Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Back when I was in college I had an art history class that met at 8:00am.  I both looked forward to the class and I dreaded it: why?  Because I loved looking at slides of art for an hour and half two days a week.  But I knew how hard it was to sit in the dark and try to stay awake. 

 Fast forward to 1998.  I was in France to study fresco painting and while there visited my cousin Norbert and his family in Alsace.  He took me to see the Gothic Cathedral in Strasbourg and while we were standing outside the cathedral, Norbert, who is a Protestant, (as are the rest of the Rohrbachers in France) asked me, as a Catholic, to explain the Catholic belief in the Assumption of Mary.  He asked me, how could Pope Pius XII, in 1950, just up and declare that Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul?

 So I explained to him the great antiquity of the Church’s belief that Mary was the first-fruits of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, that just as she bore Christ bodily in to the world, in the Assumption she was borne bodily into heaven.  But he said, where is that in scripture?  I replied that there wasn’t a scriptural account of her death and assumption, but that the Christian tradition bore witness to her assumption into heaven.  “Tradition” he asked?  Yes, I said, we see the Church’s ancient belief in the mystery of Mary’s assumption in its meditation on scripture, in liturgy, the lives of the saints and in sacred art. 

 “Art?” he said.

Assumption of Mary (Strasbourg Cathedral)
 It was at that moment that I turned my head slightly and noticed that behind us was an enormous bas-relief carved on the outside of the cathedral.  It looked very familiar (I guessed I had managed to stay awake for that class, at least) .  I said, “Yes, Christian art testifies to Christian doctrine, it is part of tradition.  As in this exquisite 1000 year old sculpture to our right of the Assumption of Mary.”

 What was impressive to me – that the Church has celebrated this feast in honor of the Virgin Mary from very first centuries after Christ – I’m not sure convinced  my cousin.  We looked at that sculpture, we looked at sacred scripture and sacred tradition with very different eyes.  If I only had a special pair of glasses that would help him see what I see.

Does anybody remember the movie “It Came From Outer Space!”?  The movie wasn’t all that memorable, but it was shown in 3D, and the movie poster promised that in 3D Vision! this otherwise pedestrian science fiction film would be: Amazing! Exciting! Spectacular!  

3D movies, (which have made a comeback in a big way recently) were a shortlived fad during the 1950’s .  What made the film appear 3D were the cardboard glasses (issued to each paying customer) which enabled them to see the film in three-dimensions.

What, you might ask, do 3D movies and those goofy 3D glasses have in common with the feast of the Assumption which we are celebrating today?  This: to fully understand today's scripture readings in relation to today’s feast, we need our own 3D glasses to bring out dimensions of the sacred text that might otherwise escape our notice.

 We need to put on the ‘glasses’ of typology that enable us to see Mary’s assumption
into heaven body and soul, not only or even primarily as a historical event unique to the person of Mary but as a type, as an image of what God has already accomplished
and will accomplish in the Church in its pilgrimage of faith and what God has accomplished and will accomplish in the lives of each one of us.

On this feast day, we affirm and celebrate this Christian mystery: that after her death,
Mary entered body and spirit into the resurrected life of her Son.  We believe that the one who by God’s grace and favor was the Theotokers, the Godbearer, who bore God in the flesh into this world, was herself, in the flesh, by God’s grace and favor, borne by God
into the life of the world to come.

If things simply ended there, as a special privilege afforded by Jesus to his Mother,
then the Assumption would not merit that much attention.   But we celebrate this feast as a major holy day, a holy day of obligation, in fact, precisely because what happened to Mary
is significant, not only for herself but is significant for the Church
and for every disciple.

St. Paul teaches us  that Christ is the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep in death:
having put all enemies under his feet,  Christ has triumphed over the last enemy,
death, which has been destroyed. All who belong to him,  beginning with Mary,
share in the resurrection of Jesus.

