal on money to be in the same spot as Frank Sinatra, Elvis or some other star once stood. We can go to Gettysburg and look out and think that Robert E. Lee once looked at these same hills.
Each Sunday, and often each day we have the opportunity to stand where St. Francis and St. Patrick once stood, before Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the same Jesus Christ who John and Mary stood before at the Cross. In some mystical way beyond our capacity to explain we stand with Mary before Jesus on Calvary. We are joined by all those who ever worshiped Christ at mass.
We join in with St. Mary Magdalene, St. Monica, St. Benedict, St. George, Padre Pio, Frances Cabrini, Elizabeth Seton, Maximilian Kolbe, Mother Teresa and John Paul II as they worship Jesus in heaven. Every time at mass we say the Sanctus, the Holy, Holy, Holy we joined them in heaven as they worship the God of all Creation.
As we say the prayers of the mass we repeat in modern English the same words that all the saints used to worship God. We perform many of the same actions as the greats of the Church performed. Our mass is the same mass instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper. The prayers of the Consecration come from the New Testament accounts of the Last Supper. Our mass goes back to Jesus. Why would we want to attend any other Sunday service?
We should be in awe of what happens at mass. We stand with all those over the course of 2000 years who have worshipped God in the Mass. We receive the same Jesus who died on the Cross. We receive the same body and blood as the Apostles did at the Last Supper. We receive the same Jesus, Mary received in Communion. We receive the same Lord as any of our favorite saints. We not only get to stand where they stood but we get to touch and be touched by the same Jesus they touched.
At West Point they talk about the long grey line of cadets who went through there. Some how each cadet carries on the mission of those who went before. We too stand as part of a longer line of billions going back 2000 years to Mary, the first disciple. We share in the same tradition and mission. We are part of something greater than anything on earth. We not only connect with human greatness, we touch the Divine.
There was a T-shirt out a few years ago listing the Top Ten reasons to remain Roman Catholic. Among the reasons were the saints, a great pope and confession. The number one reason was the Eucharist.
It is the Eucharist that sets the Catholic Church apart from all others. We have the Real Presence of Jesus present in every Tabernacle and at every mass. Jesus, the Son of God, the Almighty One waits for us in our Tabernacle. We can enter the presence of the Lamb of God anything we enter a Catholic Church. The Miracle Worker from Galilee, the one who raised Lazarus, healed the paralytic and fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fish sits waiting for us in the Tabernacle.
Could someone tell we believe all of this from observing us in church? Do our actions show our awareness that we are in the presence of God? Surveys tell us that less than a third of Catholics believe in the Real Presence. Surveys also tell us that maybe a third go to mass regularly. It would be logical to expect that those who go to mass come from the third that believe in the Real Presence.
However, our behavior makes me wonder if we really get it? This weekend a family of six or more walked across the front of the church to get to Grandma and Grandpa. They walked right past the Tabernacle and only the Mother nodded in respect.
During mass there was a late high school maybe college age student who used a Pda or I phone for the whole mass. He didn’t even stop for the Consecration. Then there are those who approach communion chewing gum. Aren’t we supposed to fast for an hour?
What about the people who wave and greet people all the way up the aisle? What about those who receive and walk right out the door? In one church last weekend it looked like a hundred people left before I even received. Jesus went through the whole Passion including three hours on the Cross and we can’t even stay for a whole mass.
What about those who dress as if they’re going to the beach rather than to see the King of Kings? What about those who dress so immodestly that one feels like changing seats?
It isn’t just on Sundays that you see bizarre behavior but during the week too. Amazingly enough people will stop to visit a church and pray before one of the statues on the side without even recognizing the Presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. On occasion you even see this during Adoration. There was one woman who entered the church walked down a side aisle past the monstrance on the altar to her right and went and knelt before the manger then left without noticing the exposed Eucharist.
I spoke to one person who prayed before the statue of Mary and he didn’t know what the Tabernacle was or where it was located. It wasn’t that he was new to the church. I’ve seen him fairly regularly at the noon mass for the past twenty months.
