Monday, August 31, 2015

Awash in Grace - Homily for the 22nd Sunday in OT

All good giving and every perfect gift is from above…

Right now, you are breathing. You probably haven’t thought about that all day, but you’ve been breathing all day. The only reason why you may have thought about it before I pointed it out just now would be if you had struggled breathing this morning; if you’re on oxygen, for example. You’ve also driven in a car this morning. Which meant that you had money for it, and the gas, and the vision and the physical abilities to drive it. You likely had breakfast this morning and, if you didn’t, you still probably have food in your pantry, in your fridge, in your freezer downstairs, and—if you don’t have any food there, you have very, very easy access to a huge superabundance of food at your local grocery store. Not everyone has these things.

So, can we take a moment—just a brief, brief moment—and realize that we are awash in grace? We really are. We have so many gifts, many of which we take for granted.

One of the teachers at school once had a sign outside of her door that said "What if you woke up tomorrow with only those things that you were thankful for today?" Kinda gives a little perspective on how rich we really are. I mean, if you lost the ability to breathe on your own, how much would you pay to get it back? How much are these very basic, taken-for-granted gifts really worth? Quite a lot.

I am reminded of this fact today because, well, it’s so easy to think about what’s going wrong with life. We can think of millions upon millions of wrong, evil, frustrating things in our lives and we can obsess and focus our attention on that darkness… And so easily forget that life… life is beautiful. There are clouds, and a blue sky behind them, and a God who loves us. And we’re going to be ok.

After all, "where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more," right? We must remember that: that there is more grace in this world than there is evil! There is more grace! We are awash in grace!

*          *          *

Thinking about what we have been given not only gives us a greater appreciation and a greater, more positive outlook on life which can make it through the darkness, but taking a moment out of our day to think about what is good also instills in us a spirit of thanksgiving (in Greek: eucharistia). Before I go to bed, I make a list of five things that were good. And when I do that, I realize that I didn’t give myself these gifts, but that they were given to me. And that there was and is a giver. And, suddenly, in that moment of gratitude, I am praising. I am thanking Someone.

It is right and just, our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks…

And we say that right after we bring up the gifts.

*          *          *

Our duty and salvation...

The second reading is quite a contrast to the Gospel. In the Gospel, we see that Jesus is upset with the Pharisees. Why?

First, remember Jesus’ whole reason for being here. He is here to bring us to heaven, to salvation. That’s one of the greatest gifts, right? Indeed, the gift of heaven is Jesus Himself:

…every perfect gift is from above…

So, here is Jesus, the Father’s perfect gift to us, trying to bring His lost sheep to heaven by giving them the gift of salvation through the gift of Himself.

His arrival is the climax of a series of gifts that the Father had given His people. He had given the people the Prophets to help the people repent and to be prepared for the coming Messiah. Before them, the Father had given the people kings so as to provide stability and order by which the family of faith could grow. Before that, the Father had given the people the Law and the Commandments, not to be an end unto themselves, but as a means to an end: to show His people (who were lost at the time, mind you)—to show them what was the bare minimum of the demands of Love, and therefore for their salvation.

Prophets, kings, law—they were all given, slowly and incrementally by the Father, so as to prepare His people for the greatest gifts: salvation, heaven, and His Son, Jesus Christ, given most loving now in the Eucharist.

The Pharisees, however, had made the Law an end to itself. And, because of that, they thought that they themselves—THEY! sinful, lost humans—could force their way into heaven by their own scrupulous efforts. They thought salvation came from below—from their own hands—not realizing that

…every perfect gift is from above…

This is why Jesus says

            their hearts are far from me.

And that they

            disregard God’s commandment.

Notice: that’s in the singular. Not commendments, but commandment. The commandment to love God and neighbor as one’s self.

Here it may be argued that the Pharisees love God and neighbor such that they are scrupulous to fulfill every iota of the law. But they don’t love God nor their neighbor. That’s why Jesus points out how they are a people who

from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.

Jesus is upset because the Pharisees’ folly and arrogance about salvation and the law have misguided His people whom He loves with all His heart—their folly have misguided His people into believing that Jesus is more concerned about laws than about relationships. About fulfilling one’s obligation than entering into a union of love with God and with their neighbors. 

But really, He is concerned about BOTH. Hearts AND Commandment.

This is why attending Holy Mass simply to "fulfill an obligation" misses the point. Sure, it fulfills the Law, but it forgets the love-- not only that we have been given so many gifts, but that simply being here is itself a gift. We receive Jesus here!

And those who aren't here-- and who knows why-- we need to pray for them. That they may receive this gift. This perfect gift of the Eucharist.

Lord, change our hearts from thinking that this is simply an obligation!

*          *          *

…every perfect gift is from above…

Before you go to bed tonight, I want you to think of five things that are good in your life. Five things that you received from God today. And maybe your life is hard—but there are still five. And one of them is that you have received Jesus in the Eucharist today. The greatest gift. 

But we have to start seeing that, believing that, living in that. We must draw our hearts that were once far from Jesus—we must draw them near. Yes, “the most productive thing we can do as humans is to receive the love of God” (Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship).

And that’s so true, right? If we aren’t receiving and becoming more and more aware of God’s blessings in our life, then life will be a drudgery... an obligation. And we’ll be more concerned about the bare minimum of love than the maximum. That's what happens when we think that God loves us the bare minimum. But God loves us more than that. He loves us to death. He loves us to the maximum.

Truly, we are awash in grace.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Great Mystery - Homily for the 21st Sunday in OT

Ok, be honest—how many of you elbowed your spouse during that second reading?

And I know what you were saying with that elbow: “See,” you were saying, “See, you’re supposed to make me breakfast every day. It says so right there: be subordinate to me as though to the Lord!”

But if we go back to the beginning—you remember Adam and Eve—if we go back to the beginning and before The Fall, we remember how innocent they were. Eve was “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,” says the giddy Adam. They were innocent together, one body, walking in communion with the Lord, naked and without shame.

It was only after The Fall—only after their sin—that we see domination and power-grabbing enter into their relationship. So this begs the question: why would St. Paul exhort Catholics to continue a domination that was the result of The Fall?

Hint: he’s not.

So, what is Paul saying here?

*          *          *

Well, there are two keys to understanding the passage. The first comes at the very end of the reading. Paul says, I speak of

            a great mystery… Christ and the church.

If we are going to understand the marriage between husband and wife, Paul is telling us that we must firstly understand the mystery that exists between Jesus Christ and His Church. And so Paul begins:

            Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her…

What Paul is revealing is that Jesus Christ is in love. He is a bridegroom and the Church is His bride. Jesus, the husband, loved His wife, the Church, so much that He went to the Cross—died—for her: he “handed himself over for her.” And it wasn’t just that He died, but even before that, He

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant (Phil 2:6-7).

Jesus did not seek to dominate us, but to serve us,

            to sanctify her [the Church, us], cleansing her by the bath of water with the word.

By the bath… I think of a husband and wife here. The wife has been injured or is sick and cannot bathe herself. Her husband lifts her into the water and pours water on her hair and gently takes care of her, cherishing her and loving her.

This is the image that Paul gives to reveal Jesus’ love for us. Jesus, our divine spouse (see Jn 4:16ff), calls us to Himself and cleanses us by baptism, by confession, by His blood so that

He might present to Himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing

of any such thing that smacks of sin or impurity or death. You see, Jesus cherishes His bride, the Church, and does not seek to dominate her but to help her become holy—that we might be filled with “splendor”—that is, glory.

To accomplish this, Jesus becomes a servant to the bride, that He may lift her who was cast down by the domination of sin (that is what really dominates)— that He may lift her up to the glory of heaven. Remember: this is what He wants for us: to be home with Him forever in heaven.

And what is heaven called? It is called the “wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9) where a certain someone is “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:2). And who is that someone? Who is getting married? It is the Church, the “wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9) betrothed to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

This is why Jesus, when He dies on the Cross and as He gives up His spirit, says, “It is finished.” In Latin, the line is: “consummatus est.” It is consummated. What is consummated? The marriage between Jesus and us. Hence, on the night before Jesus died, He said “This is my body, given up for you”—which is what a bride and groom say on their wedding night. “This is my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant”—that’s wedding vows.

This great marriage continues even to today as we hear those same words at Mass and as we receive the Eucharist.  Just as Paul says:

            He who loves his wife… nourishes and cherishes [her]...

Jesus nourishes His bride with the Eucharist, that is His body. Do you see the love? This Jesus who gives and gives and gives—Eucharist after Eucharist after Eucharist—constantly giving, constantly pouring out—and even when we aren’t all-there, even when we are taking His generosity for granted. And He would have every right to be resentful and to hold this against us!

But He is not a dominating God. He is not a God that keeps tally. No. Jesus is a God that loves… and He doesn’t count the cost. Even when the cost is His infinite, loving self.

This is how much God loves you. It is a great mystery, that He should love you in such a way—in such a way that He becomes subordinate to you. And that’s the scandal. He has humbled Himself beneath you, taken the burden of love upon His own shoulders, becoming the servant who bathes you and feeds you and lifts you up.

To think: He has subordinated Himself…. and to you.

*          *          *

Now. Now we can understand the rest. And so the second key:

            Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Reverence for Christ.

That’s the key. Be subordinate out of reverence for Christ. Reverence. What does this mean? To revere means to acknowledge the sacrifice, to receive it and hold it up—to honor it. Which is what we said in our wedding vows, right? “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

And these aren’t just your words. These are words that Jesus says from the Cross to you. From there, as His arms are open, His side pierced, His spirit given… everything about Him is saying “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

To do the same for your spouse… that is to reverence Christ.

In this way, we realize that Jesus has already died for your wife. He has already died for your husband. He has loved them so much as to become subordinate to them, Himself taking the burden of love and becoming a servant for their salvation: happiness with Him in heaven. We are simply called to do the same, to enter into this “great mystery.”

As men, this means my brothers and my spiritual sons—this means that our main job in life, beyond our work, beyond our striving for excellence in what we do to support our families—our main job is to bring our wife and our children to heaven. Joshua’s words hit home for us today: “

If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve…

It is so easy to serve the god of busy-ness and business, the god of money and activity and entertainment, the god of pride and holding on to hurts, the god of ourselves and selfishness. We’re all tempted by this and God knows that I have not always been a good spiritual husband to my bride the Church—I who am called to image Jesus!

But when we serve these dominating gods—pride, money, the world, ourself—when we serve those unfulfilling, self-serving and dominating gods, we become those gods and we dominate our wives. We become indifferent and uncaring and so we bark out commands or lose our patience or have expectations that are beyond the pale—when, in reality, all our wives really want is to be cherished.

Our main job is to bring them to heaven. To pray with them, to forgive, to be patient, to love. As Christ the servant-groom.

*          *          *

Wives, my sisters and spiritual daughters: would you not follow such a man? If you knew that your husband’s first goal was to get you to heaven—to the ecstatic bliss of happiness forever in heaven—if you knew that everything he was doing was oriented to that, you would follow him, right?

I mean, why not?

Of course, I know: I get it: we aren’t very good at that. We are sometimes like Adam when the snake is in the Garden and you are afraid and you want security and you feel as though if you don’t reach out and grab your own happiness, then it ain’t ever gonna come to you.

I know.

So pray for your husband. And wait. Don’t reach out and grab. You’re right: it’s so easy to not-need your husband. But when you grab, there is something about your dignity that is lost. Let us hold the door open for you. Give your man a chance.

You see, the world grabs. The world is content with itself and is quickly forgetting about God. You see the shape that the world is in, right? Ok.

*          *          *

So we see what we need to do. And yes, yes it is really, really difficult: to be another Christ! To be on the Cross!

But this is why Jesus gave you the sacrament of Holy Marriage. And not only that, but He gives you again and again His body in the Eucharist to nourish and strengthen you that you might become like Him: a total gift of self.

That. That is what Paul is getting at. It’s not about domination. It is about donation: about gift: about becoming a gift to be given. Jesus given to you; you now give to others.

So, it's not saying, "Hey, make me breakfast." It's "how can I serve you today?" How can I be Jesus for you, my love?

And yes, your gift could be rejected. God knows how many people have rejected His Son here this morning! Even in the gospel, it says

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

An unrequited love. A husband calling out, “I thirst!”—I thirst for your love!

Oh! How will you respond?

Lord, I trust you. I believe you have the words of eternal life. Help me to become a gift to others. For I know, Lord, that as I humble myself just as you humbled yourself, that not only do I love better, but I better know your love. I become one with you. And that is everything. Lord, teach me this great mystery. Jesus, help me to love!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Greatest Treasure - Homily for the 19th Sunday in OT

When I was ordained, my hands were anointed with sacred chrism—which is that wonderfully scented oil. Right after this happens, my hands were wrapped in a cloth—called a maniturgium (that’s Latin for hand towel). I didn’t simply wipe my hands, but I pressed them into the cloth, kind of how we did when we were in kindergarten. As I did this, the maniturgium became scented with sacred chrism and two hands were printed into the cloth.

There is a tradition that this cloth is given to a priest’s mom at the very first Mass that the priest offers. So, at my first Mass I gave this to my mom.

Now, there is an (apocryphal) story that goes along with this. The story goes like this: When my mom dies, the maniturgiam will be wrapped around her hands and she will be buried with it. When she comes to the gates of heaven to meet Our Lord for judgment, Jesus will ask her: “How did you love me here on earth?” To which my mom will unfold the cloth with my hands and say, “I gave you my son for a priest.”

When I told this story for the first time, it was to my mom as I was handing her the maniturgium. Everyone was crying. I told her that this wasn’t a golden ticket into heaven—that she still had to be holy.

But it did speak to the very depths of all of our souls: we want the very best for those we love. I want heaven for my mom because that is the very best.

Heaven. It’s probably not the first word that we think of when we come to Mass. But this is what it’s all about. The Eucharist is about eternal life, about heaven.

Note how many times Jesus talks about heaven in just the ten short verses of the Gospel here.
            I am the bread that came down from heaven.

            whoever eats this bread will live forever;

            I am the living bread that came down from heaven.

Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die [that is, live]

            and I will raise Him on the last day.

Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal […] life 
I am the bread of […] life 

            the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world

Wow! Do you see? Jesus gives us the Eucharist so that we might have eternal life. Heaven.

He wants the very best for us. He loves us. It is this food, this living bread, that is going to bring us there. After all, if it was by eating that Adam and Eve brought death into the world, wouldn’t it be fitting that our Lord should have us eat so as to enter into eternal life?

Yes, this is why on the night before Jesus died, He took bread and said, “Take this, all of you, and eat of it. This is my body, which will be given up for you.”

The Eucharist, therefore, is our greatest treasure. For 2,000 years the Eucharist has been given to hungry souls, longing to be filled with Jesus. On the battlefields in Europe, Catholic priests were seen giving the Eucharist; in hidden church-homes in China, priests and faithful quietly praying and receiving the Eucharist; in the great cathedral basilicas of Rome, grand celebrations of the Eucharist; century after century, from the ancient churches through the barbarian invasions, the Eucharist; the miracle at Lanciano, the devotion of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Eucharistic processions in a world of doubt-filled protest: the Eucharist; the one thing for which the angels could be jealous of us, the Eucharist. Second graders in veils and suits, the sick in their beds, the quiet adoration chapel awaiting a soul to come visit in the quiet hours of the night, the Eucharist.

Every day and at every moment there is a Holy Mass being offered, the gift of God’s eternal life being given to the world.

Isn’t this beautiful?

I think of Father Walter Ciszek—American. He felt called to do missionary work in Poland and Russia. During his work, he was captured by the communists and sent to a prison camp in Siberia. There was no church there. There was no wine. He was placed in solitary confinement and tortured. Was he ever going to receive the Eucharist again?

He received bread from his captors and a good Samaritan gave him “medicine for his belly”—that was the wine—and there Father Ciszek in his cell in Siberia, held the crumbs of bread and a couple drops of wine in his hand and said the Mass. Before he consumed the Eucharist, he would lay down on the floor with his hand outstretched, simply adoring the Lord for hours.

The Eucharist: our greatest treasure.

It is for this reason, that you will see me genuflecting when I enter into the Church—because there lives the Eucharist. “My Lord, I believe” is what I say as I put my knee to the ground. “My God and my king!”—at whose name every knee must bend.

Before I receive the Eucharist, I bow profoundly and I receive Him with great care and devotion. And in my heart, after I receive Him, I say thank you—because that’s at least common courtesy. But He is giving me eternal life, so I pray fervently as though eternal life depended on it. Because it does.

You’ll notice how us priests spend time purifying the chalices. We do this with affection because that’s Jesus.

You’ll notice that we don’t throw the Eucharist away but we preserve this treasure by placing Him in the tabernacle. Because that’s Jesus.

When a chalice spills (God forbid, but when it does), you will see me kneeling and carefully taking white linens and soaking up the precious body and blood of our Lord as though I was soaking up Jesus’ blood from His scourging at the pillar. Because, really, that’s exactly whose blood is really there.

It is for this reason, to consecrate and to hold and to give to you the very source of eternal life, that my hands were anointed. (I would have our extraordinary ministers remember this—or any of us who take communion in the hand—that my hands had to be anointed before I could hold the Eucharist in my hands).