 Mary, the Godbearer, the living ark of the covenant, the dwelling place of the living God,
is a great sign appearing before us today,  the great sign appearing in the sky,  the woman, clothed in the sun, crowned with stars and with the moon under her feet.

With the resurrection of Jesus God’s temple in heaven opened and with the assumption of Mary we can see with the eyes of faith,  Mary, the living ark of the covenant  in the special place prepared for her by God,

Mary is a sign for all of us, all of us who have already entered the living temple of the Church washed clean by baptism,anointed with the Holy Spirit, bearing Christ within us
each time we eat his Body and drink his Blood.  Mary’s assumption is a sign to us
of God’s faithful love which has overcome sin and death.

 Each of us in our baptism has already died to sin and death, and are journeying in hope to that special place God has prepared for those he loves.  The great things that God has done for Mary, which she proclaims with joy in the Magnificat, God has done for us. We are blest among women (and men) and all ages to come will call us, the holy ones of God, blessed.
The power of sin and death over us has been cast down and we have been raised up
from the waters of baptism as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.  We will be raisedup, as Mary was, with all who belong to God.   

On the feast of the Assumption, which is in the late summer, just as the harvest
in the northern hemisphere is beginning to come in, we celebrate the rich harvest
of Christ’s resurrection actualized in Mary, in the Church, his Body, and in all of the baptized.

On this feast of the Assumption, let us, like Mary, praise and thank with joy, our faithful God, who has done such great things, for Mary and for all who belong to him.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sheep Without a Shepherd

[This is the text of the homily I preached last weekend on the 22nd of July at the Cathedral in Juneau.]

When Jesus came ashore, he saw the large mass of people and had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he began to teach them many things.

As the Church across the country comes together this Sunday to meet the Lord in his Word and in his Body and Blood, we do so in the aftermath of the terrible events in Aurora, Colorado.  We gather to pray here for the victims -- those who were killed and those who were wounded; for their families and friends; for the police and emergency responders, for the doctors and nurses; for the family of the perpetrator and for the disturbed young man who committed these evil and senseless acts.

We struggle to comprehend how such evil is possible and how to make sense of the chaos, disorder and bewilderment that affects all of us.  Meditating on all that happened, I keep finding myself returning to the name of that stricken communityin Colorado: Aurora.  Aurora is the Latin word for the dawn (from the name of the Roman goddess of the dawn.)  For us as Christians, as believers, "aurora", the dawn, is central to our story, in the story of the resurrection.  In the first centuries of the Church's history, believers would gather Saturday in vigil to pray through the night until dawn.  As the sun was rising in the east, they would celebrate the Sunday eucharist, both in expectation of the coming of Christ at the end of time when all would be all in him, but also to celebrate his enduring presence in the midst of his pilgrim people.

It so happens that this year, July 22nd is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene.  Because it is Sunday, we do not celebrate her feast today, but I propose that her witness might be a guide for us today as we seek to respond to this tragedy in the light of faith.

We should remember first of all that in the darkness of the early hours of Easter Sunday, the disciples of Jesus (including Mary Magdalene and the other women who had faithfully stood vigil at the cross) were grief stricken and confused.  Jesus, in whome they had placed their faith and hope, their beloved teacher, friend and companion, was lying lifeless in the tomb near the place of his crucifixion.  All their hopes, all their dreams, the faith itself, had died with Jesus.

They were sheep without a shepherd.

Somehow, Mary Magdalene overcame her hopelessness and grief and went to where he lay one more time with the intention of lovingly anointing his body with aromatic spices. It was there that she discovered the empty tomb.  There she encountered the risen Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who looked upon her (and all sheep without a shepherd) with compassion and love.  There, at the empty tomb, he spoke her name, "Mary" and she recognized him.  Calling her by name, she sent him to the disciples as the first witness to his resurrection.

She became the herald of the saving message that is the essence of the Good News: that Christ is risen and has triumphed one and for all over the powers of sin and darkness, over the powers of evil and death.  The Eastern Church gives her the title of "Apostle to the Apostles" in recognition that she was sent by Christ to announce the risen Lord to the Twelve who would carry that message to the ends of the earth, and eventually, through time to each one of us.

