Sunday Homily

Apr. 6, 2019

THE PAST, THE PRESENT, AND THE FUTURE: DROP YOUR STONE

Readings: 1st- Isaiah 43:16-21; 2nd- Phil. 3:8-14; Gospel- Jn. 8:1-11

The story of the woman caught in adultery in today’s gospel gives us a picture of the three aspects of the human life but importantly opens us up to the overflowing grace and mercy of God. Her past, present, and future are brought before Christ.

Past:

  • Then the Scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.
  • They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.”
  • Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women” (Jn. 8:4-5).

Present:

  • “So, what do you say?”
  • Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
  • But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”
  • And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders.
  • So, he was left alone with the woman before him
  • Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, has no one condemned you?”
  • “Neither do I condemn you.”

Future:

  • “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

The narrative about the past shows that the Scribes and the Pharisees had some case against the woman. Their allegation is based on the law of Moses with emphasis on punishment. Pay attention to this, the law of Moses is good. It helped the Jews to stay straight. It hinged on strict observance of rules with little emphasis on the spirit of the law. For instance, the Scribes and the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery just as the law prescribed. No one wants to listen to her case. They’re not interested in the background to her story. Their goal is to subject her to public ridicule. And where is her partner? Did she commit adultery alone? No one talked about the man who committed adultery with her. Just fulfill the law of Moses without paying considering the shortcomings of the human person for whom it was made, “Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women” (Jn. 8:4-5).

The woman’s present is that she is before Christ. Her past is dirty: She’s caught in adultery. She’s condemned by the law of Moses. She’s to face ridicule, then punishment. She’s now before Christ for judgment and they say to Jesus, “What do you say?” What do you say about her past? As is common with humanity, it’s about her and not about her accusers. They want Jesus to pass judgment quick in fulfillment of the law. In that moment, Jesus bends down and begins to write. What exactly is Jesus writing? Scripture isn’t explicit on that but he’s writing something serious. About the law? About the accusers? About sins and forgiveness?

On Mount Sinai, God wrote on the tablets for Moses. The book of Hebrews tells us, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Heb. 1:1). Jesus is the New Law and its fulfillment. The New Law overrides the old law, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk. 10:27). Jesus writes, “Do not judge and you will not be judged” (Lk. 6:37). Jesus reminds them, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:43-45). Isn’t that scary? Then Jesus throws the bombshell; “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And what happens? They start to leave “one by one beginning with the elders.”

Obviously, the accusers of this lady aren’t ready to deal with their past, so they walk away. The accused has advantage here, “So she is left alone” with Jesus. What a privilege! Her life is going to change. Her past is going to be cleaned up. Her present is going to open up. Her future is going to be transformed. Jesus looks up and says to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replies, “No one, Sir.” Hence, the verdict comes from Jesus, “Neither do I condemn you. Go home and from now on do not sin anymore.” This confirms what Saint Paul says about Jesus and the Law of freedom, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:2). I’m wondering what these guys who caught the woman would do when they see her afterwards. Of course, she will be the one preaching to them about the law of love going forward.

In the second reading, Saint Paul tells us about the supreme advantage of knowing Jesus. He uses his personal experience as a platform to preach about letting go of the past. According to the apostle, “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” The old Saul threw everything aboard to follow Jesus. He discarded all other advantages for the sake of the supreme advantage and reminds us to keep matching in the hope of taking possession of our promised inheritance as Christians. His past was Saul. His present is the continuous struggle, to continue straining forward. His future is the goal which is eternal life in Christ Jesus.

We all have our pasts, some negative, others positive. Some of us have been abused. Some of us have been exploited. Some of us have been victims. Some of us have done dirty things too- addicts of substances, drugs, alcohol, and bad sexual behaviors. Those belong to our past. The woman caught in adultery is a great lesson for us, so also Saint Paul. This woman represents God’s love for us. She represents not only our past and present but importantly our tomorrow (future) which is a break from sin and eternal life. Jesus came to set us free. He gives meaning to our present and ushers us into God’s grace for a better future.