And so I must admit: the genuflecting, the vestments, the bows, the meticulous cleaning of the chalices, keeping the leftovers in the tabernacle, and my hands being anointed —none of this matters … unless this really is Jesus. Unless this actually connects with what is most important: that is, eternal life.

If the Eucharist was not Jesus, then the only things that would matter would be the preaching and the music and what people we saw and what they were wearing. And it wouldn’t matter whether we genuflected or whether the priest was reverent and holy. Shoot, it wouldn’t even matter if we had priests… or even the Eucharist at all.

But if it is..... if it really is Jesus... then it is definitely connected to eternal life.

It’s because it is connected to eternal life that so many who have fallen away long for it; they miss it. I have had so many conversations at weddings and at funerals with people who have fallen away—and they fell away because all sorts of things (sins of the clergy, sins of the people, … or maybe because life just happened and they didn’t know how to come back)—I’ve had so many conversations ... and I've started to ask a simple question:

Don't you miss it? Don't you miss the Eucharist?

And they do. They really do. I can see it in their eyes. And many say so with their lips.

Come back. Eternal life is here. Heaven is here. Jesus wants the very best for you.

For all of us who are here, treasure this. Don’t let yourself fall away and become a statistic. Genuflect. Bow. Dress well. Pray fervently. Arrive early. Stay late. Treat the Eucharist as though your eternal life depended on it.

Because it does.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Mystery of Faith - Homily for the 18th Sunday in OT

            Rabbi, when did you get here?

Those are words of surprise. The crowd did not know when or even how Jesus had beat them to the other side of the shore. They did not know that He had walked on water the night before. Only those who were in the boat knew. Those who were closest to him—not those following at a distance.

We’ve seen such surprise before. Do you remember Bethlehem? (ahem, House of Bread) It was Christmas Eve and Jesus was coming to the village inns. They didn’t know He was coming to them, because He was small and hidden—a baby carried in the womb of Mary. St. Joseph is leading the way, knocking on doors, but when the innkeepers see him and Mary, they do not see Jesus. So the innkeepers close their doors, saying “We don’t have any room here.”

The innkeepers didn’t welcome Jesus because they were too full. For the innkeepers, they were full of their own guests, their own entertainment, their own life. So too the crowds: they were full on the “bread that parishes”: money, material goods, worldly things, doubt. And being too full, they were surprised by Jesus.

            Rabbi, when did you get here?

*          *          *

There is an ancient story of a teacher and his student. They are sitting at a table drinking tea. The teacher says to the student, “Let me fill your cup.” The student replies that he has enough tea, but thank you. The teacher insists, “I must fill your cup.” And immediately the teacher begins to fill the student’s cup with tea. The tea overflows the cup and begins to fill the saucer. The tea quickly fills the saucer and begins to drip onto the table. A pool of tea forms and then spills over the table's lip and into the student’s lap. The student stands up: “What are you doing?!” The teacher responds: “You have come to me to be taught, but I cannot fill you. There is no room in you for me to give you what I have, because like this cup you are already too full.”

*          *          *

As a priest, I have many discussions with many people. So many people are so full—full of the information of the world, full of worldly pursuits, full of doubt—and on any number of hot-button topics. They doubt the Church, they doubt God, they doubt themselves… And maybe credibility was lost some time ago because of scandals-- scandals of bishops or priests or other people in the pews who say they are Catholic but live just like everyone else. So full to the brim of doubt, they are unable to hold the grace that Jesus the Divine Teacher wishes to give them. In their minds and hearts and lives, there is no room for Him.

Perhaps you have heard the saying: “When the student is ready the teacher arrives.” This is so true, isn’t it? How many of us, when we finally admitted that we needed a teacher, suddenly found ourselves receiving deeper wisdom than what we had received when we were so full of ourselves? I don’t know about you, but that’s the story of my life! It was only when I was actually looking for answers that I discovered the wisdom of God. But it’s not easy: to admit that we don’t know something, to admit that we’re empty here, and that we need a teacher.

This is where we begin to see a fundamental difference between doubt and wisdom. Doubt—doubt encounters something that it dislikes and says, “Psh! That can’t be!” and then walks away. Doubt is full of itself; it is certain (strangely) in its doubt. But wisdom—wisdom understands that there could be more which might not yet be known. So, when it encounters something that it dislikes, it humbly presents itself before the teacher and says, “I do not understand. Will you teach me?” In such way, the one who pursues wisdom makes the first step in humility-- not doubt-- and because they do believe, they grow.