As members of the Body of Christ, as his disciples and witnesses to the saving power of God in Jesus, we are not sheep without a shepherd.  The Good Shepherd is as present to us this day as he was to Mary Magdalen on the dawn of the first day of the week.  Jesus has called each of us by name to be his disciples and the heralds of the Good News.  We are not without a shepherd, but today's gospel and the events in Aurora invite us to be attentive to so many who truly are sheep without a shepherd, those who are confused and bewildered and those whose faith has been shaken.  We must be attentive as well to all those who have lost hope altogether.  

As a society, as a culture, we are sheep without a shepherd.  There are many ways that that we could examine how as a culture we have gone astray, but I think that events like those in Aurora, are symptoms of a turning away from faith and hope in a loving God who knows us and cares about us. Living without God, without ultimate meaning and purpose, leads to a profound and suffocating nihilism, a despairing conviction that in the end, nothing truly matters and that there is no future worth contemplating, either in this world or in the next.

We are called by our baptism, called by name, to resist the despair, hopelessness and nihilism that has tragically blighted so much of our culture and society.  We must work for a society and culture that values human dignity and promotes the common good, that does not rely on violence or glorify it, that is not enslaved to the selfish gratifications of greed, lust and the domination of others.

Where to begin?  With ourselves, I think.  We must ask Christ to root out the darkness of despair and hopelessness from our own hearts, which are the root causes of so much hatred, anger and violence in our world.  We must pray for the grace to embody the beatitudes each day, so that mercy, purity of heart, an abiding desire to please God and above all, peacemaking, might lie at the heart of our imitation of Jesus.

We must never forget that Jesus calls on us to imitate him in his non-violence and his compassion and self-sacrificing love for others.  It was Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who suffered and died forgiving his persecutors.

Like our sister in faith, Mary Magdalene, it is our vocation, our privilege, our joy to announce the Good News to those who are lost and in despair, to those who have lost hope, to those who are sheep without a shepherd.  Like Mary Magdalene, we must never give up -  remember, the apostles and disciples did not initially believe the incredible news Mary and the other women proclaimed to them.  Thank God for their perseverance!

In this days, let our faithful, hopefilled, peaceful lives, in witness to our Good Shepherd, be the bright dawn of hope for all those who seek him.



At long last erect we've erected our little shrine to the Mother of God in the uphill corner of our Mary Garden here in Douglas. In mid-July the garden is looking a little bedraggled - the daffodils and tulips are long-gone -- but the forget-me-nots are in flower and the irises and lilies are coming up and beginning to blossom. I've still got to securely tie the post and the shrine into the fence, so it doesn't become airborne when the (inevitable) winds come howling through our little corner of Douglas Island.

My wife Paula and I with the newly installed shrine. (Photo thanks to our son Miguel).

The Tragedy of Mexico's Cristiada

Cristero Soldiers in the 1920's
The feature film "For Greater Glory" is showing in Juneau till the end of the week. (Thanks to a Cathedral parishioner who worked to bring this movie to Juneau).

 I went to a screening last evening to discover to my surprise that the best part of this deeply disappointing movie was to be found at the end, in the credits.  The filmmakers matched photos of the various actors with the real-life men and women (many of whom were martyred by the Mexican authorities in the 1920's ) that they portrayed in the movie.  It was quite moving to look at them and to reflect on the costly, and for some, ultimate sacrifices they made for their faith.  This was underscored by a brief snippet of (presumably)archival footage of the execution of the martyr Fr. Miguel Pro SJ, who, while not a Cristero, was arrested and put to death for his underground ministry as a priest.

Unfortunately, the film was an overall narrative and aesthetic failure.  The filmmakers, with the best of intentions, tried to create a sweeping epic (think "Lawrence of Arabia") but only succeeded in stitching together stereotypical scene after stereotypical scene (taken from a century of Westerns and war movies), through which a parade of two-dimensional heroes and bad guys (wearing the requistite white or black sombreros or the equivilent) entered and exited, guns blazing and banners flying. 

