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Bishop's Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

January 29, 2023

[St. John Vianney Church, Kailua (Eucharistic Revival Catechesis)]

As you know, we are in the midst of a National Eucharistic Revival, instituted by the U.S. bishops.  One of the ways we are observing that Revival here in the Diocese of Honolulu is by offering a seven-part series of teachings on the Mass over the Sundays of January and early February.  Our objective is to help people better understand the Mass we celebrate every Sunday – indeed every day – so that, better understanding it, we may draw others to attend and learn about this perfect prayer of praise.

Today we heard the opening words of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount.  He is telling us how to live a blessed life.  I say, “is” telling us, not “was” telling us, because in the Mass, the living Jesus Christ is speaking to us.  He may have the voice of the lector or the deacon, but it is the living and active Word of God that is Jesus himself whom we hear in the Mass.

But Jesus also wants to have a physical encounter with us!  He wants us to “taste and see” how good he is; to know that he is risen from the dead and is alive; and to make love to his beloved Bride, the Church by sharing his own Body and Blood with her and making her one with him.

We normally refer to the consecration as the high point of the Mass, which it is indeed!  But there is much more to it than those few words at which the bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of Christ.  During the consecration, we recall four things that Jesus did at the Last Supper when he instituted the Eucharist and at Emmaus, when he appeared to two disciples as they walked to that town on the day of his Resurrection.  Jesus TOOK bread and wine.  He BLESSED THEM.  He BROKE them.  And he GAVE them to his disciples.  And so it is that the entire Liturgy of the Eucharist in the Mass reflects these four actions.

First we TAKE bread and wine, and this corresponds to the Preparation of Gifts (or the Offertory).  You also take a little “bread” from your pockets and purses as an offering for the continued work of the Body of Christ in the world.  Along with the bread and wine, they are taken from the people and prepared by the priest, who says some prayers over the bread and wine, recalling the ancient Jewish prayers of blessing.

Next we BLESS the bread and wine in the Eucharistic Prayer.  This is a prayer of praise to God the Father for the many blessings he bestows on us, especially by sending us his Son Jesus, who died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is now the living bread come down from heaven (as Jesus tells us in John 6).  Here the priest preside in the person of Christ himself, the Bridegroom, pronouncing the words of thanks and praise, calling down the Holy Spirit, and saying the words of Jesus which actually change the bread and wine into a different substance, the Body and Blood of Christ.  In this prayer, the priest remembers (the Greek is anamnesis – not having amnesia, not forgetting) the good things God has done.  And now, since the Lamb of God himself is actually, really, physically present on the altar, the priest offers recalls his offering himself to God the Father in his self-sacrifice on the cross.  The prayer of praise continues by calling upon the Holy Spirit to make all of us “one spirit, one body in Christ.”  As one body, we remember our communion with the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, her spouse, and all the saints.  We remember the deceased, and pray that we will all together give honor and glory to God forever and ever.  And the people answer with their great “Amen!”

Then, after praying the prayer Jesus taught us, we wish each other peace.  This is not to be a raucous back-slapping greeting, but a true wishing of the peace of Christ to those around us.

As Jesus BROKE the bread, so we now go to the Fraction Rite, in which the Body of Christ is broken and distributed among the various vessels that will be used for Communion.  During this Fraction Rite we sing the chant, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; … grant us peace.”   We recall that the Lamb of Sacrifice is broken on the altar and is now ready to give himself to his holy people.

Then Jesus GAVE his Body and Blood to his disciples, as he does to us, his disciples in Holy Communion.  We not only have the privilege of adoring the real presence of the risen Christ among us, but he actually wants to live in us and among us, changing us into his own Body and nourishing that living Body with his own Blood.  Of course, we receive Holy Communion reverently, if we are eligible to do so, first by bowing to the Lord, who is present in the Eucharist; then by saying “Amen” when the minister says “The Body of Christ” or “The Blood of Christ; then we receive either by reverently putting out the tongue to have the host placed on it, or by putting one hand above the other, as a throne for the King of Heaven and Earth.  We do not grasp, but we receive, and then immediately consume the Sacred Host.

We give thanks for this great gift by song, silence, and a Prayer after Communion prayed by the priest on behalf of the entire sacred assembly.  Thus we encounter not some sacred object, but the very person of Jesus Christ, who makes himself present to us, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, every time we do what he did in remembrance of him.