How about you? What’s your view of others? Condemn them? Do you still have your stone in your hand ready to stone your dad/mom/husband/wife/brother/sister/neighbor/colleague for whatever past offence she/he committed? Come on! Drop your stone. Listen to Jesus; “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” Are you the one? You have two options: drop the stone pick up grace or keep the stone and walk away empty handed. Throw the stone if you are clean of every sin. If you are not, then, offer mercy and pardon, not condemnation. Jesus says to you, “Neither do I condemn you.” He takes care of your past, present, and future. Drop the stone. Drop the sin. Embrace the grace and continue to strain forward for greater things in Jesus. You don’t need any stone in heaven.

Mar. 23, 2019

DIVINE INTERVENTION AND THE CALL TO REPENTANCE

Readings: 1st- Ex. 3:1-8, 13-15; 2nd- 1 Cor. 10:1-6, 10-12; Gospel- Lk. 13:1-9

God always intervenes in human situation. But God wants us to also be part of our salvation story. He wants us to repent and collaborate with him. That’s the theme of today’s readings.

First, we are presented with the ancient story of the burning bush. Moses experiences God on Mount Horeb, sees the bush burning but not consumed. He is excited at the sight and decides to come close. At this point, God reveals to him his divine identity. Moses realizes that God is interested in bringing the Israelites out of their suffering in Egypt. The voice says to Moses, “Come no nearer! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” It is an encounter that has come to define God’s essence till date. On our part, like Moses, there is an expectation from us when we come to God. God is holy, and we must appear before him with a sense of awe and reverence.  

Moses is definitely afraid at this strange encounter. First, the burning bush, then the voice. Scripture says, “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” God is aware of Moses’ fear, so he goes on to give him some background information about himself and the affliction of his people in Israel, “Therefore, I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8). This seems like a concrete proof to help Moses connect with this strange mission he is to undertake. Yet, Moses needs further confirmation of the identity of God. For this he speaks out, “But when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” Then God replies to Moses, “I am who am.” That is the definition of God, and he says, “This is my name forever; thus am I to be remembered through all generations” (Ex. 3:15).

The “I am” is the God who is with us in his Son Jesus Christ. He has come to intervene in our situation because he hears our cry. The gospel shares the story of the Jews who come to Jesus to tell him about the Galileans killed by Pilate. Luke is the only evangelist who carries this story, but it presents us with a picture of God’s mercy and the call to repentance. Jesus reminds his audience that those Galileans are not the worst sinners. Neither are the eighteen people killed at the collapse of the tower of Siloam worse sinners than those who are alive. He emphasizes, “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will perish as they did” (Lk. 13:3-4).

The reality is that humanity is quick to judge people especially when calamity befalls them. Sometimes, we view sick people as worse sinners. Mistakenly, we see victims of natural disasters as sometimes suffering the consequences of their crimes. We often fail to look at ourselves in times of violence that is removed from us. We point fingers at others. Christ tells us today that such is a wrong approach to our relationship with God, “if you do not repent, you will perish as they did.”

Imagine the parable of the barren fig tree that follows. For three years, the fig tree has not borne any fruit. The owner is frustrated with the fig and is about to give up on it. He gives order to have it cut down since it is of no importance. It has been reasonably cultivated and provided with every nourishment that could make it fertile, yet no fruit. It deserves to die. The gardener intervenes, “Sir, leave if for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not, you can cut it down” (Lk. 13:9). Thanks to this insightful gardener who knows how to plead for patience for the barren fig tree. He is aware that sometimes it takes years for a tree to bear fruit, he recommends great patience.

This is the image of God’s mercy and patience. God is not interested in hacking us down because of our iniquities. He gives us ample time, not one year, not just two years but numerous opportunities of grace. He nourishes us with his Word. He fertilizes us with his sacraments. We receive the best care from God, yet we derail. God still hears our cry. He is ultimately interested in saving us. As the gardener appeals for the tree and hopes for change, so God watches each of us. God looks into our hearts. He invites us to change and live. He wants us to rely on him for nourishment and support.

