Eucharistic culture

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Genesis 14:18:20

In those days, Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Luke 9:11B-17

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, "Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here." He said to them, "Give them some food yourselves." They replied, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people." Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down in groups of about fifty." They did so and made them all sit down. Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.

Sunday Homily

A few months ago, there were two tragic pieces of news:

  1. Someone was selling the Eucharist online. The screen shot [Photo] says, “Real Catholic Hosts, consecrated by a priest!!! 9 pieces * * *!! Made in Germany! Black Mass Magic Satanism” (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/etsy-admits-the-sale-of-consecrated-hosts-is-a-policy-violation). The seller alleges that he was given the Hosts by a priest involved in the Satanic underground—this isn’t verified but wouldn’t surprise me because the Church in Germany is beyond a mess. The bishops themselves advocate practices against Church teaching (https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/can-we-follow-our-bishops-german-catholics-react-to-bishops-push-to-overhaul-sexual-teaching; https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-reportedly-rejects-german-bishops-plan-for-intercommunion-of-spouses-65682; https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/german-bishops-say-the-divorced-and-remarried-may-receive-communion-43199; ), and a survey found that 54% of priests go to Confession once a year, while only 58% of them report praying every day (https://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=24721). That’s like having a hockey team where the players never skate!
  2. In Santiago, Chile, the new archbishop denied Holy Communion to Catholics because, believe it or not, they were kneeling. Here’s the video (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/chilean-bishop-denies-communion-to-faithful-kneeling-to-receive). We can’t read his mind, but this sort of thing has happened before across the world. The various reasons are that priests want people to keep a common posture of standing, and perhaps are afraid that Catholics kneeling may make them feel superior. But Church discipline states priests shouldn’t deny Communion to people kneeling (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 91. See also http://www.ccwatershed.org/media/pdfs/14/09/10/11-23-03_0.pdf).
    • Fr. Raymond de Souza, an astute Canadian commentator, makes a great observation about this incident: “When the Church becomes accustomed to putting other priorities ahead of the Eucharist, she becomes capable of manifold sins” (https://catholicherald.co.uk/magazine/communion-and-the-churchs-mess/). He then quotes Pope Benedict about the connection between the sexual abuse crisis in the Church and the neglecting of the most important spiritual realities like the Eucharist.

Here’s the message from these two incidents: The culture of Catholics, especially towards the Eucharist, has a powerful impact on our lives, either positive and negative. When I was in Germany for 2005 World Youth Day, a woman came up to me after Mass annoyed that I was careful about crumbs of the Eucharist on my hand (because Jesus is present in every crumb): She advised me to not worry about letting them fall to the ground! If Catholics in Germany don’t pray and want to change official Church teaching, and when bishops think kneeling is a problem, we’re going to have a dying church.

Today’s Gospel is referred to as the miracle of the ‘multiplication of loaves,’ and shows us a healthy spiritual culture! For the early Christians, this event, full of details, mirrored their own celebration of Mass.

  1. It says, “When the crowds found out about [Jesus withdrawing to Bethsaida], they followed him; and he welcomed them” (Lk 9:11). Scholars note that the Greek word for ‘welcome’ here is the same used when Jesus was welcomed by people (Lk 8:40) and when the early Church welcomed people in the Acts of the Apostles, pointing to the virtue of hospitality at Mass (Luke Timothy Johnston, Sacra Pagina, Luke, 146).
  2. Jesus “spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:11), then fed them. For the early Christians, this meant the Mass starting with the Liturgy of the Word and then the Liturgy of the Eucharist (Daniel Mueggenborg, Come Follow Me, Year C, 107).
  3. Who’s the source of the miraculous food for the crowd? Jesus. But who distributes it? The 12 apostles. So, during Mass, Jesus is the source of the Eucharist but uses priests to distribute it.
  4. When Jesus says, “Make the people sit down in groups of about fifty each” (Lk 9:14), scholars believe this is a reference to the early Church which would celebrate Mass in their homes, because fifty was about the number they could fit in these homes (Mueggenborg, 110).
  5. It says, “And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd” (Lk 9:16). All theologians recognize that these four verbs are important, because Jesus uses them at the Last Supper; whenever we see these four verbs we know we’re talking about the Eucharist. This is also what happens at Mass: the priest takes the bread and wine from the faithful who offer it, then blesses them, breaks the Eucharist, and gives it back to the people.
  6. “What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces” (Lk 9:17). “Broken pieces” means “fragments,” which is what the early Christians called the crumbs of the Eucharist, towards which they were very careful, unlike my German friend.

“The Mass was the center of life” for the early Church (Scott Hahn, Signs of Life, 37). Christians would meet every Sunday to celebrate Mass, and I remember hearing that they’d meet before dawn because they had to go to work afterwards; there was no weekend in the Roman world.

In 304, a group of Catholics in Northern Africa were rounded up and tortured due to Emperor Diocletian’s persecution. “Interrogated about why he disobeyed the Emperor’s decree, a young lector named Felix said this: ‘As if one could be a Christian without the Mass or the Mass could be celebrated without a Christian! . . . The Christian exists through the Mass and the Mass in Christians! Neither can exist without the other. . . . We celebrated the glorious assembly. We gathered to read the Scriptures of the Lord at the Mass’” (https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2010/06/glorify-god-by-your-life). Their culture, centered on the Eucharist, was so healthy that the Church grew by 40% per decade (Mike Aquilina, The Mass of the Early Christians, 23).

Here’s a short video of Catholic Eucharistic culture throughout time [See Presence from FORMED about St. Tarcisius, the little girl in China, etc.].

