Category Archives: Eucharist

Celebrating the Body and Blood of Jesus

Feast of Corpus Christi
Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pope Francis - MonstranceAs we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi – the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, there are two points we should emphasize from today’s readings. First, throughout salvation history, bread sent from heaven has been critical in helping us grow in relationship – relationship with God, and relationship with God’s people. Second, our faith teaches us that Christ is truly present (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) in the Eucharist we receive at Mass, even though the appearance remains as bread and wine.

Bread from Heaven

We are reminded in our First Reading today that while the tribes of Israel wandered through the dessert, God sent them bread from heaven (“manna” – something unknown to their ancestors) to satisfy their physical hunger. As a result of this gift of manna, the Israelites grew in relationship and learned:

  • To trust God to sustain them (i.e., to give them their daily bread);
  • To live as a covenant people, assured that God has a plan for them; and
  • To live as a holy community, committed to God.

The same is still true for us; we have to learn to trust God, to be assured that God has a plan for us, and live as a holy community of believers.

The difference between the Old Testament tribes and us (New Testament people) is that: We are not fed by bread from heaven that lasts only a day. Jesus, the living bread that came down from heaven, feeds us and sustains our spiritual hunger. The living bread we share in Eucharist offers us a different relationship with God; the Flesh we eat and the Blood we drink promises eternal life.

But listen to what else we hear in the First Reading: “Not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.” The Israelites needed to be fed spiritually by the Word of God. And so do we!

Living Bread

In today’s Gospel, we hear God calling us to an even deeper relationship than the Israelites experienced. Jesus invites us to eat his flesh and drink his blood – to remain in Christ and to continue to feed on him to attain everlasting life, for “whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

You see, God isn’t interested in feeding us for only a day. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, God wants to feed us eternally. But to do this, we (like the Israelites) cannot be sustained by bread alone, but “by every words that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.” The Word of God is critical in our understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

When Human Senses Fail

In fact, St. Thomas Aquinas preached that only one of our human senses allows us to understand the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Only one of our human senses helps us believe that what still appears to be bread and wine becomes Body and Blood of Christ through the Liturgy of the Eucharist we celebrate at this Mass today.

So, which of our senses helps us believe?

It isn’t the sense of sight – the consecrated bread and wine look no different than the gifts we place on the altar. It isn’t the sense of taste, the sense of touch or the sense of smell – it still tastes, feels and smells like bread and wine.

So, which of our human senses helps us to understand that Jesus is present in the Eucharist? It is our sense of hearing. “From every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”

It is no coincidence that we celebrate the Liturgy of the Word before we celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist when we gather for Mass. Our first feeding in our spiritual diet is the Word of God. We experience this in the reading of scripture and of other spiritual readings; in the teachings and Tradition of the Catholic Church, in the hope and fears we offer to God in prayer; an in the hopes and fears we share with each other.

For us to understand the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity), we have to listen to God and open our hearts and minds as we witness the Eucharistic miracle celebrated at each Mass. And that’s what I invite you to experience today.

Listen and Learn

The Feast of Corpus Christi is a great opportunity to re-calibrate our listening to the Word of God. So, as we continue to celebrate this Mass, as we move from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I invite you to listen closely to the words of today’s Eucharistic prayer:

  • Listen to the words of blessing as the priest, standing in the person of Christ, calls down to Holy Spirit to change our simple gifts of bread and wine in to the real Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Listen to the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. As He enters willingly into his Passion, Jesus prayers over the bread and wine and instructs his disciples to take and eat his body, and take and drink his blood

Jesus doesn’t invite his disciples to eat bread and drink wine as a symbolic gesture to remember him. No, Jesus invites his disciples to share in his true presence – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

And, finally, listen to Christ’s commandment to his disciples: “Do this in memory of me.” In doing so, Jesus commands his disciples to continue the celebration of the Eucharist, as we Catholics have been doing for over 2,000 years.

This mystery of our faith, this miracle we call “transubstantiation” (bread and wine becoming Body and Blood of Jesus) helps all of our human senses come alive in Christ. Remember this as you approach the Table of the Lord today. When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, may our “Amen” help us come alive in Christ as the Word of God permeates our hearts and minds.

So, on this Feast of Corpus Christi, let us remember that Christ is the living bread sent down from heaven … for us!

And as we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, let us strive to become what we have received – the Body of Christ. That is the “one loaf” (Second Reading) that we, as individuals share together in God’s love.