Is it no wonder that we don’t see miracles more often? Maybe if we treated the Eucharist like God we’d see some.
This Wednesday I saw an extraordinary show of reverence for the Eucharist. A young Latino man maybe in his twenties or early thirties walked in the back door of the church. He didn’t look around the church to see who was there or at the statues. Instead he knelt in the center aisle his eyes locked on the tabernacle and on his knees went up the aisle to the sanctuary where he prayed as close as he was permitted to the tabernacle for a long time and then left.
I have no idea what he was praying for. His eyes glistened with tears. It was obvious that he knew he was approaching God. He knew who he was going to pray to. He knew what was important.
This is how we should all treat the Eucharist. Most of us probably can’t walk up the aisle on our knees but we can in our hearts. We have to be aware of the tremendous privilege of being in the presence of Almighty God of what a blessing it is just to walk into a Catholic Church. We have to lift up our hearts and attention to God present in the Tabernacle. We have to realize what a grace it is to spend time with Jesus after Communion. We would be wise to take advantage of the chance to be with him. The coffee shop, restaurant or grocery shopping can wait. The traffic in the parking lot will be gone if we wait with Jesus.
We can never make up those moments after mass with Jesus that we throw away by rushing. They are lost forever. We have to take advantage of every second we get to spend with Him. Rather than rushing off we should be like a lover in the movies watching the plane or train of their beloved until the last second?
Lord. We beg You to help us get it to understand the privilege of being in Your Presence and of receiving You. Help us to be more reverent, to focus our attention on You and to return Your awesome love. Amen
There is Power in the Eucharist
If Catholics really understood their faith there would be lines down the block for every mass. Probably the biggest thing we don’t understood is the Eucharist. Surveys say that only thirty per cent of Catholics believe in the Real Presence.
Present in every consecrated host is Jesus Christ. Jesus loved us so much He decided to make Himself present in the host to us. This is the same Jesus who loved us enough to be scourged, crowned with thorns, and crucified for us. The same Jesus who carried the Cross on His whip torn back and shoulders to Calvary out of love for us; is present in the host that we receive. We will never understand how He does this until we reach Heaven but why is simple. He loves us more than we can imagine.
The Jesus who is present in the Eucharist is the same Jesus who walked the roads of Galilee and Judea. He is the same who healed the lepers, the blind man, the lame, the deaf and the paralytic. He is the same Jesus who raised the daughter of Jairus and also Lazarus from the dead. This is the same Jesus with all His compassion and power.
In Hebrews 13:8 Paul tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever so Jesus is the same today as He was 2000 years ago. Matthew 14:14 tells us that He had compassion on all who came to Him. He still has compassion today. The gospels tell us Jesus healed all those who came to Him in faith. Why then do we not see more healings today?
Perhaps the fault lies in us. Do we really approach the Eucharist as if Jesus was present? Is our belief evident in the way we dress, pray and act at mass? Are we focused on Jesus or those around us? Do we go to mass to worship God or to socialize?
Do we really want the healing Jesus offers? When Jesus walked the earth He was interested in the total healing of a person. That is why He first told the paralytic that his sins are forgiven. The healing that Jesus wants to give us begins with a spiritual healing. He also wants to heal us emotionally, intellectually, relationally then physically. He knows we will never be happy unless we are healed totally.
Too many of us want to be healed physically of things like diabetes, liver disease or heart disease but we don’t want to stop eating or drinking the things that contributed to them. We don’t want to admit that we were wrong in our behavior. We don’t want to change.
Emotionally, Jesus wants to free us of our anger, our resentments, our bitterness and our unforgiveness. Many of us are wounded emotionally from our past and Jesus wants to enter into our pain and heal it. Often we won’t let Him. We don’t want to forgive or let go of the anger. I have a right to be mad. Jesus won’t force us to accept His healing and He won’t go faster than we can handle.
