14 JUN 2009

The Eucharist and What it Should Mean to Us

       In our first reading today we hear of Moses taking the sacrificial blood of a young bull and splashing it on the altar and then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people. We hear frequently about the sacrifices made of different animals in biblical times through Scripture. In this case the blood was used on the altar and the people to show that God shares the covenant with the Israelites, despite the fact that often they will be unfaithful.

       Fortunately in modern times we do not use animals as sacrifice, because as we know Jesus sacrificed himself for us on the cross. He gave us his body and blood so as to become the mediator of the new covenant, a covenant in which his blood was shed for the sins of all. Every time we gather together at Mass we celebrate the Eucharist. We remember and make present Jesus’ sacrifice and the new meaning he gave to the Passover and the covenant. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that ''Christ is unique; and surpasses all other sacrifices'' (CCC, #614). There is no need now for other sacrificial offerings. So therefore we do not offer animals or their blood as any sort of sacrifice.

       As we gather together here each and every Sunday and many of us during the week, we celebrate the greatest gift God has given us. We come together to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. How does this come about? One thing that sets us Catholics apart from other Christian faiths is that we believe we are receiving the body and blood of Christ and not just a symbol or prop. The priest through the powers bestowed upon him by the Bishop and ultimately from Jesus Christ transforms bread and wine into the Body and Blood right here at the altar; the source and summit of our beliefs. Through the consecration of bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The changing of bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Christ is properly called Transubstantiation. This became our understanding after the Council of Trent in the mid 1500’s (CCC, #1376).

       The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states ''this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner'', through the celebration of the Eucharist at Mass (CCC,#1367).

       After four years of formation to become a Permanent Deacon and now a year after ordination I for one have developed a deep appreciation for the sacrament of Holy Communion. As the minister of the Cup I usually don’t have the privilege of distributing Communion under the species of the Body of Christ; however I do administer the Cup or the Blood of Christ and I am always amazed at the reactions of the people when they come up to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist.

       Some people are actually brought to tears as they approach the Eucharist for reception. Receiving the Eucharist means so much to so many people, it is truly and honor for those who are “extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion” and for those of us ordained as ordinary ministers, such as Father Dan and Father Bob, and myself, to be able to share the Eucharist with the faithful.

       I am constantly amazed at the reception I get when I take the Eucharist to those in a nursing home, the girls at the Juvenile Correctional facility, or if I have the privilege of going to someone’s home to take Communion to someone who can not join us here in our church to celebrate the Eucharist. We have many people here at St. Malachy who help with the distribution of communion to those who can not make it to Mass. They usually do it during the week and we encourage anyone who is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to further their calling to help out with the distribution of the Eucharist during the week, when possible or on Sunday after they attend Mass. If you know of someone homebound or in a nursing home that would like to receive the Eucharist during the week, please contact the parish office.

       As we continue with our celebration today of the paschal mystery, let us remind ourselves of why we gather together here today and thank God for the gift he gave us in the Body and the Blood of his Son Jesus Christ.

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