A Homily on the Eucharist by Fr. David Engo
PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD IN THE HOLY EUCHARIST
First Sunday of Advent
Homily: November 28th, 2004
By Fr. David Michael Engo
Sometime ago I was speaking to an old priest. We sat by the fire as he told me of his days as a priest chaplain to Patton’s army. This priest’s battalion broke off and went into Poland. He told me how they followed the scent of decaying flesh to the terrible death camps of Dachau. He vividly described the horrors that he witnessed in that evil place. As the priest himself entered the camps he saw an old man waving him over. The old man looked up at the chaplain and asked him: “Are you a Catholic Priest?” “Yes.” he answered. The old man then smiled and said: “Me, too! There are more than a thousand of us here.” The priest chaplain then learned that in the camps of Dachau over a million Catholics were exterminated. It was the Catholic death camp. They kept the priests on one side of a fence and the laity on the other as an attempt to prohibit the priests from practicing their ministry.
The chaplain then asked the old priest if he had said Mass in the death camp. The old man responded: “Yes!” He then related how he had a friend who was a pharmacist in the city, and she would bake bread in the size of pills. She would then fill two bottles, one bottle with the bread and the other with wine. Placing fake labels on the bottles, she would bribe the guards to give the old priest “his medicine”. Then, in the middle of the night, the priest would bare his chest, using it as the Altar of Sacrifice, he would offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the morning he would place the remaining hosts in a bag and throw them over the fence into a garbage bin. A layman would be waiting there and would take the bag out of the bin and quietly distribute Communion to all the lay faithful that he could. No one can stop the Church!
The priest then related how not all the priests survived. Over two thousand priests were exterminated in the death camps of Dachau. We ask ourselves: “For what did these men die? Unto what purpose? Did they die simply because they were priests? Or is there something deeper to their sacrifice?”
Yes, they died because they were priests, but they are priests for a reason, for a purpose. They are priests for the sake of the Eucharist and they died for the Eucharist. What is in the power of this most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, which we call the Eucharist, that would lead men to die in offering it rather than to live denying its truth and reality?
Today begins the first Sunday of Advent, a word that means: “To Come”. It is a time set apart by the Church to prepare. It is a time of preparation for the four “Comings of Christ”. Let the four candles on the Advent wreathe be a reminder of these four types of our Lord’s coming. To prepare to celebrate the remembrance of Our Lord’s first coming, to prepare for His second coming, to prepare to meet Him when He calls us at the hour of our death, and a reminder to be prepared to meet Him in His Most Holy Presence in the most august Sacrament of the Altar in the reception of Holy Communion.
It is amazing to believe that only twenty percent of Catholics attend weekly Mass, and less then thirty percent believe in the true presence of Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist. Less then sixty years ago, priests and laity went to their death for this revelation of truth; now, in our day, we have such a disregard for the Mass and the Eucharist! Have we forgotten the truth? Has it been taught to the past two generations? Have we lost the belief of His Presence among us? Is it any wonder that our Holy Father John Paul II has declared this year to be “The Year of The Eucharist”? Our Pope knows all too well that the crisis in the Church is a crisis of faith, of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He is calling on Catholics to renew their faith and belief that in the Holy Eucharist is the true and real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Pope has said that he wants this new millennium to be intensely Eucharistic.
This Advent is a time for us to reflect on this true and real presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. It is a time to reflect upon how He comes to us, stays with us and dwells in our midst. Even though we pray for His final coming, we hold to the truth of His sacramental presence among us. It is the Lord Jesus’ way of keeping His resurrection promise: “I Am with you always”. Here! In that Tabernacle, He Is! The all Holy One, The Powerful One, The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords dwells supremely, here! And in every Catholic Church throughout the world! Jesus is just as present in that Tabernacle as He is in the Glory of the Kingdom of heaven. There, in that Tabernacle, He is personally, humanly and divinely present. The fullness of His Divinity and the fullness of His Humanity are completely present under the sacramental signs. When we enter this Church, we enter the presence of our God. This is no gathering room. This is no place of chatter. This is God’s Kingdom on earth. This is His Holy and Glorious Dwelling. From this sanctuary, from this altar, He comes. He comes to you to make His dwelling among men. Prepare! Prepare your hearts to receive Him in His Sacramental Presence.
“We see no Lord,” you may say. "We see only bread and wine. We do not see His Sacred Divinity nor do we see His Sacred Humanity. How can you say that He is truly here?” you ask. I say it is because He said it! It was the Lord who promised to give us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. It was He who took bread in His hands and said, “This is My Body” and the cup filled with wine saying: “This is the cup of My Blood”. I say it because God does not lie! He promised to be with us always and so He is. St. Paul believed it so much that he said to receive unworthily is to receive condemnation unto ourselves.