The film failed for a number of reasons.  To begin with it is pretty much impossible for us as modern people, after the horrific carnage of the First and Second World Wars, to regard war, (even a war like the Cristero Rebellion that was a desperate act of self-defense), as anything other than a tragedy.  Despite the occasional nod to how war brings out the worst in those who participate in it, the protagonists were depicted as epic, if doomed heros.   Then there was the failure of the filmmakers (or writers) to understand or explicate the perspectives of those who supported the government  and why they fervently believed that the modernization of Mexico required the repression of the Catholic Church. 

You would never know from the film that the conflict was not so much over closing churches and expelling foreign priests (although this certainly happened and was the immediate casus belli) but was a struggle over the central role of Catholicism in Mexican society and control of who would educate Mexico's youth.  Calles and his supporters sought to marginalize Catholicism because they believed the Church was the most formidable opponent they faced in their project of modernizing Mexican society. They viewed the Church in much the same way that contemporary modernizers view conservative Islamists who resist attempts to bring the benefits of education, literacy and greater social freedom to excluded groups (such as women and girls).  In rural Mexico conservative clerics and their supporters strongly (and in some places during the Cristero rebellion, violently) resisted compulsory primary education which promoted national, secular values and forcibly displaced the existing religious educational system, which was limited in scope and centered on rural parishes. 

In addition to the cultural conflict, the Church resisted the uncompensated confiscation of church estates and monastic lands by 19th century liberal governments and after the 1910 revolution. Church leadership in many parts of rural Mexico sided with other large landowners to oppose the government's redistribution of Church property to landless peasant farmers.     

I note this background not to overlook or justify in any way the persecution of the Church by the anti-clerical national government of Plutarcio Calles and various state governments (some of which were even more violent and destructive than the federales)  but to draw attention to the way in which the filmmakers flattened out the complexity and contradictions of the actual historical conflict.  You would never know from the film that Mexico was a fiercely nationalistic, but deeply divided society that had just come through a decade of revolutionary violence, had a strong and militant trade union movement and was attempting to industrialize and modernize while delivering on promises of land reform made to the campesino majority living in the countryside.  Or that the interests and goals of the Vatican, the bishops, parish priests and the urban and rural faithful were often in sharp conflict.  Or that just about everyone involved on both sides of the conflict, were at least nominally Catholics.   

All of which simply underscores the most serious problem with the film, it's not genuinely interested in Mexico and its history.  It's an American(as in Norte Americano) film that uses a Mexican setting and charactors to hold up for our admiration (rightly) the heroic witness of the martyrs and highlight conservative American beliefs about religious liberty.  Which is too bad, because the largely-forgotten tragedy of the Cristeros needs to be told in all of its complexity, moral ambiguity, and heroism.

Sadly, "For Greater Glory" fails to do that.               

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lead Her Safely Into Eternal Life

My dear friend Sr. Helena Fox PBVM died yesterday in her convent in Cork, Ireland. Despite the distance between Juneau and Ireland we have had a lively and heartfelt correspondence for years. I miss her terribly already.

She was a Presentation sister and as luck or circumstance or providence would have it, I came across a Serbian fresco of this beautiful Marion feast just after my wife Paula called me with the news. I've been on retreat this week at Mt.Angel Abbey, which has mostly consisted of praying with the monks during their daily cycle of the Divine Office and lots of quiet time to reflect and pray.

But another way I pray is with icons. And so I'm praying now for my friend with this beautiful Serbian fresco from Kosovo which depicts the Presentation of Mary. According to an early tradition, Mary was presented by her parents to the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem. She is shown as a little girl, leaving the protection and security of her parents and being brought to the gates of the Temple by a group of maidens with lighted candles.

