Today we hear the crucial verses from John 6 that form the foundation of the Catholic understanding of the eucharist: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you…For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” This teaching came in response to the question, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” That question would not be answered until the Last Supper when Jesus took bread and said, “This is my body, which will be given for you”; and he took the cup of wine and said, “This is the cup of my blood, which will be shed so that sins may be forgiven.” Thus he gave us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink in palatable and familiar form, by changing bread and wine into his body and blood while the appearances of bread and wine would remain. This the Church calls “transubstantiation.”
This was followed by the command, “Do this in remembrance of me.” What Jesus did then was, therefore, to be perpetuated until the end of time. From the Ascension forward the Church has faithfully celebrated the eucharistic sacrifice. For centuries the Mass has been celebrated daily; our participation is obligatory on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Nevertheless too many of our fellow Catholics fail to participate on even this minimal basis. How do they excuse themselves from the Lord’s command to do this in his memory? How can they forget the teaching, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you”? Watching Mass on television or even praying devoutly at home is no substitute for participating actually in the eucharistic banquet. Encourage your relatives or neighbors who have not come to Mass for a while to join you. Invite them to taste again and see the goodness of the Lord, perhaps even using the words from today’s Responsorial Psalm: “Glorify the LORD with me, let us together extol his name.”
If we truly appreciate the great gift of the eucharist and the redemption it celebrates, how can we fail to carry out the exhortation of Saint Paul in today’s Second Reading: “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”
On Wednesday of this week we celebrate the memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is a fitting follow-up to last week’s Solemnity of the Assumption and is commemorated in the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary. In the Litany of Loreto we conclude by calling our Blessed Mother Queen of Families and Queen of Peace. May she be honored in every home as a model of family harmony, and throughout our nation and world as an intercessor for peace.
Bishop Callahan will be spending a few days, August 24-26, in the Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire Deaneries as part of this year’s ongoing celebration of the diocesan sesquicentennial. I want to call special attention to the youth encounter at St. Olaf in Eau Claire for middle-schoolers through young adults at 7:00 PM on Saturday, August 25; the Holy Hour for Vocations at Notre Dame Church at 1:00 PM on Sunday, August 26; and the Mass and picnic at the band shell in Irvine Park at 3:00 that same Sunday.
Pray the Rosary this week for Bishop Callahan as he prepares to visit our area. Pray for Seminarian Eric Mashak and all our seminarians as they return to school to continue their formation and discernment. Pray for the success of efforts to extinguish the wildfires out west and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.