"The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?'" From the beginning, the Eucharist has been a source of controversy. Some people have always found the teaching difficult to accept. But as Catholics, the Blessed Sacrament is at the heart of our worship and our spirituality; we go to Mass to share in the holy sacrifice of Jesus' body and blood, and we receive spiritual nourishment from partaking of this heavenly food. As Jesus himself tells us in today's Gospel, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."
From this passage it is clear that Jesus intended the Eucharist to be a tremendous gift for us, for "whoever eats this bread will live forever." This, of course, is because the bread is Christ's "flesh for the life of the world." In other words, just as he gave his body on the cross to save us from our sins, so too this same flesh is given for us at every Mass to strengthen our weakness and unite us more deeply to our Savior.
Receiving Communion isn't like taking a magic pill, however. We must beware of reducing this sacrament to an empty ritual or a foolproof guarantee of heaven. No, it is quite possible to receive Communion unworthily and reject its spiritual efficacy. Just like the benefits of a healthy meal can be undone by a habit of binging on junk food, so too we can prevent holy Communion from having its full benefits when we crowd our souls with vices and sins. If on the other hand, we wish to let this sacrament of divine grace flourish, we should receive it with a sincere spirit of gratitude and reverence, praying that we may be made worthy to receive such a gift.
"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son." We are used to this profound idea, so used to it that we often glaze over the incredible reality: God the Father has a Son who became man and dwelt among us! Too often we blithely make the sign of the cross in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, without realizing what a radical theology we are announcing.READ MORE
“Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'" Then, he said it again. And then, "he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" Jesus brings peace, and he brings the Holy Spirit. Peace, in fact, is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Today, on this feast of Pentecost, we remember the dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit that came upon those first apostles and the peace that came along with it. But we do more than remember. We also celebrate the presence of this same Spirit in our midst.READ MORE
The “come as you are” approach to “dressing down” for Sunday service has caused the Sabbath to become sloppy. Today, people saunter into church in baggy shorts, flip-flop sandals, tennis shoes, and at times, grubby t-shirts. Some even slide into the pew carrying coffee cups.
When attending church, it is expected that you dress in a way that reflects the morals and standards of that particular church. While standards for dressing have changed over time, many churches still expect you to wear your best clothing when attending the worship service. Before you make the mistake of offending someone, take the correct steps to make sure that the clothes you wear are appropriate.READ MORE
"If you love me you will keep my commandments." It's really as simple as that. We are only paying lip service to the Lord if we externally declare ourselves to be Christians but don't follow through on a life that confirms it.
In our modern culture, we often think of love as a feeling or a kind of devotion. It is thus all too common to separate love from appropriate action. Perhaps we reassure ourselves that we love Jesus because we believe that he is the Son of God and our personal Savior. But these thoughts--or even any grateful or pleasant feelings that come along with them--are not the fullest manifestation of real love. Rather, as Jesus tells us directly in today's Gospel, "Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me."READ MORE
"Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do." What were the works that Jesus did? Miracles, sometimes, but what were the essence of these miracles? Caring for the sick, comforting the sorrowful, feeding the hungry ... much of Jesus' ministry was spent in carrying out what we call the works of mercy. But he did more than that; he also preached and publicly shared the good news, he fostered fellowship and community, and he prayed. All of this makes a kind of plan of action for us as Christians. As Jesus says today, if we truly believe in him, we will follow in his footsteps and do these same things.
What this all suggests is that belief itself--having faith, being Christian--is only part of the picture. Jesus expects us to take this faith and put it into concrete, practical action. Apparently this goes hand in hand with real faith. If actions don't follow, then faith is not being lived to its fullest.
This of course presents a real challenge. Our lives are busy and our plates are full, just with the tasks and demands of daily existence. It can seem like a burden to serve others, to share the Gospel, to be actively involved in a faith community, to find time to pray. But these are meant to be priorities for true disciples of Christ. And as many will testify, when we sincerely ask God to help us get our priorities in order, he has a way of miraculously multiplying our time. Somehow, we find the opportunities right before us to follow God's will and bring our faith to life. That simple prayer of asking for help may be where we need to start. The first step is not so much to fill our calendar as to fill our hearts, or just to pray that God will fill our hearts, with the desire to "do the works" of Jesus.
"Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture." Jesus uses the image of a gate today to help us understand how we are to relate to him. He is our path to "pasture," in other words, to the peace and prosperity that we long for. He shows us the way to find all that we need right there before us.
Some people, however, may think that it's better to avoid the trouble of finding the gate and thus choose to enter another way instead. But Jesus says, "Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber." Although this is all cast in the gentle terms of an analogy about sheep, the message is actually rather stern. Jesus is telling us that if we don't follow him, we are taking the wrong course of action. He is not suggesting a kind of relativistic principle that says, "Following me is one of many good options." No. He is telling us that in order to "have life and have it more abundantly," we must follow the path that goes by way of Christ.READ MORE