In the psalms, the Temple, the dwelling place of the Most High is an image of heaven. Mary, is, of course, not only the type of the Church, but of every believer. And so I pray that my friend Helena, a Presentation Sister all her life, has finally completed her own presentation , body, soul and spirit, to the Lord, this day.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ochre de Rue


Last week my daughter Phoebe was in Seattle and while there she stopped by the art store to pick up some art supplies for her iconographer father. I gave her a list of materials unobtainable here in Juneau -- paper and paint, mostly. Although I paint mostly in egg tempera, using dry pigments (see open jar above). Earth colors, mostly yellow and red ochers make up most of the traditional palette for iconpainting, so I'm always on the lookout for earth colors in acrylic. Which is why I was happy to learn that Sennelier, the French colormen, were now manufacturing acrylic paints which include a variety of ochers and other earth colors. The catalog listed the names of the colors in English and simply out of curiousity, I added a color I'd never heard of, brown ocher to the list. And it turned out to be ochre de rue!

I'm probably the only person I know who would get excited about colored dirt but I was overjoyed when I looked at the label and, just above the staid "brown ocher" the words, 'ochre de rue'. That particular pigment and I go back a long way, to my first trip to Paris in 1992 to study with Fr.Egon Sendler at the Centre d'Etudes Russes. At the Centre, ochre de rue (literally 'ocher of the street') is used to finish the outer borders of icons. The pigment is mixed with linseed oil and wiped onto the plaster gesso, to create a beautifully transparent greenish-yellow glaze.


Thursday, June 14, 2012



OK, it wasn't exactly completed in time for Mary's month of May (which ended 14 days ago) but I was finally able to complete the icon of Mary and Jesus for our Mary Garden, as well as the shrine to house it. The cedar shrine (complete with shingled roof) has a couple of features adapted to life in Douglas, Alaska. The roof is held down with a couple of hurricane ties (due to the prevailing 60-70 mph winds that blow through here in the wintertime) and I've built shutters that can be closed and locked into place to protect the icon when the weather gets intense outside.

Now all that remains to be done is to secure the icon inside the shrine, attach it to a 4x4 and set it up in the garden.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Epitaphions! News at 11:00!

Apparently, according to a story in the news media, a Church historian from Italy has written an article claiming that prior to the French Revolution there were as many as 40 proported medieval "shrouds" (resembling the Holy Shroud of Turn) in various cathedrals and monasteries throughout Western Europe. The conclusion, (no surprise) is that the existance of these multiple medieval burial cloths demonstrate that the Shroud of Turin is a medival forgery.

Shroud of Turn
I'm only an artisan, not an academic but my guess as an iconographer is that the "astonishing 40 so-called burial cloths of Jesus" are in fact multiple 'epitaphion' icons . The epitaphion, which means, 'burial cloth' are used by Orthodox (and Eastern Catholic Christians that follow the Byzantine rite) on in the liturgy of Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. The epitaphion is then reverently placed on the altar for the entire Easter season.   

Byzantine Epitaphion
circa 1300
These icons feature the figure of Jesus laid out in death on the burial cloth after being taken down from the cross. Some of them are painted on cloth, others are beautifully embroidered. It's quite possible that the prototype for this icon was the image of Jesus on the Shroud (now residing in Turin, Italy, but originally venerated and displayed in Constantinople).  

Icon of the Holy Face
(Contemporary Russian Icon)
Some believe that the relic of the shroud was usually displayed folded in such a way that only the face was visible and that this image of Christ's face may be the prototype of the icon of the Holy Face (Christ-Made-Without-Hands).
Because they are necessary for the Holy Week and Easter services, epitaphion icons can be found in all Orthodox and Eastern Catholic church, so it is not surprising that at least 40 would have made their way west, either from Sicily, Southern Italy, Greece or the Slavic lands during the Middle Ages. (I would expect a much larger number to have been in circulation during the medieval period, actually, given the brisk trade in relics and icons between Western Europe and the Middle East during the Crusades.)
But of course, "Christians Use Burial Cloth of Jesus Icon in Their Liturgy" is a lot less exciting than "Shroud of Turin is Proven to be a Fake".