For two millennia the Church has continued to proclaim this truth. Always she has held it as her most prized treasure. A hidden treasure that contains not silver or gold but a wealth far greater then man could ever imagine, the fullness of Divinity. The Second Vatican Council went so far as to call the Holy Eucharist “the Source and summit of our faith.” Eight hundred years earlier, in 1217, the Fourth Lateran Council solemnly and definitively defined our Lord’s True Presence in the Eucharist with the term “Transubstantiation.” Some of you older folks remember this term from your Catechism days. The rest of us “post-Vatican two” babies may have never heard the term. For all of our sakes, for those who knew and may have forgotten and for those of us who have never learned it, we will review it briefly.
The word Transubstantiation, defined by St. Thomas Aquinas, means that at the moment of consecration--that is the time when the Priest says over the bread: “This is My Body” and over the wine: “This is the Cup of My Blood”-- the accidents of bread remain the same while the substance changes into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord. The accidents are the things that are perceptible to the senses. Things like weight, color, feel, taste and the like. All this stays the same at consecration. The substance, what it truly is, changes. Every thing has both substance and accidents.
Although all examples are weak and cannot truly express the truth, I’ll try to give you a type of this miracle. Say that you were to examine this pulpit. You would see marble, feel marble everything perceptible to your senses would tell you that it is marble. That feel, sight, touch of marble are the accidents of this pulpit. In every normal circumstance we would say that if all the accidents tell me that it is marble then it must be marble, its substance. But perhaps I told you that it has all the accidents of marble but it is really the newest invention in plastic. Then we would have an item where the accidents are not of its substance. Now this example, like all others, falls short of what happens in Transubstantiation.
In the Holy Eucharist, at every Mass, there is an incredible miracle that takes place. The Lord Himself sustains the accidents of bread and wine while simultaneously changing the substance into His very own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. In every host, in every particle of every host, no matter how large or how small, the Lord Jesus Christ is fully and completely present, hiding Himself under the form of bread and wine. The mystery of Transubstantiation is a proclamation of a truth rooted in love. In the reception of Holy Communion we ourselves become living tabernacles.
So I say again, "Prepare the way of the Lord!" Knowing this truth, that our Lord comes to us hidden under the form of bread and wine, must illicit from us a response. How do we treat this sacred place of His dwelling? What is our behavior
when we come to Him? Greater still, He comes to us. In His most true Presence in the Holy Eucharist He comes to us. Are we prepared to receive Him? Are our souls ready to be His divine dwelling? Are our bodies ready to be the halls of the divine King?
Let us renew our faith by renewing our behavior. Our behavior will proclaim our faith. In this Church, and in all Catholic Churches, let us proclaim His presence by giving Him the honor and attention that is due Him. For example, when we go to someone’s house we address the people who have invited us. To do otherwise would be rude. We greet them according to their station in life. This means when we enter the Church the first thing we do is greet our Host who is reigning supremely in that Tabernacle. His station in life is that He is God. Therefore, He gets a Divine greeting. We genuflect on one knee and acknowledge, in action, mind and heart that He is here.
When we come to our seat it would be wrong to talk to each other. Besides disturbing the people around us who are trying to pray, it is rude to go to someone’s house and talk only to the people you arrived with. The same holds true here. We can phone each other or speak outside or in the foyer, but in the Church we speak to Him and listen for Him to speak to us. He is the one Who must have our undivided attention. Let us restore the reverence of silence and prayer. In this way, before Mass we can truly prepare our hearts to receive Him by first greeting Him.
As we recall Who and not what we are to receive in Holy Communion, we will inevitably do our utmost to be most prepared to receive Him. First, we prepare by confession. Let us be firm in stating that we cannot receive Holy Communion with a mortal sin on our soul. One must be in the state of grace to receive our Lord. To do otherwise would be sacrilege, and St. Paul says to do so would bring us condemnation. The way into the state of grace is baptism. The way out of it is committing one or more mortal sins. The way back into grace is through the Sacrament of Penance. By Church precept we must confess all mortal sins once a year. By spiritual counsel of the saints, we should be going to confession at least once a month. Once a week is ideal. Today, barely anybody goes to confession, and everyone goes to communion. We must ask if we are being truly honest about ourselves and our sins. Let us prepare the way of the Lord by recommitting ourselves today to attend, much more frequently, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And, in so doing, be completely given to living a life of grace in grace.
We prepare ourselves physically for the Divine presence to enter us in two ways. First is through fasting one hour before Holy Communion. This is required by the Church. In this way our Lord will be the sole guest of our bodies. His Divine Presence will be there for the duration of at least twenty minutes. The second way is through our reverential dress, silence, and behavior for the Holy Mass. Our dressing properly for the Divine banquet, our reverential silence and behavior will help us remember “Who” it is we receive.
My dear brothers and sisters, here in this Church we dwell in the presence of the Divine. In Holy Communion the Divine dwells present within us. Let us prepare the way of the Lord. This Advent, at every Mass, may the Lord find a kind and loving welcome.
May God bless you and may Mary keep you.