Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Seek and Adore the Lord's Miraculous Body

Father John J. Lombardi

The body was the focus all week. As President Regan's remains were flown from California to Washington, people watched in admiration and sorrow, following his body in flag-draped American color. In the Capitol the body was solemnly transferred onto a caisson and marched down Pennsylvania Ave: twenty-one fighter jets roared overhead in honor. The President's body then lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Guards, changing every half-hour protected it. The nation seemed transfixed upon seeing it. It became a kind of touchstone of memory and prayer.

On this Feast of Corpus Christi-we have a different kind of body present among us- Jesus Christ in the Real Presence of the Holy Eucharist. We should never take Him for granted, and with similar and-even stronger-- affection people showed for the deceased President's body, we should give more to God Himself! Fr Sal Livigni, Chaplain of John Hopkins Hospital, recently said: "We have lost a sense of wonder and awe. But the children have it. When they receive Communion they know it's the Lord. We need that."

Let us meditate upon the following from The Catechism: "The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the Cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit"

There's a treasury of reflection in this paragraph. Let's take four elements. First and foremost, the Catechism, the Church and Pope John Paul are at pains to stress: THE MASS IS A SACRIFICE! It is not simply a sacred meal or a gathering of Catholics. The sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist is one of the most important things in the world for a Catholic to remember! Sacrifice is a controversial word today. For sacrifice implies: something is wrong with the world and needs fixing (think of the three young children beheaded last week in Baltimore). Sacrifice means that we need make appeasement with God (Jesus alone can do that as both God-Man); sacrifice emphasizes the need to atone for sins (yes: we still have to make up for our sins as Divine Justice requires).

All these implications are not readily acceptable to our world or, indeed, to some in our contemporary Church. Some people want the Mass only to be a "fellowship". It is that, but much more and, essentially, the Mass is much deeper and mysterious than a merely human phenomenon. We need guard the sacrificial nature of the Mass as one of the most misunderstood and underemphasized Spiritual Realties today. Vatican II, in its first-issued document, "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy-Sacrosanctum Concilium"--in the very first paragraph, says: "For it is the Liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, 'the work of our redemption is accomplished'…"(Heb 13:14). So, this Council stresses: we humans must be redeemed, and be saved-by Jesus Christ.

Now, what else does the Catechism teach us?: The Mass is not a drama (or a kind of theatre as some would want it), nor is it simply a re-enactment (of a merely past event, as some Protestants view it), but it is a re-presentation of the same single sacrifice of Christ's Last Supper and Calvary. The essence of the Mass-Jesus' Sacrifice-- is the same with the original Sacrifice, but the forms of presentation are different. So: it is our limited spiritual perception which must be sharpened, brightened and tweaked-opened to sense, however partially the supernaturalism of the sacrifice and metaphysical nature of God's love.

Next, the Mass is a memorial of Christ' sacrifice. A contemporary memorial like the recently dedicated World War II memorial in Washington, helps us to remember the person's or group's identity, nature and, ultimately, sacrifice in a past event. When people now walk thru Washington mall they will more likely think of the heroism of those who gave to God and country. The Mass is somewhat similar to that-it is a kind of "spiritual-metaphysical vehicle," a "dynamic-reminder-memorial," to spiritually transport us to the actual re-presentation of Christ's unconditional love. If there is no memorial, then there is no remembrance. No Mass, then no Sacrifice. This is why we should attend the Sacrifice of the Mass as much as possible, for we are forgetful people! A seminary priest once said to some deacon-seminarians :"You are ordained to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass."

Lastly, the Mass helps us to apply the fruits of Jesus' Sacrifice. The Lord doesn't want to exclusively do all the work of Salvation-He wants us to help Him. So, He gives us the Mass to spread the supernatural benefits to others. Be like Our Lady-a "channel of grace", and so go to Mass, receive the Eucharist and then pray, something like: Lord, I thank you for your blessings and Eucharist. Now I offer up and send these graces to … Then "spiritually telegraph" the blessings to a friend or loved one in need, thereby applying the fruit of Jesus Sacrifice… Once, a seminarian didn't realize Masses could be offered for living persons as well as the deceased. He went to Mass one day with his Mom, and then heard his name mentioned as the Mass intention. He said he was instantly filled with light, peace and a "sacred charge" as he realized how much grace he would receive from Jesus' Offering re-presented and memorialized in the Mass. So: pass on the grace like Mary-be an interchanger!...

Examine Your Conscience…When you go to Church are you fully prepared to receive Holy Communion? We should all seriously meditate upon the Majesty of Jesus Coming to us in the Eucharist before receiving Him. Do you? Today, some Catholic Bishops in the USA are thankfully inviting pro-abortion politicians to more seriously re-consider their Communion practices. Why? Because one Maryland Catholic senator led a pro-abortion march in Washington a few years ago. Another senator voted ten times for pro-abortion laws, including partial birth abortion. Should they receive Holy Communion? Are they really in communion with the Catholic Church--what she teaches and stands for?

Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis, a trained canon lawyer, encouraged pro-abortion Catholic politicians to reconsider to God's Natural Law (imprinted within all human hearts, a serious sin to disobey)-that it is evil to kill innocent children. He then called them to refrain from Holy Communion if they continued supporting abortion laws. He took a further step: he barred Sen. John Kerry from receiving Communion if he visited St Louis. The Bishop wrote (in consideration of Church Canon Law # 915) that it was his pastoral duty to bar pro-abortion Catholic politicians from receiving Communion and that, to do otherwise would foster scandal and dissent. In essence: you can't have blood on your hands and Jesus on your lips at same time. St Paul says " a person should examine himself" (I Cor. 11:28,29) before bringing judgment upon himself in illicitly receiving Holy Communion. You may ask: Why should only pro-abortion politicians be dis-invited from Communion, and not those who support just wars and the death penalty?

Answer: Because the Catholic Church allows, in certain situations, both capital punishment and justified war to occur (under strict circumstances). They are prudential judgments of statesman, dealing with adult parties, and not against the Natural Law. Abortion, however, attacks human nature by murdering innocent life. Same-sex unions and stem cell usage (of innocent baby's body parts for research) are also inherently evil actions and may split a person's communion with God and the Church, and go against the Natural law. Here are some pervading Myths surrounding this controversy.

Myth # 1: Politicization of Eucharist- Some accuse the few bold bishops of doing this. By what standard? What is the objective evidence of "politicizing the Eucharist"?  The language used by Bp. Burke and others is pastoral and religious, not political. Just because most Catholic pro-abortion politicians are of a certain party is not the responsibility, nor the concern, of the brave bishops. Eternal salvation, scandal, authentic Communion are their priority, not politics. Actually, people who accuse the bishops of politicizing the Eucharist are ones who may be politicizing it, by calling to attention the politicians and their party, and for bringing up the issue of politics in the first place. An error is an error (abortion and Catholic politicians supporting it), and should not be kept "hostage" because some say calling attention to it equals "politicization". Would politicians or bishops treat neo-Nazis, racists or child pornographers the same, who publicly and continuously scandalize the faithful and maim others, and allow them to publicly receive Holy Communion? Let's thank God for the lion-hearted bishops who are risking, loving and leading.

Myth # 2: Church Controlling Politicians- These bishops are not telling people what to do or how to vote, but they are encouraging them to vote and act for God and children by a certain way. Look: obviously, special interest pro-abortion and homsoexualist groups encourage politicians to vote their narrow and political ways. The bishops are simply leading.

Myth # 3: You'll always be liked. Bishops (and priests)often have to make difficult, unpopular decisions. This question over Communion is a unique one and yet no different from other tough decisions. It's good to recall: "What is popular is not always right; what is right is not always popular." We Catholics in America, priests and bishops in particular, need to simply bare the hard truth-we are not part of this world or here to be popular or liked; we've relied far too much on media savvy and marketing, instead of the mystical graces and truths of the Mysteries. Today we need think of the Lord Himself Who died for the Truth, and also think of the martyr saints, such as St Ignatius of Antioch, who said: "Christianity shows its greatness when it is hated by the world".

Let us ask St Tarsicius to help us. He was young saint who was delivering Holy Communion in Rome, in the third century. Some enemies saw him and attacked him for the Eucharist. He defended our Lord and was murdered rather than give up Jesus in the Eucharist. Will you?

Ten Things to Do for the Mass in Your World…

  1. Attend the Mass more frequently, more intimately and intensely. See and accept Jesus Sacrifice for your salvation…Spread the graces to others and help Him redeem the world.
  2. Practice more interior participation thru holy Silence and listen to Him speak to you more in the Mass thru this internal stillness.
  3. Encourage Latin-music, signing, prayers: Vatican II did, why not you and your parish?!
  4. First Corinthians (11:23-26) emphasizes the "handing on", which is the Eucharist. Pray for Protestants to come to Jesus in the Eucharist, like other converts. Scot Hahn converted from radical anti-Catholicism to helping others convert today.
  5. Sunday's First reading (Gn. 14: 18-20)emphasizes Melchizedek as an archetype of Jesus. Pray for conversion of Jews to Jesus. Jesus is the Messiah. Read about Marty Barak and his conversion from Judaism.
  6. Pray and work for healing of abuses in the celebration of the Mass-by priests, laypersons, bishops.
  7. Examen your conscience and life- Go to Confession. Soon!
  8. Dress up more elegantly-Read the Book of Revelation and how they worshipped in elegant dress-in Heaven and Earth. So, think: You're going to meet Jesus-and how are you gonna' dress?
  9. Meditate upon this saying of St Augustine on the Eucharist: "Receive what you believe. Eat what you receive. Become what you eat."
  10. Bow and worship Him by making chapel visits and holy hours before him in the Holy Eucharist

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi