Sunday, September 06, 2009

40 Hours Eucharistic Devotions

I have the honor and privilege of preaching the parish Forty Hours in my friend's (Fr. Luis Rodriguez) church (Mary Mother of the Church, Mt Joy, PA) Sun-Tue, Sep. 6-8. Here is a summary of my talk:


Since our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has declared this to be the Year for Priests, it would be helpful for us to meditate on the connection and bond between the Blessed Sacrament and the Priesthood; between the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders. Without a valid priesthood, there can be no valid Eucharist. Only validly ordained priests can confect the Blessed Sacrament by using valid matter, form and intention. Likewise, the very raison d'ĂȘtre of the Priesthood is the Holy Eucharist. We priests are ordained to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The other things we do, while important, can be done by others. Deacons can baptize and witness marriages. They can proclaim the Gospel and preach the homily. Laity can also teach as catechists and they can visit the sick and give spiritual direction. While only priests and bishops can absolve sins in the sacrament of Penance, in periculo mortis whenever there is no priest available, a person can make a PERFECT ACT OF CONTRITION which will suffice. However, when there is no priest, there is no Eucharist. Extraordinary Ministers can only give Holy Communion after a priest has consecrated hosts beforehand.

It was no coincidence that Our Divine Lord instituted BOTH Holy Orders and Holy Eucharist at the same time (Last Supper).

As we enter into the annual Forty Hours Devotions for this parish, let us focus on the mystery of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders; on the Blessed Sacrament and the Priesthood. Specifically, we will look at the way in which Christ the Priest via the Holy Eucharist continues His priesthood to sanctify, to teach and to shepherd His people.

The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life, the Second Vatican Council tells us (Lumen Gentium #11). The Catechism teaches us:

1391 Holy Communion augments our union with Christ. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me."

On the feasts of the Lord, when the faithful receive the Body of the Son, they proclaim to one another the Good News that the first fruits of life have been given, as when the angel said to Mary Magdalene, "Christ is risen!" Now too are life and resurrection conferred on whoever receives Christ.

1392 What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh "given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit," preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.

1393 Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is "given up for us," and the blood we drink "shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins." For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins:

For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord. If we proclaim the Lord's death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins. If, as often as his blood is poured out, it is poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that it may always forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always have a remedy.

1394 As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living charity wipes away venial sins. By giving himself to us Christ revives our love and enables us to break our disordered attachments to creatures and root ourselves in him

Christ the Priest SANCTIFIES us through His Precious Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity. We are made holy by what and whom we receive. Our intimate contact and indeed UNION WITH (communio) THE Holy of Holies; the Holy Trinity, sanctifies us by just being in the presence and proximity to the fullness of all holiness. Since Holy Communion IS the real, true and substantial Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity of Christ, we can and rightfully must say that the Holy Eucharist IS God Himself. As we cannot separate the Divine Persons of the Trinity, where one is, there are all three. If Jesus, the Son, is really present in the Holy Eucharist, then so are God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Look at the holiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was preserved from all sin by a special singular grace but she was also the closest human being to Jesus Christ. Not just geographically but spiritually and emotionally as well. The closer you get to pure holiness, the more you feel and you become sanctified by what you are approaching.

Not only is there physical contact (eating the Host) and spiritual (sacred food for the soul) but there is also a UNITY of all the parts of the Mystical Body. Just as the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, bones, brain, etc. are connected and WORK AS ONE under the guidance of the soul (intellect & will), so, too, the Mystical Body of Christ directs and unites all the parts (you and I and all the baptized). We are made holy by our contact with the Lord God Himself.

This is why frequent (and worthy) reception of Holy Communion is ESSENTIAL. Frequent and regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament (perpetual adoration) SANCTIFIES us and makes us HOLY. When Catholics stay away from the Holy Eucharist, they deprive their soul of necessary grace just as depriving lungs of needed air or depriving the heart of needed blood.

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