Living Our Christian Identity

19392077Homily for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 19, 2016

We hear a lot about “identities” in today’s readings. Our identities are important; they help define who and what we are. They help us understand where we came from and what we have become.

Our identities can be quite complex. For example, I am a husband, father, grandfather, deacon, spiritual companion, manager, co-worker, neighbor, friend, etc. Our identities reflect how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us.

Our Christian Identity

One of the lesson’s in today’s Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is that the identity that matters most in life (our primary identity) is that of “Christian.” Paul tells the Christians in Galatia that our primary identities are no longer defined by race, ethnicity, social status and gender. Instead, we “wear a common identity that is Christ.” So, stop focusing on what differentiates us and focus on what unites us: Christ. The same is true for us today. We still retain our unique, individual identities, but those identities take a back seat to our identity as Christian.

I would love to stand here today and proclaim that in the 2000 years since Paul addressed this issue that we  are fully living our Christian identity. Sure, we’ve made some good advancements in treating others in a Christ-like manner but still today, in our “modern world,” issues of race, ethnicity, social status, and gender often separate and divide us. You only have to connect with social media, the 24-hour news cycle, or political propaganda to understand that hatred and divisiveness is all around us. So, we have to remind ourselves often that it is love that truly unites us and allows us to recognize and use our unique, God-given gifts in service to others. That’s what it means to be a Christian.

Clothed in Christ

When we are baptized, a white garment is placed on us as a symbol of what St. Paul describes as having “clothed ourselves in Christ.” After placing the garment, the deacon or priest says this prayer:

“You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in the white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”

I think it would be a fruitful exercise to take some time to reflect on our lives and ask:

  • How do my words, my thoughts, and my actions reflect my identity as “Christian”?
  • In what ways do I use my unique, God-given gifts and talents in service to others?
  • For us fathers on this Father’s Day
    • Am I an outward sign of Christian dignity to my children and spouse?
    • Does my family witness love, compassion and mercy through me?
    • By my thoughts and words and actions, who would my family say that I am?

To Be a True Disciple

Jesus uses identity questions in today’s Gospel to help instruct his followers on what it means to be an authentic, true disciple. Jesus tells his friends: If anyone wishes to come after me (to be my disciple), they must:

  • Deny themselves
  • Take up their cross daily
  • Follow in Christ’s footsteps

This commandment to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily is about doing for others what Christ has done for us.

In Luke’s gospel, taking up one’s cross is presented as a daily requirement, which indicates our Christian calling is not a one-time event. It’s not about attending a Steubenville Conference and returning to life a usual. It’s not about making an ACTS retreat and silently stumbling down the mountain. It’s not about committing your life to Christian marriage on your wedding day and limiting Christ to a guest appearance now and then in your marriage. What Jesus is telling us is that our Christian calling and identity is a life-long commitment, an ongoing process.

Love is a Vocation

I have had the privilege this past year of working with a group of married couples in our parish to establish a small faith community known as TOOL (Teams of our Lady). These couples want to strengthen and grow their vocation as husband and wife. Some of the readings and discussion from this last month’s TOOL meeting centered on understanding what it means to “take up your cross daily.”

Parts of the readings reminded us that through our marital bond, love is a vocation. As with all vocations, we often experience suffering. We live in a sinful, broken world, so there is no way around it; we will all endure suffering in our life.

The readings suggested that married couples tend to experience suffering in three ways:

  1. Sometimes couples experience suffering together. For example, the couple may experience a miscarriage or other significant loss (They carry the cross together). What the couple learns by taking up their cross together is that their trials can help make their union closer and deeper.
  2. Sometimes couples experience suffering one for the other. For example, your spouse is diagnosed with cancer or some other debilitating illness and you help take up the cross for your ill spouse (One carries the cross for the other). Your helping and nurturing your spouse may entail great sacrifices on your part, but you gladly bear those sufferings for that person whom you love so dearly.
  3. Sometimes couples experience suffering caused by another. For example, through our human weakness one spouse is unfaithful to his or her marriage vows. The unfaithful spouse causes suffering for both spouses (Each carries the cross alone). This suffering can become an obstacle to love. Or, through mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and counseling, this suffering may further the bond of marriage.

These are just some example of “taking up your cross daily.” You don’t have to be married to experience struggles in life. The cross of Christ is often heavy for each of us.