We all have so many wounds from our past that need healing. Many of us need spiritual healing. There are so many things we need to let go of like our anger, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, guilt, worries, and pain from our past, our stubbornness and other things. Jesus wants to heal these things. Often the healing of these things opens us up to the natural healing processes of the body or modern medicine. Often this is all the healing we really need.
Many of us need help in building up our faith and opening ourselves to God’s love. A lot of us believe that God heals but His healing is for other people. We believe that for some reason we’re unworthy. We haven’t forgiven ourselves for some sin. We may have confessed it but we still hang onto the guilt.
Many of us need help in understanding that God’s plan is for the best and that all things work for the good of those who love Him as Paul told us in Romans 8:28.
Many of us need help in opening ourselves to whatever God wants to do at this time whether it is spiritual, emotional, intellectual, relational or physical healing. This is where healing prayer comes in. We feel more confident when someone else prays for us. That person can and usually does point to the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Jesus and Jesus as the healer. That person can teach about the healing process and encourage people to continue to pray and to come back for more prayer before the Eucharist.
I don’t know what happens all the time but I know that something good happens every time we pray with people. Many healing priests will tell you that God may not heal everyone but that everyone is blessed in the same way. Every time we go to Communion or before the Eucharist God wants to bless us. How much He blesses depends on how open we are to what He wants to do. Whoever prays with us can begin by asking God to help us to be open to whatever He wants to do.
An article in the Catholic Advocate of the Archdiocese of Newark talked about healing masses and prayer maybe 12 or 13 years ago. It said many things could happen. Sometimes the person receives the peace they need to face their death. Sometimes they receive a complete healing. Most times the process goes quicker and easier. A lot depends on our faith and openness to God’s desires.
In 12 years I’ve seen a lot of people who seem to receive a sense of peace. I’ve seen people who gradually improved. I’ve spoken to people who asked that operations go well and they did often better than the doctor expected. Doctors were able to remove all of the cancer when they didn’t expect to.
There were also people who were prayed over and died. I don’t know what the Lord did in that case if they lived longer than they would have, if they received a sense of peace, reconciled with their family or what. I do know that the Lord did something good. That’s all we need to know.
All these people were prayed over before the Eucharist. The power is in the Eucharist. The person praying with others has no power. They are only the tool or instrument the Lord uses just like Balaam’s donkey in Genesis.
My father served in World War II, earning 5 bronze stars. Both of his brothers served plus his two brother-in-laws.
They never talked about what they went through, all they sacrificed, only why they served, what they fought for.
They fought to protect our country, to protect our freedom. They knew if Hitler won, our freedom would be lost. They were willing to sacrifice their lives so that we might be free. The same is true of the Korean War, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. Our soldiers put everything on the line so that we may live free.
For my father, religious freedom was important, probably the most important freedom we have. He, his brothers and brother-in-laws were devout Catholics. Their military service and sacrifices were motivated by their faith, by their desire to keep this country one where they had freedom of religion.
How can we let our government take away our religious freedom now? How can we allow the government to force Catholics to violate their faith by paying for birth control? Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers have given their lives to protect our freedoms. Now are we going to passively sit by and let this government gradually take away those freedoms? Are we going to let the president in effect degrade their sacrifices and figuratively spit on their graves? Are we going to let him throw away their sacrifices just to please Planned Parenthood and his political allies?
Do we really care about our country? Do we really care about the price these soldiers paid for our freedom? Do we really care about the millions of military personnel who risked all so that we can be free? Will we dishonor their sacrifices by passively sitting by while the president throws out the First Amendment?
This Memorial Day remember not only the sacrifices made but the rights these soldiers died to protect.
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This morning’s song at mass, A Living Faith (Faith of our Fathers), made me think. We have a faith that has endured for almost 2000 years. It has survived persecution by the Romans, attacks by the Pagan tribes that invaded Europe, the Islamic attempt to conquer Europe, the Reformation and persecutions in France, Spain, England, Mexico, Korea, Vietnam and Japan to name a few places. Our faith has survived Communism. Despite the martyrdom of hundreds of thousands we have remained true to the teaching of Jesus.