Culture is the habits, norms, beliefs, and underlying assumptions of any group. How many of you would eat rice for breakfast? But, in Canada, that’s not part of our culture. Do you know how people in Italy answer the phone? They say, “Pronto,” meaning, “Ready.” Strange, right? At the famous Zappos online company, if you’re a new employee and wear a tie to work, they’ll stop you at the front door and take away your tie, unless it’s fashionable, because they have a culture of fun!

We Catholics have our own culture too. How do we start prayers? With the Sign of the Cross—Protestants don’t do that. In our diocese, do most Catholics talk in church or not? That’s not a healthy culture. Do most Catholics get bored during the homily? That’s who we are.

Most of us naturally go along with the culture unless we think and act intentionally. Are you aware that I, as your priest, am actively trying to change the culture here? We’ve seen some amazing changes in culture here: It’s part of our culture here to learn, with over 540 people taking the first level of Faith Studies. Alpha is part of our culture now. What’s the term that’s become center of our efforts to build our parish centre? It’s not ‘fundraising.’ It’s ‘sacrificial giving.’ Because we’ve talked about Devout Conversations for three weeks now, the culture is changing!

Now I need your help with two cultural habits:

  1. Every year on Corpus Christi Sunday, meaning the ‘Body of Christ’ in Latin, we always remind ourselves to receive the Eucharist with the utmost care, because we’re centered on the Eucharist [Vision]. Now it’s already part of our culture that we know that only Catholics can receive because Communion is a sign that we’re baptized and in union with the Church. It’s already part of our culture that sometimes we choose not to receive, and it’s no one else’s business why. It may be because we’re not ready, we haven’t prepared well, we’ve eaten within one hour of Communion, or we’ve committed a mortal sin, let’s say by missing Sunday Mass through our own fault.
    • But there’s one area we need to improve: our reception of Communion. Our hearts need to be better prepared. During Mass, we need to focus and remember that we’re receiving Jesus. And we express this love externally: by never taking the Eucharist with one hand, by not eating the Eucharist while moving, and by creating a throne for Jesus.
    • Parents, today, we’re celebrating First Communion. The way our kids receive Communion tells us a lot about our culture. Do I celebrate Mass as a good priest? Do you give them good example? Let’s improve our own example and teach and correct them well.
    • As I mention every year, I personally favour receiving Communion on the tongue, not because it’s better, but because it’s a clearer sign that something special is happening. We don’t take any other food this way, so the fact that we receive the Eucharist differently reminds us this is no ordinary food; and it’s a powerful example for our children.
    • One thing I’ve noticed among almost all the young Catholics who choose to practice their faith during high school, college and afterwards is that they all have a sense of the preciousness of the Eucharist—that’s something we want to make sure is a part of our culture.
  2. We’re opening our new chapel next Sunday, and last week I invited everyone to sign up to commit to 15 minutes of adoration a week. We’ve been talking about this for six months, going over all the spiritual benefits… and only 24 people signed up.  I know many are thinking: “Fr. Justin, I’m with you on this, I already go every week, so what’s the point in signing up? The point is it’s about changing the culture. It’s one thing to say we love Jesus in the Eucharist; it’s another thing commit to it and make it public. Our community only grows when the culture grows.
    • I need to see, as your shepherd, if we’re able to make it normal to drop by during the week to visit Jesus. There’s no pressure! I just need to see who supports making the Eucharist the centre of our culture.
    • So this is what I’m asking: If you support this, then please take two minutes on your phone to go to this website (stanthonyvan.weadorehim.com) and sign up.

We talked about black masses at the beginning, so let’s end with a story about one. In 2014, some students at Harvard University arranged to have a black mass on campus grounds, with the permission of the president. The response of, Catholics wasn’t, “I believe. What can I do?” Many Catholics had a Eucharistic heart and so they did what was part of their culture: They called for a Holy Hour of Eucharistic adoration and a procession through the streets. At the scheduled time of the black mass, so many Catholics gathered at St. Paul’s church that it overflowed outside. During the procession, Catholics who happened to be passing by also knelt down, while others joined in singing (
http://www.catholicsun.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Boston-blackmass.jpg;
http://c.o0bg.com/rf/image_960w/Boston/2011-2020/2014/05/13/BostonGlobe.com/Metro/Images/Lee_blkmassresponse4_met-13670.jpg;
https://www.thebostonpilot.com/news/20140516/images/700x450_Pilot_12857.jpg;
https://www.masslive.com/resizer/9tvqae4x3xS6hpkIlfgAlxQvvEs=/1200×0/advancelocal-adapter-image-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/image.masslive.com/home/mass-media/width2048/img/mass_river_boston_news/photo/catholic-cambridge-procession–4d23d96a6ead2ceb.png;
http://cdn3.creativecirclemedia.com/thericatholic/original/1400256728_452e.jpg;
https://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/05/13/article-2626684-1DCA3A2700000578-935_634x343.jpg;
https://i1.wp.com/www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/IMG_1111.jpg?resize=598%2C800).
Because of this, at the last moment, the organizers of the black mass cancelled their sacrilegious event. (https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/the-city-gates.cfm?id=1721). This attack on Jesus was overcome by the powerful Eucharistic culture of a few Catholics.

Posted: June 23, 2019

Fr. Justin Huang

 
Fr. Justin grew up in Richmond, BC, the third of three brothers. Though not raised Catholic, he started going to Mass when he was 13. After a powerful experience of God’s love through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he felt called to the Holy Priesthood at the age of 16.


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