Let’s make good use of the Lenten season. Christ says, “if you do not repent, you will perish as they did.” Like Moses, let’s take off our shoes of sin. Take off your shoes of hatred. Take off your shoes of malice. Take off your shoes of anger and fury. Take off your shoes of negative attitude towards your neighbor and your colleague. Take off your shoes of pride and arrogance. Take off your shoes of laziness. Take off your shoes of impurity. Take off your shoes and come to God. He is the “I AM” of your life. He waits for you to repent and come with him to his holy ground.     

Mar. 16, 2019

LOOK UP IN FAITH AND HEAR THE VOICE OF THE LORD

Readings: 1st- Gen. 15:5-12. 17-18; 2nd- Phil. 3:17-4:1; Gospel- Lk. 9:28b-36

Today, we conduct the 2019 Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries which is the reason why this homily will be a short one. The local church in the archdiocese of Baltimore appeals to us to express our faith by donating to the course of the ministries in both our parish and in the archdiocese. She invites us to support the mission which the church represents. The Church remains the voice of God that we hear in our time. She continues to speak to us.

In the first reading, God enters a covenant with Abram. He invites Abram to “Look up at the sky and count the stars” to be able to see the glory of God. Abram responds to God’s invitation and puts his faith in the Lord. The covenant yields fruits for Abram, and in the end, God blesses him with the promises He has made, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it” (Gen. 15:7).  

The gospel narrates the transfiguration of Jesus. He takes the three disciples, Peter, John, and James to the top of the mountain to pray. At the mountain, the Old Testament figures, Moses and Elijah appear and converse with Jesus. Peter and his companions fall asleep as they usually do, but eventually they become fully awake by the glory of the Lord. The experience of the transforming presence of Jesus brings both the old and the new back to life- Moses and Elijah are united with the disciples in the Jesus who is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. Peter and the disciples become fully awake. Peter is taken over by this glorious presence and exclaims, “Master, it is good be to be here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Scripture informs us that “Peter did not know what he was saying.” That means, he is in some form of ecstasy, a trance, and a joy brought about by the Lord. Peter wants to remain there forever.

One important factor in the transfiguration episode is the voice of the Father that speaks from the cloud. The voice reminds us of the identity and mission of Jesus, “This is my chosen Son.” The voice invites us to action when it says, “listen to him.” This is the same voice that spoke at the baptism of Jesus announcing his mission; “After Jesus had been baptized, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17). The Voice of the Father invites us to listen to Jesus just as God invited Abram into the covenant relationship in the Old Testament.

Is it possible that the voice of God still speaks to us today? And do we still hear this voice? Where can we hear the voice of God, and how? Saint Paul tells us that we can still hear the voice of God in the stubbornness of today’s world. We are all aware that there is a lot of distractions going on around us. Lots of noise and confusion. There is noise in politics, noise in the media, and noise in our daily human relationships. Those who want to distract us from hearing this voice are pushing strongly, coming up with teachings that do nothing other than oppose the teachings of Christ and his Church. Most of these teachings condemn the Cross of Christ. They make God look like a wicked father who would hand his son over to be crucified. They paint the cross in a negative way. They fail to recognize the ultimate price of our salvation which Jesus paid on the Cross. Paul describes such people as “enemies of the cross of Christ” whose theology relies only on the stomach. Paul tells us not to listen to them. They glory in shameful things and have their minds fixed on earthly glories.

And yes, God still speaks to us. He speaks to us in silence. He invites us to go to the mountain of prayer with him. He invites us to look up and see him. He wants us to travel with him in faith like Abram. It is hard to feel God if we cannot detach from the noisiness of material world. We act like Peter, John, and James, who fall asleep at the most crucial time. We simply fall back into our old lifestyles if we cannot move to the mountain to be with the Lord. Yet he does not abandon us.

I was listening to the story of this young lady who went shopping in one of the nearby grocery stores. As she walked around searching out the items on her shopping list, she suddenly pushed down a stack of glasses (cups) on the shelf. These glasses smashed the floor and broke. The lady became scared and bent down to pick them. Immediately, one of the store attendants rushed at the scene and asked the lady not to worry. The young lady started crying and begged that she was sorry. The store attendant insisted that she shouldn’t worry. Then the lady asked to know how much the broken glasses cost, so she could pay for the damage. The attendant said to her, “Don’t worry, we got you covered. The insurance already paid for it.” The lady couldn’t believe it.  That’s what happens to us, God got us covered in Christ Jesus.