We have such an awesome faith. When we kneel or stand at the Consecration of the mass we join Mary herself, St. Peter, St Patrick, Joan of Arc, Catherine of Siena, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Elizabeth Seton and all those in our family who have gone before us in worshipping the Lord. We are privileged to be part of the Communion of Saints and part of a Church built on eternal not popular values. We belong to the one Church created by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Our Church is accountable to Jesus Christ not the masses. It is God’s Church not a social club. Our doctrines are shaped by the Holy Spirit not opinion polls.
We’ve been given such tremendous gifts in the Sacraments especially the Eucharist. We are challenged as St Augustine said to become what we receive. Each time we receive Jesus we should become a little more like Jesus, humble, more loving, forgiving but also more obedient.
We have to remember Jesus was obedient unto death. His prayer in the Garden was “Thy will be done”. He is our model of what it means to be Catholic. We are called to love others as ourselves, to judge not lest we be judged as to forgive others as we want God to forgive us. We are also called to be obedient to the Church teachings.
Our faith has been passed down generation after generation for almost 2000 years. We are not free to just change it for the sake of convenience or political correctness. We cannot redefine for ourselves the teachings of the Church and call ourselves good Catholics. If we take it upon ourselves like Henry VIII or Martin Luther to reject certain teachings of our Church we aren’t practicing the same faith that St. Dominic preached. We aren’t following the faith that Mother Theresa followed. We aren’t following the faith that the martyrs gave their lives for. We aren’t in communion with the saints in heaven or the Church on earth. What we are doing is denying our faith and the Church Christ set up.
We have a faith worth dying for, one that hundreds of thousands have died for. We should be defending our Church and faith. Now is the time to stand up for our faith not abandoning it. There can be no such thing as a pro abort Catholic or a Catholic for choice. That isn’t what it means to be Catholic. Rejecting or denying part of our faith means we reject the faith.
We are once again a Church under attack and persecution. Make no mistake about it. We are under attack because we stand against those who exploit women for profit, abortionists and pornographers. We are under attack because we stand for what is right rather than an anything goes philosophy. We are under attack because we believe and teach that God is real and calls us to be better than the world around us. Like the Roman martyrs we refuse to worship the false gods of modern society.
It is time for our generation to stand up for our God and our faith. Like those before us we must be willing to make sacrifices rather than deny our faith.
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. Every year we hear about the Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples in the Upper Room. Every year we hear over and over from the book of Acts of miracles witnessed by the early Church as the Holy Spirit worked through these same disciples. As Catholics who have been baptized and confirmed we possess the same Holy Spirit but where are the miracles?
Why don’t we see the Holy Spirit working through us as the Spirit worked through the Holy Spirit? Why aren’t we laying hands on the sick and praying for healing? Why aren’t we allowing the Spirit to work through us? Why aren’t we reaching out to others in the name of Christ? Why aren’t we going to church expecting miracles? We possess the same Holy Spirit as the Apostles, not a watered down version. The same power that was available to the Apostles is available to us. The same God that used the Apostles wants to use us to spread His kingdom, to bring people closer to Him.
Like the Apostles we too live in a pagan age where the True God is ignored and mocked. People were drawn to the Church by the miracles that occurred there. We need the same thing. We need to show the modern world that God is alive and wants to bless them. We need to allow God to use us to bless others. It doesn’t matter how uneducated or unworthy we are. The Apostles and early disciples weren’t scholars or worthy. All but John abandoned Jesus. God used them anyway. In fact it was their weakness that glorified God because they knew it was all the Spirit and Jesus not them.
We are a part of the Church founded by Christ. Our confirmation was performed for most of us by a bishop who can trace his lineage back to one of the 12 Apostles. We have Jesus Christ truly present at every mass, the same Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead, fed 5,000, healed the paralytic and calmed the storm.
Yet it seems that other denominations see more miracles. This week I met a convert to Catholicism, a former Pentecostal. She was amazed that we don’t go to church expecting miracles. We have the true faith, Jesus in the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit but we expect nothing. Many of us go to church on Sunday hoping for a short homily not a miracle.