Following in the Footsteps of Christ

Following in Christ’s footsteps is not easy (those are some big sandals to fill!). We often stumble and fall along our spiritual journey. When we fall, we must also follow the example of Christ: Get back up again, as Christ did on His redemptive way of the cross.

If we look more closely at today’s Gospel, we will see that Jesus didn’t ask us to succeed in the spiritual life. He merely invited us to participate and follow Him (every day!). Beyond that, we must trust in His grace, love and mercy

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, one of the ways we continue to experience the identity of Jesus in our lives is in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup.

Today, as we prepare to celebrate Eucharist, as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, may our “Amen” be our promise to remain faithful to Christ as we persevere through good times and bad. May our identity as Christians help invite and attract others to God’s eternal love.

You are loved,

Deacon Dan

Jesus as Priest, Prophet and King

19391805My Homily from November 24, 2013 – Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Today we celebrate what has traditionally been known as the Feast of Christ the King, a day that we recall the fullness of our relationship with Jesus. It would be good for us to reflect on that relationship. Here are two key points we should remember:

  1. Our relationship with Christ is multi-dimensional
  2. It’s a relationship that is supposed to grow over time

We are first introduced to the different dimensions of our relationship with Christ when we are baptized. During the baptism, the celebrant anoints us with the Oil of Chrism and prays, “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”

Beginning on the day we enter the Church we are called to live like Christ – Priest, Prophet, and King. But how do we do that? It may be helpful to get a better understanding of these terms: Priest, Prophet and King.

A simple definition of a priest is one who serves as a bridge or mediator between God and humankind. It’s easy to understand Jesus as priest when we think of “bridge” or “mediator”

  • He is God who became man to draw us closer to him
  • He taught us to remember his love for us in our Eucharist celebration (“Do this in memory of me”)
  • He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us on our spiritual journey
  • He continues to mediate for us (to plead for us) to His Father

So, how do we live out our vocation as priest, like Christ?

  • When we participate in the sacramental life (when we gather in His name to connect with each other and with God)
  • When we cultivate a personal prayer life (our prayers can be a two-way bridge to make our concerns known to God and to receive back God’s grace and blessings in our life)
  • When we introduce Christ to others (we can be a bridge to Christ for others)

All of these things help us connect with God

A prophet is a messenger sent by God – one who speaks for God. Jesus is the last and the ultimate prophet. Not only is he a messenger sent by God (to remind us of God’s unconditional love), Jesus IS God, the Word Made Flesh.

So, how do we live out our vocation as prophet, like Jesus?

  • By embracing opportunities to grow in our faith and share that faith with others (we develop a habit of lifelong learning)
  • By inviting others to join in the life of our faith and the life of our parish (there is no better way to help spread the Word of God than to invite others to see and hear God’s word in action)

We might be a little less familiar with the concept of “king.” Our reference is often works of fiction or dark history. We may think of kings as selfish or deceitful rulers. Or we may think of them overburdening people with taxes and other requirements. But Jesus gives us a different (a better) model of what it means to be king.

A king is a person who has superior authority over a territory. But what is Jesus territory? Where does he proclaim superiority over us? The answer is in today’s Gospel. The territory that Jesus claims as his own is our hearts.

After being mocked as “King of the Jews,” Jesus chooses the Cross as his royal throne. His royal office is not judgment or condemnation (but to forgive the repentant sinner). Jesus teaches us that he is willing to forgive anyone, to love anyone, to serve anyone. All he asks from us is our hearts.

So what is Jesus, the King, teaching us?

  • He is teaching us humility and care for others
  • He is teaching us love and forgiveness
  • He is teaching us to serve others with the heart of a servant

And, how do we live out our vocation as King, like Jesus?

  • By being loving, caring and respectful to others
  • By sharing our gifts generously in the spirit of service
  • By forgiving others … and by being willing to accept forgiveness

We will soon turn our thoughts to the Eucharistic Feast, where our relationship with Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King will all come together. As we listen to today’s prayers, may our hearts be open to all that:

  • Connects us to God
  • Engages us in service to our parish and the world we live in
  • And reminds us of our call to love one another

This week, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take some time to be thankful for the times in your life when you have been willing to forgive, and The times in your life when you were willing to accept forgiveness.

May our prayerful reflection help us all grow closer to the God 

Peace be with you!

Love One Another – This is How All Will Know You are Mine

19391733

Homily from the Fifth Sunday of Easter

At the risk of sounding like Garrison Keillor, I share this with you:

There is a story of a Norwegian couple who lived on a farm in Minnesota. They had been married for many years and the wife was starved for affection. Her husband gave her no signs of love or affection and the wife’s need to be appreciated went unfulfilled. At her wit’s end, the wife blurted out, “Husband, why don’t you ever tell me that you love me?” The husband stoically responded, “Wife, when we were married I told you that I loved you … and if I ever change my mind, I’ll let you know.”

Several years ago, my wife and I attended a funeral Mass for the mother of a friend. The deceased had requested that the James Taylor song, “Shower the People” be played at the end of the Mass. The woman who had died was introduced to this song through her grandchildren and loved to sing it with them – especially the part of the chorus that says:

“Shower the people you love with love . Show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna be much better if you only will.”

After an earlier Mass today, a parishioner mentioned that my homily reminded him of another song, “What the World Needs Now,” a Hal David and Burt Bacharach tune popular in the 60s. I agreed with the parishioner, especially when you reflect on the words of that song:

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little love. What the world needs now is love, sweet love. No, not just for some, but for everyone.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that this “thing” we call love is more than a feeling, more than an expression or word, more than an action. And, in the case of the farmer, is expressed in more than on a need-to-know basis.

Jesus teaches us that love is an expectation. In fact, Jesus elevates this expectation to the level of a commandment:

“Love one another … This is how all will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13: 34-35)

This isn’t the first time Jesus spoke of love as a commandment. Recall Jesus responding to the Pharisees who were testing him about which commandment in the law is the greatest. Jesus replied:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is preparing his disciples for the next stage in their spiritual journey – a time when Jesus would no longer be with them. But he was doing more than preparing his disciples who were with him then. He was also preparing his disciples who are with him now (you and I) to live the life that we are called to in our Baptism: to be missionaries; to help bring Christ to a waiting world; to help bring love to a world starving for hope and truth.

One thing that can sometimes hold us back in our efforts to follow the Lord’s New Commandment is a false idea of what love should feel like. We tend to think that true love is always accompanied by nice feelings, and if the feelings go away, that means the love has gone away too. That’s what radio and TV tell us, but that’s not what the Gospel tells us.  Love, true love, Christ-like love, goes deeper than feelings. It demands sacrifice, self-giving, and self-forgetting (placing others before self).

Christ-like love always involves a cross. That’s what makes it Christ-like; that’s what makes it true love.

If we can get this truth to sink down from our heads into our hearts, we will be freer to love more as Christ loves. We will lead happier lives. And we will make those around us happier.

Maybe the words of a real expert in Christ-like love will help convince us of this. Here is a profile of real Christian love from Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway. Why?  Because in the final analysis, all of this is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Today when Jesus comes to renew his commitment to us in Holy Communion, let’s ask him to convince us once and for all that Christian love doesn’t mean nice feelings, but self-giving, self-forgetting. It means going out of our way to help our neighbors, just as Christ went out of the way to help us.

My prayer for all of us this week is that we may know and live the love of Christ.

Copyright © Deacon Dan Donnelly. All rights reserved.

Keys to the Kingdom

The following is a summary of Deacon Dan’s homily for August 21, 2011 – the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Today, we hear similar stories in our First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah and our Gospel reading from Matthew. They are stories about authority and responsibility. Both stories use keys as that symbol of authority and responsibility.

Remember when you received your first house key as a kid? For me, it was a big deal. It was an outward sign that my mom and dad trusted me to take on additional responsibilities. In the Gospel, Jesus promises Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Why does Jesus give this authority and responsibility to Peter? Not because Peter “fully understands” or is “perfect” Let us remember …

  • It is Peter who will later deny knowing Christ three times during Jesus’ hour of need.
  • It is Peter who will question his own faith and sink into the sea when Jesus calls him to walk toward him on the water.

Peter doesn’t fully understand what God has planned for our salvation (none of us ever will), but he is open to what God reveals to him  … that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This story from Matthew’s Gospel is a little different than what we see in parallel accounts from Mark and Luke. Matthew adds Jesus’ words: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Why does Matthew include these words? To emphasize that it is God that has revealed this to Peter, not man. To demonstrate how Peter’s insight relates to how the Church (and its people) will be formed, will grow, and will endure (by allowing God, through the Holy Spirit, to guide the Church).

It would be good for us to do the same in our lives. The truth is, Peter and the other Apostles could never have figured out on their own how to grow the Church founded by Christ. They needed to rely on the wisdom of God – just as we do today.