God got Abram covered in the first reading of today. God took up his case and paid off his worries. Despite his old age, God fulfilled his promise of giving him numerous descendants as promised. This is also what happened to Peter and his colleagues at the transfiguration encounter. Despite their tiredness and weakness, Jesus took them into his glory which made Peter exclaim, “It is good to be here.”

God has paid off our iniquities and covered up our shame. All he needs from us is to recognize the presence of Jesus in our lives and to listen to him. God wants you to “look up” in faith. God wants you to look up to the cross. God wants you to step aside from the noise and get closer to him. God invites you to use this Lent to travel with him. The world may be noisy, but you can step aside. Step aside from sin. Step aside from hatred. Step aside from gossip. Step aside from lies. Step aside from laziness. Step aside from betrayal. Step aside from pornography and impurity. Step aside from anger. Step aside from drinking and from getting drunk. Step aside from negative feelings of fear and anxiety. Step up to the Lord. Then you will hear his voice speak to you, “This is my beloved Son.” God can change your lowly body to conform with his glorified body. Just step aside and step up. Listen to the Church and listen to Christ. Stop looking down. God has got you fully covered.  

Mar. 9, 2019

Don’t run away, ask for God’s grace!

Readings: 1st- Deut. 26:4-10; 2nd- Rom. 10:8=13; Gospel- Lk. 4:1-13

The Israelites declare their belief in God for saving them. They profess their faith in words and action. Deuteronomy tells us about God’s saving justice and love which makes the Hebrew people declare their faith. God grants them freedom from Egyptian forces, and restores the land flowing with milk and honey. This is met with the credal profession: “My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. But there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous. When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression” (Deut. 26:5-7). The important clause in the life of the Israelites is, “the Lord, the God of our fathers.” This continually defined their relationship with God; a friendship of trust and confidence. God is their God because he stood behind their fathers in faithfulness to his commandments. Hence, the reading declares, “I have now brought you the first fruits of the product of the soil which you, O Lord, have given me. And having set them before the Lord, your God, you shall bow down in his presence.”

This set the tone for the gospel which presents to us the temptations of Jesus by the devil. As soon as Jesus stepped out of the Jordan after his baptism, the devil appeared. Jesus is equipped by the Holy Spirit after his forty days’ desert experience. Don’t forget that Jesus is human, even though He is above all, God. His temptation is real, so also his victory over Satan and his styles.

He was hungry. He would love fame and honor. He would love power. These are the very packages that the devil presents before him. You are hungry, and you are the Son of God. Turn stones into loaves. Perhaps, you will eat, and your followers will also know through it that you have miraculous powers. Jesus responds by letting the devil know that there is a greater food than the physical bread which is his love for the Father. The devil thinks that Jesus will succumb to the allurement of material wealth and fame since he doesn’t succumb to performing magic; “I shall give you all this power and glory…, if you worship me.” Jesus reminds the devil of the superiority of God’s commandment, “Thou shall worship the Lord thy God, Him alone shall you serve.” What a disappointment! The devil thinks this way; if the physical things don’t work, then the spiritual may do the magic. The devil takes Jesus to a high cliff. He recounts the Psalms written about Jesus himself, “He will command his angels concerning you, and with their hands they will support you lest you strike your foot against a stone.” It’s the game of flattering Jesus into greatness. Jesus makes it clear that his glory will come from being lifted up through the Cross and not by mere words of empty praises or promises. Then the devil “departed from him for a time” (Lk. 4:13), just for a time. How smart Mr. Devil could be!

