Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
The rose colored
vestments for Lætáre Sunday tell us that Lent is roughly half over.
are urged to rejoice today, but to rededicate ourselves to
the observance of
Lent on the morrow.
Today would be a good day to speak about the Blessed
Sacrament. The Gospel, as we say, “pre-figures” the way in which our
Lord would make the substance of His Body and Blood present to thousands and
even millions of people throughout the world under the appearances of bread
and wine. The event took place during the Passover, one year before the
It was the
occasion on which our Lord promised that He would give us His Body and Blood;
and told us that it was necessary for us to eat and drink Them if we were have
the life of God within us. It is also quite clear from this account that
our Lord meant that the Blessed Sacrament would be more than a symbol; that it
would really and truly be His actual Body and Blood. Even then there
were people who doubted Him—disciples who left Him; contradicting this idea
of the Real Presence—it was just too much for them to understand how Jesus
could do such a thing. And our Lord had to simply let them go. He
didn't call them back to say that He didn't mean what He said, because He did
mean it. He didn’t say that they had misunderstood—He didn’t say
that He had been speaking figuratively or symbolically—He was, in fact,
speaking of His body and blood in reality.
But, you can read
the entire account for yourself in the sixth chapter of Saint John's
Gospel—and I would like to ask you to do just that—it's only one short
chapter, but well worth reading. Indeed, it would be a good idea to read
it over and over as time passes. Maybe you will be able to read it
The reason I am
not going to talk more about the Blessed Sacrament is that two of this past
week's Gospels caught my attention, and I thought that I should share them
with you. The first, from Thursday, is Saint Luke's account of our Lord
healing Saint Peter's mother-in-law from a serious fever.
The second, from Friday, is about our Lord meeting a Samaritan woman at a well
and promising to give her “living water.”
At first glance,
the healing of Saint Peter's mother-in-law doesn't seem particularly
unusual. We read in the Gospels that our Lord healed a great many
people, and it's not too surprising that He would have taken special care of
the family members of His close disciples. (He may have been softening
up Peter's wife, so that she would let Him out of the house to preach the
Gospel to all nations.) In the time of our Lord, without modern
medicine, a fever might actually prove fatal. So this was a great
But Saint Ambrose,
the fifth century archbishop of Milan, says that the fever can also be thought
of in a symbolic sense. He writes that we are often afflicted with
spiritual fevers—that we sometimes find ourselves burning up with fevers
like lust, and greed, and hatred, and intemperance, and other such
passions—and, that of our own, we are unable to cure these fevers. Our
intentions, and our fasting, and our self-discipline are good, but they are
not enough. Just like Peter's mother-in-law, we require our Lord's help
to overcome our fevers. And that help—the “living water” that
would quench the spiritual fevers and bring everlasting life—was what our
Lord promised the Samaritan woman at the well in Friday's Gospel.
Samaritans were outcasts, and most Jews wouldn't have anything to do with
them. Although the Samaritans practiced the Jewish religion, were
foreigners who had been introduced into Israel after the Assyrians had taken
the Jews from the Northern Kingdom into captivity. And this particular
lady was a sinner—she'd been through five husbands and was on her sixth, and
he wasn't really her husband anyway. But the scripture implies
that this meeting with our Lord converted her. In fact, not only did it
convert her, but it made her a disciple, preaching about Jesus to her
“living water” that He promised to her is available to all of us.
Figuratively, it is the stream of water that came forth out of His side,
pouring out of His Sacred Heart, opened by the soldier's lance, as He hung on
the Cross. Literally, it is prayer and the Sacraments. For only
with these can we hope to extinguish our passions, to cool our spiritual
fevers, and to go on doing the will of God.
We need to unite
our will with God's will in prayer. It is absolutely essential that we
obtain Sanctifying grace through Baptism—that we nourish this grace through
Holy Communion—that we restore it by a good Confession if we should lose
it—that we augment this grace throughout our lives by receiving the other
Sacraments at the appropriate times.
Finally, in the
same Gospel, our Lord speaks of having nourishment from a food that even His
disciples didn't know about. And, He says that “that food is to do the
will of He who sent Him, and to accomplish His work.” And, likewise,
that food is available to us. There has to be a practical dimension to
our Faith—which starts with, but goes beyond prayer and the Sacraments.
We can be nourished by doing God's will and furthering His work in this world.
then, are a rich source of instruction for us: By ourselves, we are
often unable to cure the fevers which arise from human passion. But our
Lord has given us “living water,” a stream of love from His Sacred Heart.
And we must go
down and drink from that sacred stream of prayers and Sacraments—and
likewise, we must eat the food of doing God's will and work.