In one of my recent conversations, I received from someone a laundry list of everything they disagreed about the Church. It was couched in language of having an “open mind,” and how the Church wasn’t open-minded. The laundry list was so long that I simply responded that I was open to sitting down and talking about these matters further. I'd like to say that I received a reply of equal open-mindedness, but I received instead a flat rejection stating that meeting would be a total waste of time. Oh. I’m sorry.

GK Chesterton once wrote that

“The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

We open our mouths not to eat poison, but to receive what is good. So too, our minds should always be open to the good and the true and the beautiful. And when we do find the true and the good and the beautiful, we should close our mind—just like our mouths—upon that. (Else, if we keep our minds open, we will lose what is true and good—like food being dribbled from an gaping mouth).

Hear Paul:

Brothers and sisters…
you must no longer live as the Gentiles do,
in the futility of their minds…

Futility of their minds. Minds having eaten the apples of what is false and evil and ugly. So full of doubt. So full that they don’t need a teacher.

*          *          *

We are different. We know that Jesus Christ taught His apostles (which meant they were open to be taught). And, as He did so, one of the things He taught them was that the Holy Spirit was the Spirit of Truth and that He would send the Spirit of Truth to them as the Truth would set them free. Jesus would call Himself “The Way, The Truth, The Life”—not “a” way, “a” truth, “a” life. No, He was claiming that He was fundamentally different than Buddha and Confucius and the other teachers that said “the truth is out there” or “over there, that’s the way.” No, Jesus pointed to Himself and said “I am the Way and the Truth.” This makes sense because, if God is a good God, He wouldn’t want any doubts about Him. He would want us to know Him definitively. Hence the definitive article: THE Truth.

This power of the Holy Spirit He gave to His apostles; that is, the power to teach definitively—from the Latin “magister,” from which we get the word Magisterium-- such that when the Church teaches on faith and morals (about things like marriage and abortion and drunkenness and when we can and cannot receive communion)-- when the Church teaches on these things, She teaches The Truth and not some mere opinion.

            Whoever hears you [apostles], hears Me.

This is Truth we can sink our teeth into, Truth about which we can close our mind.

In fact, we must.

At Holy Mass, we proclaim the “Mystery of Faith.” Faith—the opposite of doubt. And the mystery we proclaim is Jesus Christ crucified, He who is God who humbled Himself and gave Himself to us in the Eucharist. This deposit of Faith was entrusted to His apostles and to their successors such that our communion with Jesus Christ was totally dependent upon our communion with the Faith which He spoke through them-- since Jesus is the Truth. There is no difference between the two.

To lack communion with the teaching of the Church would necessarily lead to exclusion from the Mystery of Faith which the Eucharist is and of which it is the ultimate source and sign. We cannot receive communion in the Holy Eucharist, the Mystery of Faith, if we are doubting that very same Faith.

We can difficulties, sure. But difficulties of faith must lead to the feet of The Teacher, not a fullness of one's certainty of doubt.

*          *          *

I will admit, this is humbling. It is humbling to admit that I need a teacher. It is humbling to admit that I am oftentimes too full with the world and its ways of thinking; I am too full of doubt and sin. It is humbling to admit that we need to go to confession.

In confession, we are purified, emptied of this sin problem; the humility empties us of our pride and says to God, “Lord, fill me with your mercy. Fill me with yourself!”

Here is the challenge I have for you, then: if you are full of doubt, go and talk with a priest. If you realize you have been full of worldly thinking, that "bread that perishes," then you shouldn’t present yourself for holy communion, the "bread of life," today. Go to confession first. If you are in mortal sin—if you got drunk this weekend or last, if you skipped Mass without a good reason, if you had a huge fight with your spouse in front of your children—if you are in mortal sin, you need to stay in the pew today for your actions were not in communion with Jesus or with The Faith. You need to go to confession first. If you haven't been to confession in over a year, you are full with things that you know need to be dealt with first. Come to confession before you come to Eucharist today.

And I’m not up here to be all righteous—just this morning I examined my conscience and realized that I needed to go to confession before I received the Eucharist today. And so I confessed—and I had to go to someone in the rectory, someone with whom I live. Can you imagine how humbling that is?

Yes, I know how humbling it is to have to stay back in the pew, to have to go to confession. But this is where we humbly admit, “Teacher, I have been too full with the bread that perishes… Make room in me so that I may receive you, the Bread of Life. For I know, Lord, that whoever comes to you will never hunger and whoever believes in you will never thirst. I believe this, Lord. I know it is True."