Paul reminds us of the importance of professing our faith with our mouths and believing strongly in our hearts. The credal expression puts us in the direction of hope which Christ’s resurrection offers. We are made victorious through the death and resurrection of Christ. We are not immune from temptation. We are not removed from it either. Right from the time of Adam and Eve, temptation became part of the history of humanity. We belong to the tradition of temptation through Adam, carrying in our bodies, human weakness and brokenness. Adam and Eve fail. They succumbed to temptation. They lost their best and innocent friendship ever. Jesus came, experienced temptation, stood firm, and restored human body to innocence through his cross and resurrection. He cherished his friendship with the Father. As human, Jesus wasn’t immune to temptation either. But his love for God and his desire to live in constant friendship with his Father was key to his victory over temptation. For that reason, Saint Paul urges us, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame” (Rom. 10:11). On the contrary, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (10:13).

Think about Peter for a second. A clear image of the importance of calling on the name of the Lord is Peter’s experience walking on the water. Walking on the water was like moving on a slippery slope, a dangerous move for Peter. And the Bible tells us, “But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord save me!”” (Matt. 14:30). I usually tell my friends to use this mantra each time, they feel overwhelmed, to say it aloud in their head and with their mouth, “Lord, save me!” It is real.

What is not real is to imagine that temptation would disappear or to run away from it. We pray in the Lord’s prayer, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from all evil.” The Lord will deliver us from evil but won’t put us away from it. The devil goes away only “for a time.” It is by God’s grace, by his power that we overcome.

Sometime, this lady felt strong affection for her male colleague at work. This male colleague also felt similar passion for her, but both wanted to keep their friendship holy and secure. This lady received a message from her boss and had to deliver same to her attractive male colleague. She got to his door and tried to slide the message quietly under the door to avoid seeing him. She slid the letter through the door while this guy was sitting right on his desk. The guy quickly stood up to pick his mail, opened the door, and behold his female colleague squatting beneath his door. He was surprised and asked her why she never knocked to drop his mail for him since he was in. Her response was, “I knew you were in, but I wanted to avoid you.” The question here is, whether that was the best way to avoid him or whether they could struggle to overcome their passion and work in a healthier way.

The truth is that temptation places a bargain for us with what is most precious in our lives. It offers seductive alternatives to true love- food, power, fame, glory. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve. Same happened to Jesus. Adam and Eve succumbed but Jesus stood firm. The Adam in us might want to succumb but the Jesus in us is stronger. Temptations come to us at different moments- family, friendship, work, academics, property, spirituality, sex, and health. Temptations can be overcome by faith in Christ Jesus. Gratitude to God and adoration are what God wants from us. Jesus tells the devil, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve” (Lk. 4:8). And the book of Deuteronomy says, “you shall bow down in his presence” (26:10). Always remember that God is the source of everything about you. He has made you for his glory, so, all glory belongs to him. He keeps watch over you once you keep dwelling in the shelter of his wings. When you feel that pinch of trials, struggles, and temptation, call out to him like Peter, “Lord, save me!” He will not let you be put to shame.

Mar. 17, 2018

“I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE”: THE JOY OF SEEING JESUS

Readings: 1st- Jer. 31: 31-34; 2nd- Heb. 5: 7-9; Gospel- Jn. 12: 20-33

Let’s start our reflection today with looking at the Jesus’ hour, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn.12:23). It is the hour of fulfilment of His mission. We see in today’s gospel Jesus’ use of the metaphor of “the grain of wheat” where Jesus explains the meaning of his mission; “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it produces much fruit”. The image here is that of his death and resurrection. If we take our minds back to the beginning of his mission, Jesus gives us a glimpse of this hour from the beginning. At the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, his mother approached him with a request for the couple, “They have no wine”. To that request, Jesus responded, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn. 2:3-4). Then, Jesus’ hour hadn’t come because he was yet to undertake the journey of the Cross. Today, he tells us that his hour has come.

Jesus uses that opportunity to give a picture of his imminent death. He is that “grain of wheat” grounded for our sake, the “grain of wheat” that must die to germinate eternal life for his people. Last Sunday, he told Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn.3:14). He explains the meaning of his hour. Jesus is troubled like any other human being would, in the certainty of his death. He calls on his Father, “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.”

