YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: RECEIVING COMMUNION WORTHILY
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
A man came to a priest and wanted to make fun of his faith. So he asked, “How can bread and wine turn into the Body and Blood of Christ?” The priest answered, “No problem. You yourself can change food into your body and blood, so why can’t Christ do the same?” The objector asked again, “But how can the entire Christ be in such a small host?” The priest replied, “In the same way that the vast landscape before you can fit into your little eye.” But still he persisted, “How can the same Christ be present in all your churches at the same time?” The priest then, took a mirror and let the man look into it. Then he let the mirror fall to the ground and break, and said to the skeptic, “There is only one of you and yet you can find your face reflected in each of that broken mirror at the same time.” (Willi Hoffsuemmer).
“How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52). This was the big dilemma of the Jews who were listening to Jesus. This is the same question that more and more people are asking until now. The early Christians were considered as criminals by the Roman authorities. One serious accusation against the Christians was that they were eating human flesh – they were cannibals!
Trying to answer the question “how” is simply pointless. If we profess that Jesus is God, then we have no reason to doubt what he said. He can do anything that he said. There is nothing impossible with him. The teaching of Jesus, therefore, on the Eucharist is not a matter of finding an empirical proof that will explain it; rather, it is a matter of faith. For a person who does not have faith, this teaching is preposterous and totally unacceptable. But for a person who has faith, this teaching is truly credible: it is Jesus Christ himself that we receive in Holy Communion.
We all have received the gift of faith in Baptism. But why do many Catholics continue to have doubts about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Let me propose two answers: First, it could be due to our lack of knowledge and understanding of the teachings of Jesus and of the Church. Many Catholics do not have time and interest to study our faith, to read the Bible and to learn the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
When another idea comes out that seeks to undermine our faith, we easily find it attractive and begin to question our faith. Such is the case with the Eucharist. We hear some people say it cannot be the real presence of Christ; that it is only a symbolic presence. And many of us begin to doubt the teaching of Jesus and ask: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
The second reason is lack of proper and serious preparation to receive the Eucharist. Last Sunday, I mentioned several important points about the proper way to receive Communion. These are important points, but these refer only to the external preparations. This Sunday, I wish to bring up the issue on internal preparation. Without this internal preparation, we are receiving Holy Communion unworthily, and thereby making ourselves vulnerable to the attacks of doubts and sins against faith.
Internal preparation simply means preparing our soul to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Our mind should be focused on the Lord and on the entire celebration. We should put ourselves in the proper disposition of internal silence and prayer. And most importantly, our soul must be in the state of grace. Otherwise, as St. Paul warns us in his First Letter to the Corinthians (11:29), when we receive Holy Communion without being in the state of grace, we receive condemnation and judgment instead of grace and salvation. It is, therefore, important that every time we are aware of a mortal or grave sin, we should first approach the sacrament of Confession before receiving Holy Communion.
In his book, “The Feast of Faith”, Pope Benedict XVI asked: “Yet do we not feel a slight uneasiness at times in the face of an entire congregation coming to Communion?” While it is true that we are all encouraged to receive communion during the Mass, we also observe that only a few people go to Confession. Sadly, the Pope remarked: “Occasionally, one has the feeling that ‘communion’ is regarded as part of the ritual – that it goes on automatically and is simply an expression of the community’s identity…By going to Communion without ‘discernment’ (1Cor 11:29), we fail to reach the heights of what is taking place in Communion; we reduce the Lord’s gift to the level of everyday ordinariness and manipulation.”
Some would argue that going to Mass without receiving Communion, one is not able to have full participation in the Eucharistic celebration. Again, the Pope answers this: “We need to regain a much stronger awareness that the Eucharist does not lose all its meaning where people do not receive Communion. The Eucharist is not a ritual meal; it is the shared prayer of the Church, in which the Lord prays together with us and gives us himself. Therefore, it remains something great and precious; it remains a true gift, even when we cannot go to Communion.”
Communion because we are in the state of mortal sin. Rather, let us be afraid of committing sacrilege by going to Communion without our mortal sins remitted in sacramental confession. Let this silent prayer of the priest before receiving Communion be ours also: “May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.” Amen!
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs, Susano Road Camarin, Caloocan City