Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost-22 June AD 2008
“Understand that you are dead indeed to sin, but alive unto God,
through Christ Jesus, Our Lord.”

17th Century Giovanni Lanfranco The Multiplication of the Loaves
Raccolta della Manna

[ Ordinary of the Mass ]
[ English Text ]
[ Latin Text ]

    The Epistle and Gospel today are intended to refresh our memories about the events of Holy Week and Easter—which, believe it or not, took place thirteen weeks ago—a full quarter of the year has gone by!

    The Epistle reminds us of the Baptismal rite of Holy Saturday, in which the those to be Baptized were symbolically incorporated in Christ's death and resurrection. This symbolism was more vivid centuries ago, when Baptism was by immersion, perhaps in a stream or pond, or at the ocean: The new Christians would be lowered beneath the water, a sign of suffocation and death, indicating that they were united with Christ in His death on the Cross, and thereby died to all of the sins of the past. Then they would be lifted up, out of the water, a sign of life, and rebirth, and a complete cleansing from their sins and all the guilt associated with them. They were anointed with the Holy Chrism—a mixture of olive oil and balsam that had been blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday—a fragrant reminder that they were now followers of Christ, the “anointed One.” They were dressed in a new robe of white linen, symbolizing their newfound purity and abundance of sanctifying grace. And finally, they were given a burning candle to remind them that their Faith must be inflamed with the love of God.

    The Gospel is one of those that reminds us about the Last Supper, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the reception of Holy Communion. The few loaves of bread, used to feed 4,000 people, hint at the way in which our Lord makes Himself present, whole and entire, to everyone who receives even a tiny piece of the Sacred Host, or a drop of the Precious Blood.

    The two together ought to remind us that the forgiveness of sins that we experienced in Baptism (or whenever we make a good Confession) flows from the Sacrifice of the Cross as do all of the graces that we receive in Baptism, Holy Communion, or any of the other Sacraments. They ought to help us to understand that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass must be the centerpiece of our spiritual life.

    These readings might even prompt us to ask an all important question: Just why do we attend Mass?

    If we think about it, it is easy to see that it is possible to pray alone, in our own homes; or, perhaps, with a few friends—so, prayer isn't the only purpose for coming to Mass. We can hear a sermon recorded on audio tape, or even video; or we can read sermons in books so hearing a sermon isn't the reason we come. We can sing hymns by ourselves, or listen to them on the radio, or own a few recordings, so that isn't the reason. We can go elsewhere to see other people, and look at their hats and how they are dressed so that isn't it either.

    We can do good and meritorious things while not being at Mass. And none of the things we mentioned require a priest lay men and women are often quite capable of leading prayers or hymns, of speaking inspirationally, and of organizing good works.

    But there are certain things that can be done only during Mass. It is only at Holy Mass that we stand with Mary, the holy women, and Saint John at the foot of the Cross. It is only at Holy Mass that we stand at the source, the fountainhead as it were, of all the graces of human redemption. It is only as we stand in the stream of blood and water that pours out from the side of Christ that we continue to be cleansed of our sins. It is only at the altar, the table of the Lord, that we are fed with the bread of heaven, the miraculous loaves that bring Jesus to 10s, or 100s, or 1000s. It is only in the Sacrifice of the Mass that we can join with a human priest, a man ordained by Christ to renew His Sacrifice in time and place; to take our sins away, and to offer God the most pleasing gift possible, His only Son.

    Among Protestants and Modernists, they speak of the “narrative of the institution of the Eucharist”—but this is a very serious error, one that comes from denying the sacrificial character of the Mass and the priesthood. The priest doesn't just tell us a story about what happened on Holy Thursday and Good Friday—this is no mere “narration.” But rather the priest acts as “alter Christus”—“another Christ.”

    Earlier in the Mass, the priest spoke for himself, or for the congregation, or for the entire Catholic Church. Earlier in the Mass, as a human priest, he offers our sacrificial gifts to God, “the spotless victim ... the chalice of salvation ... for all faithful Christians living and dead.” But then, at the Consecration, this mere man begins to speak “in persona Christi”—“in the person of Christ.” He doesn't simply recount the events of the Last Supper, but instead he makes them happen before us, saying as Christ, “For this is My Body ... this is My Blood which will be shed for you and for many....”

    And so, to the degree that we are attentive and participate in the Mass; to the degree that we are fervent and anxious to receive God's graces; as often as we make the effort to come to Sunday and daily Mass; insofar as we unite ourselves with the actions and intentions of the priest; we actually witness and take part in our own redemption.

    “Christ, rising from the dead, dies now no more; death no longer has dominion over Him.” This is the true reason we have for attending Holy Mass: to unite ourselves to His death, to die to sin, and to rise again with Him in the glory of His eternal life.







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