September 10, 2016 Saturday Twenty-Third Week of Year II
The Proof Is In The Pudding
The Responsorial (Psalm 116) is a motive and guide for Mass: “To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.”
In 1Corinthians 10:14-22 Paul, who said that theologically there is no problem with eating meat previously sacrificed to idols, now makes it clear that participating in the actual pagan ritual is another story. Participation in their sacrifice implied identification with them in their cult, just as for us, participation in Eucharist implies identification with Jesus in the “paschal mystery” of his sacrifice on Calvary. The “cup of blessing that we bless” at Mass is “a sharing in the blood of Christ” shed on the cross. The “bread that we break, is a sharing in the body of Christ” given up on the cross.
When we receive Communion, “because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Baptism united us as the body of the Risen Lord. Receiving the Eucharist “strengthens and cements this union and is consequently called by St. Augustine “the sacrament of Church unity.”
To face a modern question, our faith as such does not exclude Catholic participation in Protestant services, or even reception of communion with them, where this is seen only as a sign of fellowship, because there is no sacrifice to participate in, and nothing contrary to our faith is included in the ritual. Participation in what is perceived as a true “Mass,” however, with belief in the “real presence” of Christ in Communion, as is found among Lutherans and Episcopalians, raises the disputed question of the validity of Holy Orders in these churches, and therefore of the authenticity of their Eucharist. In practice the Catholic hierarchy discourages intercommunion as a general rule because of the perceived practical effects this might have when people are not sure what is being expressed. In this their policy is similar to St. Paul’s.
In Luke 6:43-49 Jesus invites us to reflect on what our conduct expresses. “It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” This cuts two ways: we can judge our behavior by the desires and intentions of our heart; and we can judge the true intention of our hearts by our behavior.
Sometimes we sin in spite of our sincere desires and ideals. When we do, then in the sacrament of Reconciliation our “confession of sin” is more deeply a “profession of faith” in the teaching of Jesus that we have failed to live up to. Even our guilt is a consoling experience of our heart’s true desire.
But if we are not even trying to “put into practice” the values we profess to believe in, we have to ask whether we really have accepted them in our hearts. The word of God is not the foundation of our lives unless it is the basis for daily, practical, life-orienting choices.
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.…
Live what you profess. Then you can say, “To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.”