This is a reasonable reaction to Jesus’ assertion in today’s Gospel, “[T]he bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The answer to that question would come only on the night before he died, when Jesus took bread and said: “Take and eat; this is my body”; and he took a cup of wine and said: “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)
This is the mystery and article of faith we celebrate today. It is a sad fact that some surveys say that as many as 80% of Catholics do not believe that the eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ. Yet this is one of the most ancient of Catholic doctrines based upon the words of the Lord himself. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, who died in 386, said in his Jerusalem Catecheses: “Since Christ himself has declared the bread to be his body, who can have any further doubt? Since he himself has said quite categorically, ‘This is my blood,’ who would dare to question it and say that it is not his blood?” He goes on to say: “Do not then regard the eucharistic elements as ordinary bread and wine: they are in fact the body and blood of the Lord, as he himself has declared. Whatever your senses may tell you, be strong in faith.” One translation of the hymn Tantum Ergo of Saint Thomas Aquinas says: “Senses cannot grasp this marvel; faith alone must compensate.”
It is also a sad fact that more and more Catholics fail to observe the obligation to attend Mass every Sunday. I know that this obligation is dispensed for the time being because of covid-19 concerns. Maybe even that can be a reminder that there is such an obligation for Catholics. From the very beginning of the Church’s history, participation in the Sunday eucharist has been considered one of the first duties of a Christian. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council teaches that “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 10) We are most “church” when we gather to celebrate the eucharistic sacrifice, which is an exercise of the high-priestly office of Jesus Christ, in which we share by virtue of our baptism. May we witness to the eucharistic nature of our faith by our diligent preparation, regular attendance, reverent participation and worthy reception. Christ can give no greater gift to the Church and the Church can give no greater gift to us—for this gift is Christ himself. Even when there is no restriction on Mass attendance, why do so many refuse him?
Many who have returned for Sunday Masses have remarked that watching televised or online Masses is just not the same as participating in person—indeed it cannot be—and how good it is to have music at Mass. I am grateful for the cooperation of everyone, especially our ushers, who make it possible for us to resume public weekend Masses. With everyone’s cooperation we will be able to continue. Social distancing and 25% seating capacity are still normative. No one who feels uncomfortable or compromised should feel obliged to attend, but those who come are happy to be able to participate in person and to receive holy communion.
Our parishes’ fiscal year ends on June 30. Pledges to the Diocesan Annual Appeal must be received by that date to be credited for this year. Please honor your pledges to the Appeal and continue your support of our parishes. Please consider an extra one-time gift to the Diocesan Annual Appeal to help our parishes meet their financial obligations by the end of the fiscal year. We have a little catching up to do because of the inability of people to attend Mass in person, so your attention to our parishes’ needs is greatly appreciated.
Pray the rosary this week for this year’s first communicants at St. Peter and St. Charles and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.