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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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An Introduction to the Mass

The Mass is primarily the work of Christ on Calvary and by extension the work of the Church in its sacramental re-presentation. The word “liturgy” literally means work of the people. Our Lord reveals his infinite and sacrificial love for us.  We are called forth to enter into this love and to offer ourselves with Christ as an oblation or gift to our heavenly Father.  We obey the commandments about keeping the Sabbath and worshipping the one true God. We keep the most fundamental precept of the Church.  Everything that the Church is, flows from the Eucharist.  It is said that where ever we find Peter, we find the true Church.  It could also be said, that where ever we find the Eucharist, we also find the Church. The narrative of the Last Supper given by St. Paul is the manner by which he celebrates the Eucharist.  The Mass finds it roots in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and the Lord’s Supper which intimately signifies or makes this mystery present for all generations in remembrance of him.  It is a meal and a sacrifice.  Jesus is made present in the mystical body of God’s people, in the ordained priest at the altar, in the Word proclaimed and in the Eucharist that is shared.

Our appreciation of the redemptive work of Christ is found within Christian anthropology in terms of the Creator to the creature dynamic.  Catholicism would speak less of wrath and more about the honor of God and divine justice.  Jesus makes satisfaction for the infinite dishonor shown to almighty God by our sin.  It is a debt in justice that we owe but could not pay as finite creatures.  God so loves us that he sends his only Son as a member of the human family.  As one of us he could render the propitiation or oblation that is demanded.  As a divine Person he could do so with infinite satisfaction, something we could not do.  It goes back to the biblical maxim that only God can forgive sins.  We cannot save ourselves.  Only God can save us.  He does so from our side of the equation.  It is as if our names are upon the nails of the Cross.  As a mortal man he is vulnerable to the passion and crucifixion.  As God he could surrender his life for each and every one of us and then take it up again in the resurrection.  He did not have to do this.  No one and nothing could compel him.  He does so freely.  Jesus dies for the accumulative sins of all humanity throughout all time.  The Mass allows us to be present at the saving mystery and to offer ourselves as grafted to him as an acceptable sacrifice to the Father. His act of love conquers suffering, sin and death.      

The recent statement (2021) and document being prepared by the USCCB on the Eucharist is part of a three year program to emphasize the meaning of the great sacrament for Catholics. The whole business of dissenting politicians and Eucharistic reception is entirely a side-note on the periphery of this initiative. We should all be properly disposed to receive Holy Communion. What must be a major concern is that the sacrament that feeds and heals the soul of one in a state of grace can literally bring down judgment and conviction to the soul of another in mortal sin or lacking sufficient supernatural faith.

I will state something that is at the heart of the current debate about Eucharistic reception:  You cannot credibly say AMEN to the invisible but REAL presence of Christ in the host while saying NO to the invisible but REAL presence of one made in his image hidden in the womb. The mystery of the incarnation makes every child a reflection of the Christ Child. While on the archdiocesan priest council I asked, how would we respond to one presenting himself for Holy Communion who was a known Nazi favorable to Jewish genocide or a powerful white supremacist enabling black lynching? Are the unborn in the womb any less human and persons of incommensurate value?  No answer was forthcoming except a vote that I would decidedly lose. Afterwards, I was censured for my bluntness on this matter by the now discredited Cardinal McCarrick. Nevertheless, this is a truth that I will repeat again and again. This teaching is intimately connected to the proclamation of the Good News or what Pope John Paul II calls the Gospel of Life.

We are hearing a cry of timidity today not to weaponize the Eucharist. But did we not once regard the pilgrim church as the Church Militant, campaigning not only against men but powers and principalities? The Eucharist has always been regarded as the most effective weapon in our arsenal. Indeed, it may be all that really stands between us and the legions that oppose the sanctity of life and devalue the dignity of persons. The fuse is lit.  Instead of passivity and accommodation, we need a taste of the ancient faith that is courageous and sure of itself.  All true people of faith must bravely proclaim and commit themselves to the Gospel of Life, no matter what the cost.  The battle with modernity is real but we opt for the path of nonviolence even if it should demand that we mix our blood with Christ’s.  The Eucharist signifies unity with the Lord and one another in the great peace of Christ.  “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). It is this Lord that comes to us in Holy Communion.  It is this Lord that cannot be reconciled with those who would promote or enable the killing of children in the womb— those who would steal the gift of life; slaughter the innocent; and destroy or usurp what God has made.

Jesus means what he says about the Eucharist:

John 6:52-58: The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food [meat] indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who eats me will live because of me. This is that bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

John 6:60: Many of his disciples, when they had heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

John 6:66-69: After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Will you also go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

The Jews murmur (John 6:41) and abandon Jesus just as certain so-called Christians reject the Eucharist today. Do they even believe that Jesus is God, given that God can do all things? Jesus does not compromise or explain away his teaching in any manner. He insists upon a literal understanding of the real presence in the Eucharist. There is no misunderstanding. Jesus allows the murmuring Jews among his disciples to abandon him. Peter responds correctly. Like his many successors, Peter steers the Church toward the truth of Christ. Jesus is God and whatever God says is true, no matter how fantastic and deep a mystery.

A PRAYER BEFORE MASS

Any of a number of prayers might be offered before the start of Mass.  Unfortunately, many either do not pray prior to Mass or just come without spiritual preparation after Mass has already begun.

A Prayer before Mass by St. Thomas Aquinas – Almighty and everlasting God, behold I come to the Sacrament of Thine only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: I come as one infirm to the physician of life, as one unclean to the fountain of mercy, as one blind to the light of everlasting brightness, as one poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth. Therefore, I implore the abundance of Thy measureless bounty that Thou wouldst vouchsafe to heal my infirmity, wash my uncleanness, enlighten my blindness, enrich my poverty and clothe my nakedness, that I may receive the Bread of Angels, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, with such reverence and humility, with such sorrow and devotion, with such purity and faith, with such purpose and intention as may be profitable to my soul’s salvation. Grant unto me, I pray, the grace of receiving not only the Sacrament of our Lord’s Body and Blood, but also the grace and power of the Sacrament. O most gracious God, grant me so to receive the Body of Thine only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, which He took from the Virgin Mary, as to merit to be incorporated into His mystical Body, and to be numbered amongst His members. O most loving Father, give me grace to behold forever Thy Beloved Son with His face at last unveiled, whom I now purpose to receive under the sacramental veil here below. Amen.

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