Monday, June 11, 2012

Co-Workers and Friends

St.Barnabas Healing the Sick
(Paolo Veronese)
Today is the feast of St. Barnabas, the Jewish Christian from the island of Cyprus who was the companion of St. Paul in his mission to the Gentiles.  They weren't simply fellow workers, but friends, and their friendship survived rejection and mob violence, the conflict within the Church of over circumcision and the Mosaic law and even the attempts of the pagans of Lystra to honor them as gods, after Paul healed a crippled man in that town.

But their friendship ended suddenly when Barnabas proposed that they bring back John, also known as Mark, to join their missionary band.  Paul disagreed, arguing that Mark had failed to remain with them on their earlier missionary journey and had turned back at Pamphylia.  So they quarrelled and the disagreement was so intractable that Barnabas sailed for Cyprus (accompanied by Mark) and Paul left for Syria, accompanied by Silas.  (Which is the last we hear about Barnabas in the Acts of the Apostles.)

Its sad to think about how often in the Church we part company (after quarrelling and disagreements) with our friends. Not because of a lack of faith (Paul and Barnabas continued to evangelize Jews and Gentiles and guide the new churches that they founded) but because of stubborness and wounded feelings. 

Sometimes fidelity to the truth as God gives us the wisdom to understand it requires an adamantine refusal to compromise, or to back down, but my guess is, that's pretty infrequent in most of our lives.  Usually (at least in my experience) when one probes a bit deeper, our conflicts with our fellow disciples of Jesus result from more from bruised pride, wounded feelings, disappointment, harsh judgments and stubborness.  Even when a lot is at stake, I know from personal experience as a card-carrying sinner,  that pride, hurt feelings, harsh judgments etc.. make it easy to personalize disagreement so as to lead to alienation and separation.

The challenge is to find a way to live and act with integrity and fidelity while never losing hold of the infinate value and dignity of the other, especially the other with whom we disagree and especially those with whom we disagree with the most deeply.    



Friday, June 8, 2012

Homily for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus

 This week I have been meditating on this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ in the light of the death on June 3rd ,2007 
of Fr. Ragheed Aziz Gazzi and his companions in Mosul, Iraq. 

Fr.Ragheed was a 35-year old Chaldean Catholic priest  
who was stopped by unknown gunmen when leaving the Mass, and shot to death with the three subdeacons who were accompanying him. 

 The wife of one of the subdeacons (the only survivor)
has testified that the one of the gunman shouted at Fr.Ragheed, ‘" I told you to close the church, why didn’t you do it? Why are you still here?” (He had earlier been threatened with death unless he closed his church immediately and stopped celebrating Mass.) 

The subdeacon’s wife reported that Fr.Ragheed simply asked them, “How can I close the house of God?” .

 In the weeks before his death, Fr.Ragheed had spoken of,
“the great value of Sunday, the day that we meet the Risen Lord, the day of unity and of love between His community,
the day of support and help”. 

 He was quoted as saying:“Without Sunday, without the Eucharist the Christians in Iraq cannot survive”.

On this solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, I can’t help but recall the heroic witness unto death of Fr.Ragheed and his companions,  because his words and example are a vivid reminder to us that without Sunday, without the eucharist, we cannot survive as disciples of Jesus. 

 We remember on this day especially, that as members of Christ’s Body we cannot survive without the Eucharist because every Sunday we encounter the Risen Lord
in the precious and indispensible gifts of his Body and Blood

Every Sunday gathered at this altar, we remember that the divine love, forgiveness and reconciliation, made present  under the humble signs of bread and wine are more powerful than hatred and enmity.

 Every  Sunday gathered at this altar, we remember in the breaking of the bread that the mercy and peace of Christ has overcome the mercilessness and violence of this world.

Every Sunday we remember in the sacrifice offered on this altar, how by his sacrificial death on the Cross and glorious resurrection, the Lord has overcome the power of sin and death forever. 

