Do you recall the first word that Moses spoke to the people in our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy? It was this – “remember.”
As the Israelites were on the verge of entering into the Promised Land, Moses exhorts them to remember how Yahweh had brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of slavery. To remember that Yahweh made a covenant with them and gave them the commandments to shape and guide their lives. To remember how for 40 years Yahweh led them through the desert, feeding them with manna and bringing forth water from the rock.
To remember. Yet how easy it is to forget.
Fr. Thomas, thank you for being here with us to celebrate this Mass of Thanksgiving for your ordination to the priesthood. Thank you for helping us to remember this awesome gift of Eucharist, this great gift of thanksgiving, especially since we have been away from Mass for so long. Thank you for helping us enter into this Year of the Eucharist called for by Archbishop Etienne in order to focus our hearts, minds and souls on remembering and thus entering more fully into the mystery of holy Eucharist. I encourage everyone to please read his apostolic letter in the latest edition of Northwest Catholic magazine.
(Fr. Thomas Tran was with us at the 9:30 Mass this morning. I thanked him for being here, for persevering in his call to priesthood, for helping us enter into this year of the Eucharist called for by Archbishop Etienne in order to focus our hearts, minds and souls on remembering, on thus enabling us to enter more fully into the mystery of the Holy Eucharist that he now celebrates for us as an ordained priest. You can read the Archbishop’s apostolic letter in the latest edition of Northwest Catholic magazine and on the archdiocesan website.)
“Remember” is the first word that Moses spoke in our first reading. The last words of consecration that the priest prays over the elements of bread and wine are words of Jesus from the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.”
Jesus doesn’t just suggest or even ask. Jesus commands us to never forget, to live always remembering his sacrificial life, death and resurrection. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”
“When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death O Lord, until you come again.” This Memorial Acclamation often prayed immediately after the words of consecration, is rooted in today’s second reading where St. Paul reminds the Corinthians that when they celebrate Eucharist they participate in the very body and blood of Christ which makes them one. “We, though many, are one body.”
To remember. To, “Do this in memory of me.”
From its very beginning, the Catholic Church has been remembering, has been gathering to pray, to break bread and share cup, to enter into the Eucharistic mystery that we celebrate at this Mass. We believe and profess that when we gather for Holy Eucharist, we participate in the one, eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross that reconciles us to the Father and draws us into unity with one another. That is why we are here.
Our nation is once again embroiled in the painful process of remembering our founding values and our highest aspirations. It is a painful process because we keep forgetting the unique understanding of the human person revealed to us in our Judeo-Christian heritage.
The Catholic Church has sought since its beginning to articulate the deepest meaning and understanding of the human person – that we are created and fashioned in the image of our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, undivided unity.
God unites. Satan divides. God brings peace. Satan brings chaos. God brings healing. Satan brings suffering. God re-members, that is, brings together. Satan dis-members, tears apart.
We are in a cosmic struggle with evil itself which is manifested at this present moment in racial discrimination, bigotry, killing and societal injustice that is tearing at the very fabric of our society. It is making us ugly, mean and cruel to one another. It is as if Satan has his knee on the neck of our nation, suffocating us with hatred, anger and fear that makes us forgetful of who we truly are.
COVID-19 has made us fearful, not just of the disease but of one another and fear often brings out the worst in humanity.
Yet, there are signs of hope, of solidarity, of societal and political will to bring about systemic change. But this will not be easy. Fighting against evil never has been. Substantial change takes sustained effort.
To celebrate this feast of Corpus Christi does not remove us from the societal chaos we are experiencing, but rather enables us to enter into it with a sacramental and mystical penetration for true transformation.
To celebrate this feast of Corpus Christi unites us in the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross to the suffering of every single human being who has been discriminated against, whose God-given innate human dignity has been disregarded whether because of the color of their skin, the nation of their origin, the language they speak, the faith they profess or their political preference.
To celebrate this feast of Corpus Christi invites us to delve into the rich tradition of our Catholic social teaching that speaks of and acts on behalf of the sacredness of all human life, of every human being from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death. There ought to be the same outcry of pain and outrage at the latest aborted baby at Planned Parenthood as there is over the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others.
To celebrate this feast of Corpus Christi, we are invited not to stay on the sidelines but to enter into the healing process of reconciliation, not by capitulation, not by compromise, not by shouting the loudest, not by social media posts, moving to the CHAZ/CHOP or the latest gesture.
Rather, in Christ, we are called to be reconcilers by laying down our lives as Catholics on behalf of all of our sisters and brothers – black and white, Native American and immigrant, the people across the street and the people across the fence of our southern border.
I encourage you to go to the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website to read and pray with the bishops’ letter, “Open wide our hearts: the enduring call to love.” There are also many other resources on how racism is manifested in our economy, housing, jobs, immigration, educational system, etc. There are further resources in my pastor’s notebook this week as well.
“Do this in memory of me.” This is Jesus’ command because Jesus wants us to live, to be truly alive as beloved daughters and sons of our heavenly Father. Eight times in today’s gospel Jesus calls us to share in the living bread that brings eternal life. Jesus wants to abide with us forever. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
This is no pious platitude. This is not some placard. This is not some passing slogan. This is truth. This is life. This is Jesus Christ, the Son of God who gives us his very self, his life so that we might live forever.
At this present moment, this is the most profound gift and action that the Catholic Church offers our nation and our world for its healing and wholeness. This sacrifice of the Mass is a gift that will enable us to be sent forth to act on behalf of justice.
At the conclusion of every Mass we are told, “Go in peace,” not in anger, not in violence, not in hatred or with vitriolic shouts. No, we are sent forth having received Jesus Christ, the source and summit of our life, He who is peace.
“Just as the living Father sent me, and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”
Let us feed on Jesus at this sacrifice of the Mass. This is the most radical action we can take on behalf of justice and true peace.