That’s what we hear in our Second Reading today – of the beauty, and generosity, and wisdom of God That’s the message I want us to focus on this week.

I encourage you to take some time this week and sit with the Second Reading (from Letter of St. Paul to Romans). Especially that part …

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!”

And then I encourage you to reflect on how God has revealed himself … and his plan for you … in your life.

To be able to experience God in our life we have to be willing to open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts. Each of us is going to experience God in different ways (in nature, in prayer, in Eucharist, in community or with family, in solitude, etc.). Some of us need visual or auditory aids to help experience God. Some of us simply need silence. Whatever the method, we need to take some time to be open to God in our lives and to experience him in the ways that best touch our hearts, minds, and souls.

A few things you might consider today, here at Mass, to get started:

  • During the Eucharistic Prayer – close your eyes and visualize the Last Supper.
  • At the Sign of Peace – look into the eyes and face of the person you greet and look to see God in them.
  • After communion – reflect on what you have received … and how you will carry that forward this week. As David Kauffman writes, paraphrasing the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: “See what you are, become what you eat … the Body of Christ.”
  • If you do not receive communion – prayerfully reflect on the grace, the love and the acceptance that surrounds you in this community. All are welcome in this place.

Jesus used a simple person, like Peter, to be the foundation of his Church. Jesus uses simple people, like you and me, to continue to build his Church. To accomplish our mission, we need to reflect on how God reveals himself to us in our lives. So, take some time this week to experience “the depth of the riches … and wisdom … and knowledge of God.”

Be at peace and know that you are loved!

Copyright © Daniel R. Donnelly. All Rights Reserved.

Lord, Open My Lips …

I presided at a Benediction service the other night (Benediction is a devotional prayer service before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar). After the service, a friend approached me and commented on my closing prayer. She said she liked it and had never heard it before. I told her, “Honestly, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that prayer as well.” You see, my practice when I preside at such events is to pray from my heart at the end of the service and I don’t know what will be said until I speak. I just follow the words of the ancient psalmist:

“Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise” (Psalm 51:17).

I simply let the Holy Spirit guide me in my prayer.

Sure, I get in the way of God’s grace a bit by giving the prayer some structure (a beginning, a middle and an end), but I truly never know what words God will give me to speak. This type of spontaneous prayer is powerful and I’ve found it to be very helpful in my ministry. It’s an invitation to allow God to do the talking; for me to get out of the way and let his message flow.

When you pray this way and take time to reflect on what you prayed, you can begin to detect patterns and themes in your prayer life. Your heart is often freer to speak the truth than your mind, which can get stifled by pride and supposition. Another way to “peek” into your heart is to journal by themes and expressions.

Most of the time when I journal, I am recording an event or feeling that I have experienced and write like I was writing a letter, using complete sentences and paragraphs. But some of the most interesting journaling I’ve done has been to write as quickly as I can to record the experience or feelings I have bottled up inside me. I forgo grammar and sentence structure and spill it all out there on paper. Messy as it may appear, it is an effective way of identifying the themes and issues that are affecting your life. It is those themes and issues that you can bundle up and present to God as prayers of the heart.

You might give this a try: Take a pad of paper and begin writing all of the thoughts (one to three words at the most per thought) that expresses where you are in your life – your joys, your concerns, your needs, your desires. Write freely; leave the analysis for a later time. Then, when you’ve emptied the well of thoughts and emotions, take time in prayer to identify recurring themes and issues. These are the areas where you might focus future prayer … and future spiritual counseling.

“Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.” I pray these words a lot – before counseling people, before preaching, before proclaiming the Word, before leading a meeting, before singing at Mass, etc. It’s a simple prayer and it is powerful. These are also the first words of the Invitatory – the first offering of prayer each morning in the Liturgy of the Hours. What a great way to start the day.

I heard Amy Grant sing her new song, “Better than a Hallelujah” on a television special not too long ago. (Here’s a link to one YouTube version of the song) It’s a beautiful song about how God loves us as we are and where we are. The refrain of the song is this:

“We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody. Beautiful the mess we are; the honest cries of breaking hearts … are better than a Hallelujah.”

We all have thoughts and feelings bottled up inside of us. Some of them can be beneficial to us and others, and some can be harmful. But if the thoughts and feelings are of God, they will be beautiful. So let God speak in your prayer.

Be at peace and know that you are loved!

This Blog Post Copyright © Daniel R. Donnelly. All Rights Reserved. http://www.deacondan