We are missing so much of what God wants to give us. Jesus came so that we might have life and have it abundantly yet we fail to even seek the blessings He wants to give us.
Do we not understand that our God is the God of infinite love, infinite mercy and infinite power? Do we not understand how passionately He wants to bless us, to draw us close to Him to guide us? Do we know how much we miss because we ignore the Holy Spirit?
Today we hear a lot of criticism of Mary and the denial of her role in Redemption. There are novels and movies that portray Mary as the stereotypical Jewish Mother, far from perfect. Many Christians feel that Mary shouldn’t be considered any better than one else especially the Apostles. Peter who denied Jesus and Paul who persecuted the Church are held in higher esteem. I’ve even heard a sermon by a Catholic priest critical of the Miraculous Medal Novena.
If we really understood all of the pain and suffering Mary went through for our sakes we would be sure to honor her. Probably no one but Jesus suffered more for the Church. Mary suffered emotionally for almost the entire life of Jesus.
We might as well start at the beginning. Most of us think it was probably exciting to have the Angel appear with his message. But who would believe such a message? Joseph didn’t. He was going to divorce her quietly. How would you like to be pregnant and not married in a society where you get stoned to death for it? Only the appearance of an angel in a dream to Joseph and Joseph’s decision to marry Mary saved Mary from that possibility. It didn’t save her from the gossips and backbiting. Think about that! People were speaking negatively about Mary right from the start. All through the life of Jesus there was gossip about her.
We all know about the journey to Bethlehem and the birth in a stable. We can imagine how hard that was. We read in Scripture about the Feast of the Presentation when Simeon held Jesus in his arms and prophesied that a “sword will pierce” Mary’s heart. Simeon confirmed that the prophecies of Isaiah applied to Jesus. He would not be a glorious king like David as many of the contemporary Jews thought but a suffering servant destined to die for our salvation. Would it ever be possible to Mary to forget that her son would suffer so bitterly?
We know about the Flight to Egypt and the deaths of the Holy Innocents. How did that feel? Your son isn’t even two years old and they tried to kill Him. On top of that women you knew had to suffer the murder of their children.
How would it feel later to watch your Son leave to begin His Mission knowing that it would end in the Cross? How would it feel to hear of the attacks of the Pharisees? How would it feel to hear of so many people who rejected Jesus and to see this happen personally in Nazareth?
How did it feel to go to Jerusalem for the Passover, knowing what was coming? How did it feel to hear from John that Jesus had been arrested? How painful must it have been to hear the crowd thunder “Crucify Him”? How painful could it be to see your only Son carrying the Cross after having endured the Scourging and Crowning with thorns, to see the blood running down His face and the stains all over His tunic? How would you feel to see rocks and other projectiles strike your Son, to hear Him cursed, mocked and called illegitimate?
What was it like to watch Him fall and hear people cheer? What was it like to see His hands nailed to a cross and then His feet? What was it like to see His body jolt as the Cross was placed in its hole? What was it like to watch His body convulse in pain? What was it like to see Him unable even to hold His head straight because of the thorns?
As bad as it was to watch all this Mary had to listen to the mocking of the Pharisees and others, to her Son cursed and mocked but also to hear herself abused. Think about it the one way to increase the pain of Jesus would be to abuse His mother in front of Him. Think about how Jesus felt then.
Think about how Jesus must feel now to see His Mother mocked in plays and books, to hear her role denied and degraded, to hear that she was a sinner as Protestants claim. Think about what we are doing as we do such things. We join with those on Calvary who hurt Jesus by mocking her.
Do we really want to do that? It is bad enough that Jesus had to suffer for our sins. But do we have to join those on Calvary mocking His Mother?
Jesus, we thank You that You chose Mary to play a special role in our Salvation and that You choose to continue to have Mary play a part in the Salvation of mankind. We ask You to open our hearts and the hearts of all to the love that You desire for us to have for Your Mother. Amen