In the first reading we recall how at the foot of Mt. Sinai
Moses spoke to the Israelites of all the words and ordinances of the Lord.  The people replied, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.”   

Moses then sealed the eternal covenant between God and the Israel by sprinkling the altar and the people with the blood of a young bull sacrificed as a peace offering to the Lord.      

Each Sunday we gather like the Israelites to hear “ the words and ordinances of the Lord”.  Each time we respond “Thanks be to God” and “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ” at the conclusion of the readings and the gospel, we are saying, as God’s people: “We will do everything that the Lord has told us”,
and the Father ratifies the new covenant that he has made with his holy people, with each one of us, not with the blood of calves and goats but with the blood of his beloved Son,
poured out to make peace between God and sinful humanity. 

We cannot survive as the Body of Christ without the Eucharist because each time we receive the gift of his Body and Blood, we receive the grace and the strength and the fortitude to “do everything that the Lord has told us.” 

But as members of Christ’s Body, incorporated completely into the mystery of his death and resurrection, we are called not only “to do everything that the Lord tells us”, to turn away from sin and to act virtuously, we are called to go beyond that, to imitate the example of Jesus so as to become more and more like him.

In our gospel today, we heard again the words we hear each time we celebrate the Eucharist. On the night before Jesus was betrayed and put to death, the Lord gave his disciples
the bread which was his body broken for them, saying, “Take it; this is my body”.  He took the cup of wine,  his blood poured out for them, and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many”. 

Each time we gather at this altar, we hear those familiar yet mysterious words of Jesus, that conclude with this command:
“Do this, in memory of me.” With these words, Jesus not only commands us to gather in his memory to celebrate the Eucharist, he gently commands us, invites us, to ourselves become a living sacrifice, in imitation of his total self-giving.

The  Eucharist is a reminder that a life lived, not for ourselves alone but for others, is the saving participation in the divine life of the Trinity, revealed to us in Jesus, which is eternal life. 

In the gift of his Body and Blood,  Jesus reveals to us his life freely given to the Father; given to his disciples; given to the poor and needy; a life given even to the enemies who took his life so cruelly.

As Christians we cannot survive without the Eucharist because the Eucharist teaches us how to give ourselves completely like Jesus.

At Sinai, God’s people promised to do “everything that the Lord has told us”.  At this table, Jesus commands us to gather around the altar of his Body and Blood and to imitate his self-giving, to do what Jesus did.  

It is this self-giving that Jesus commands us to do in remembrance of him.  Jesus commands us to remember him
as one who was consumed by love.  Jesus commands us to remember his sacrifice by becoming ourselves a living sacrifice for the life of the world in the choices and decisions we make each day. 

We cannot survive as Christians without the Eucharist because each time we eat his Body and drink his Blood
we see and hear and touch and taste what it means to live like Jesus, to be Jesus, in this world.

In this world in which we are constantly enjoined
to consume; to acquire and accumulate; to take for ourselves whatever we desire; the Eucharist invites us to share everything we have been given.  Not to be consumers but tto be consumed.

We cannot survive as Christians without the Eucharist
because, nourished by his Body and Blood, we become the food and drink that the Lord offers for a world which hungers and thirsts for righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, forgiveness and love.   

This world cannot survive without Christians who each day are willing to be the Lord’s Body and Blood broken and poured out for the life of the world.

“Christians”, St.Augustine said about the Lord’s Body and Blood,” say ‘Amen’ to what you are: be what you receive.”

Brothers and sisters, on this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, let us say ‘Amen’ to the bread of life and the cup of salvation together with the angels and the saints who praise God at the heavenly altar; let us say ‘Amen’ with Fr. Ragheed and his companions and all of the martyrs who stand invisibly beside us at the table of sacrifice; and let us say ‘Amen’, with the whole Church gathered this day
to worship and adore Jesus in the precious and lifegiving mysteries of his Body and Blood.