As human being, Jesus feels pains. He laments, cries, experiences sorrows like us. The Hebrew author describes him in the flesh, “he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears” (Heb. 5:7). But Jesus must go through this hour. It is the hour of his glory. The Father testifies by the voice from heaven. The Father glorifies the Son through suffering. That glory is for our sake, that we may be saved. So, Jesus explains that the voice from heaven is for our sake. It is the voice reminding us of God’s love for us in Christ. It is the voice confirming the mission of the suffering servant. It is the voice that echoed at baptism, “This is my beloved Son”. It is the voice sealing the “hour” when everything is consummated in his Son. It is the voice endearing us to the glory of the Cross, thus, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn. 12:32).

The first reading draws our attention to the new covenant that God is making with his people. The prophet Jeremiah uncharacteristically, presents a “book of consolation” -God’s healing, hope and newness. God reassures the people of Israel, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33). The new covenant is no longer a covenant written on tablets of stone but now engraved in our hearts. It is a covenant of engagement with God in a most intimate way. It is a covenant of love. That is what Jesus does. He draws us into God’s covenant through the Cross.

To see Jesus, we must be drawn into His covenant. The Greeks (gentiles) search for Jesus. The disciples lead them to him. The Jews look for him even though some plan to kill him. In the Gospel, “Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you” (Mk. 1:36-37). There is a great joy in seeing Jesus. That joy is manifested in our encounter with him in the Blessed Eucharist.

In today’s gospel, the Greeks come to receive the Holy Communion. They seem not to understand fully what it means, and they seek Philip to help them. Philip takes them through the doctrine of the sacrament of the Eucharist, presents them to Andrew. Then Andrew and Philip, together take them to Jesus. This demonstrates the sanctity which we should give the Blessed Eucharist, which is our place of encounter with Christ. The Blessed Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, crucified for our sake. It is in the Eucharist that Christ draws everyone to himself. It is the reenactment of the sacrifice on the Cross. Christ says, “When I am lifted up, I’ll draw everyone to myself”. He is lifted on the Cross, crucified at Calvary. At Mass, the priest lifts the species of bread and wine which become the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection. We are invited to see Jesus as He really is in the Blessed Eucharist.  

Let me use this opportunity to communicate that the Blessed Eucharist cannot be blessed outside of the Mass. I had someone who is a catholic come to me few days ago to ask that I bless the host for the Eucharist. This is the second time I am getting that request, hence the need to clarify. Once at a different time, while I worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital, I had a non-Catholic chaplain who wanted to bless the host to give to a Catholic patient. I corrected him and instructed him that the host cannot be blessed by anyone who’s not a catholic priest. But it was more shocking to me to hear Catholics ask me to bless the host outside the Mass. Let’s know that the bread and wine changes into the Body and Blood of Christ only during the Consecration at Mass. The consecration begins with the invocation of the Holy Spirit. This is when the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine and asks God, “that they may become for us, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The priest uses the same words that Christ used at the Last Supper, and invites the people to “Take and eat… Take and drink”. It is a memory of Christ’s death and resurrection as he invites us, “Do this in memory of me”. The Blessed Eucharist is only consecrated at Mass. Christ is lifted in his Body and Blood. We watch him, encounter him, and are drawn to him for our salvation.

There’s a great joy in seeing Christ and in encountering him in the Blessed Eucharist. The Greeks say to Philip, “Sir, we will like to see Jesus”, because they recognize that He is the life of the world. Aren’t we privileged to see him ourselves and to consume him in the Blessed Eucharist? Are we eager to see him? And Christ tells us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain”.  Fr. Tony Adawu wrote an article in the Winter edition of the Family Apostolate Magazine titled, “We are a Consecrated and Eucharistic People”. He explained the metaphor of the grain of wheat this way: “We receive an invitation to become what we eat and what we drink. Since one piece of grain does not make bread and one fruit does not make wine, instead multiple grains and grapes do, and they do so by being ground together. In a sense then, our consecration as individuals is not complete without the consecration of the whole Body of Christ. Like Christ, each grain and grape must fall to the ground of the Altar of the Cross, so that we can be lifted up to draw all people into communion with God (cf. Jn. 12:24, 32). That’s the joy of seeing Christ; “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33).