Lesson from the first letter of blessed Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians
1 Cor 11: 20-32.
Brethren, When you come therefore into one place, it is not now to eat the Lord’s supper. For every one taketh before his own supper to eat. And one indeed is hungry and another is drunk. What, have you not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke and said: Take ye and eat: This is My Body, which shall be delivered for you. This do for the commemoration of Me. In like manner also the chalice, after He had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in My Blood. This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of Me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until He come. Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and the Blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself; and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Body of the Lord. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you: and many sleep. But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world.
R. Thanks be to God.
Today we celebrate the beginning of the passion of the Lord, the institution of the Holy Priesthood, the institution of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the betrayal of Jesus at the hands of he, whom it would have been better to have never been born, his trial, and his epic battle with the ancient foe in the garden of Gethsemane. This night is different from all nights in that the Lord will finally, and definitively deliver us from the land of Egypt, that place symbolic of sin and slavery. This night sees the new and eternal sacrifice that all the others, throughout history, merely pointed to.
I can’t but help but think of the love of the Messiah on this night. For tonight, in view of what he shall accomplish in not even twenty-four hours on the Cross, gives to the apostles, and to us, the very gift of himself. This is an immense and ineffable gift of love. Such a gift requires, and even demands a return.
This total gift of self is mysterious. It hearkens back to those sacrifices we read of in the Old Testament that are so shrouded in mystery. It reminds us of the Paschal Sacrifice that foreshadowed the very events that will unfold tonight. Then there is the mysterious blood. Poured out each year from a spotless unblemished male lamb. The powerful blood that protects from the very angel of death. All so mysterious and veiled from the sight of the ancients. Yet for those with eyes to see, the mystery is not hidden from sight. For those who believe in the God Man, Jesus the Messiah, these hidden mysteries are luminous as the noon day sun. One may not see the full reality, but the faithful see not with the eyes of body, but with the eyes of faith.
What we see with the eyes of the body, is mere bread and wine. The eyes of faith see the ever living and gloriously luminous body and blood of the Lamb without blemish. The eyes of the body see a priest making gesticulations, speaking in a strange tongue, his face set toward the east. What the eyes of faith see is the new and eternal sacrifice of Calvary, offered not by a mere priest, but by THE Priest, who offers to the Father himself as victim. We see Jesus the Great High Priest offering secret and mysterious words to his Father hidden behind the veil of a language that is foreign to us. He faces east, that ancient and symbolic direction from whence comes the rising sun. All this is very foreign to the eyes of the body and the minds of the worldly, but to the believer, it is the heavenly worship of the temple in the heavenly Jerusalem.
And we of the true faith, not only observe this mystical supper from afar, but we, because of the great love of the Savior, actually take part. We join in singing the Sanctus, that powerful hymn of warrior angels. With our Guardian Angels, we bow down in adoration as Jesus brings down upon the Altar, through the ministry of his priest, his very own Body and Blood, offered to the Father, the very same sacrifice of Calvary. With our Lady, and St. John we are at the foot of the very Cross purpled by the blood of Jesus as he hangs there ready to give his last breath, his last drop of blood, his last act of the Divine will, as an act of love for the many.
And not only that, but in a supreme act of love that even the angels cannot partake in, but only man, he feeds us from his own hand, through the ministry of his priest, with his own flesh and blood. Just as the Cross was purpled by his blood, so now are our lips. What love! What an ineffable gift! To think, we are fed by the Lamb, with the Lamb! If we only understood this great mystery, we would die of utter love, for receiving he who IS love itself into our mortal bodies would cause our human heart to burst with love. How kind and gentle is the Lord, that he hides this reality under sacramental veils, so as to protect us from the effects of receiving love in its purest and potent form, lest we die. But we, with faith, know and understand the mysteries hidden under the veil.
This brings us to the return that such love requires, even demands. Such depths of love require the most loving reverence in return. Who, being fed by the Divine Lamb on the Divine Lamb would not fall to our knees, and allow the Good Shepherd to feed us as the spiritual children we are? Who would not allow Jesus, through the ministry of his priest, to place his own precious body and blood on our tongue? There is great humility learned from kneeling before the Lord of glory as he feeds us like a child. Such humility is needed in our modern world where the individual is hailed as supreme and pride rules. In return for the love shown us in the Most Blessed Sacrament, let us never fail to kneel and receive from the Lord his own body and blood upon our tongue. Let us offer it too in reparation for the thousands of Holy Communions received with indifference and irreverence, even on this day dedicated to the Holy Eucharist.
This also demands that we love the Lord Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle. We should frequently visit him there, and console his Sacred Heart, for he is so often left alone there, yet his love for man keeps him there. How often he is ignored there, without people showing proper reverence or decorum in his presence. How often in my priesthood have I witnessed the church, and the tabernacle of the Most High God, ignored in favor of talking, laughing, back slapping, and general murmuring as if he wasn’t even there! We need to make reparation for such indifference and unbelief.
Finally, we should defend the right of God to be worshipped in the manner he has revealed that he desires to be worshipped. The Lord reveals through the perennial teaching and praxis of the Church how he desires to be worshipped, and it is not in banality, or a way designed to go along with the spirit of the world, or some novel ideas cooked up by known freemasonic infiltrators into Holy Mother Church. No, the Lord has revealed what he desires, it is profound, transcendent, full of beauty, awe inspiring, deep, and other worldly. It is imbued with antiquity such that is timeless and full of mystery. It is full of ancient tongues, gestures and music. It is beyond us, and requires something of us in order to enter into it. And finally, it must, by its very nature, instill in us the truth of the Catholic Faith.
My dear children, let us receive tonight with great love and devotion the King of Love. Let us receive him with more love and devotion than ever before. Receive kneeling, and on the tongue. Do it tonight, of all nights. Don’t worry about what others think. If they think you a fool, it is they who are fools for not recognizing the time of their visitation by the King of Love.
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