On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food (Is. 25:6).
Once again this Sunday the lessons of the Mass teach us about the Kingdom of God; and the truth and reality of this Kingdom is conveyed to us by means of an image, a banquet; an appropriate metaphor, as our nation celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday. Perhaps more than any other parable of the Kingdom, the image of a banquet describes what God’s Kingdom is like even here on earth. The sharing of food is so ordinary an action and yet so profoundly an expression of care, concern and even intimacy. It is by means of this action, one essential to the wellbeing and development of life that Our Saviour Jesus Christ chose to remain among us and to make His gift of salvation an ever-present Reality in the Eucharistic Banquet.
It is an ancient saying of the Church that our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist and the Eucharist in turn, confirms our way of thinking. In fidelity to the third commandment and the Church’s precepts, we come together every Sunday to share the Banquet that Our Lord Himself provides for us. We also share with those in need; and in this constant outreach, we are sent out to invite all to share the grace and goodness of God. It is a simple path that we are invited to walk. St. Hilary says that the wedding robe that must be worn at this Banquet is the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the purity of that heavenly temper…which is to be preserved pure and unspotted for the company of the kingdom of heaven. (Catena Aurea, St. Matthew, p. 747). We must belong to Christ through baptism and we must be properly disposed to participate in this Banquet. We must be in the state of grace; in a state of friendship with God.
When at the Last Supper Our Lord took bread into His hands and gave it to His disciples, now changed into His Body, He gave His Flesh and Blood, His humanity and His divinity for these are inseparable from Him; He gave Himself completely. Our Lord gave us His life by means of His Body and it is in this same manner that He continues to give Himself to us. The same is true of us. In this life we cannot separate our souls from our bodies because we are by definition, a unity of body and soul. We live our life in Christ through our bodies. Just as His Body was the means by which He offered Himself as a sacrifice to the Father, so too, by means of our bodies we unite ourselves to Our Lord’s offering to the Father and we give Him to others, no less through our own self-offering. The Apostle Paul exhorts us: I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Rom. 12:1).
There is no doubt in our minds that the celebration of the Mass on Sundays is essential to our Christian life. Our collective history is filled with examples of saints and martyrs who suffered and even died for the Mass. The defence given by the North African Martyrs of Abitina in the year 304, martyred for having worshipped on Sunday in defiance of an imperial decree forbidding Christian worship gives voice to our own conviction as we continue to labour under restrictions and the threat of another lockdown: Sine dominico non possumus. We cannot live without the Sunday Eucharist. Many, sadly, do not share this conviction; and I fear that those whose faith was weak and faltering have lost the conviction that the grace of the sacraments, especially the grace we receive from Holy Communion is necessary for Christian life. “I couldn’t get to Mass … that’s ok; I will watch it on television”. It’s not the same. Lockdowns also impact our sacramental economy. There has been a great deal of spiritual damage done to countless souls. We must pray for them; that the Holy Spirit may kindle in them anew the fire of God’s love and an ardent love for the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
An American journalist (Fay Voshell) has keenly observed that what should have been a purely scientific response aimed at control and cure of a disease quickly evolved into the political-religious cult of Covidism. Objective scientific analysis of and responses to what is the contagious pathogen COVID-19 were almost immediately suffocated by a plethora of arbitrary pseudo-religious rituals. The capitulation of the churches to rituals radically modifying and even antagonistic to Christian rites may be because the Church, continually rent by internal crises and scandals, did not recognize the rival religion when it appeared … The result of the surprise appearance of Covidism has been that core doctrines of the Christian Church — Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant — have been severely compromised or even replaced by the enforcement of COVID-19 ritual cleansings coupled with liturgies and doctrines of the radical left.
Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist and the Eucharist in turn, confirms our way of thinking. When our churches were opened in June, I made it clear that I would not treat the Blessed Sacrament like toxic waste. Sadly, in a webinar I have come to learn that throughout our diocese and this includes our parish, congregants have been busy reporting alleged infractions of COVID-19 ritual cleansings. I know of a priest who, in response to an anonymous group complaint from parishioners, was advised by a public health official to place Hosts in a bowl and that communicants be instructed to “serve themselves” using tweezers. Preposterous, ridiculous, you may be thinking. Yes, but have we not been willing cooperators with this madness? Should health officials mandate something so abhorrent, what will our response be? What standing do we have in law, when we have already submitted to government diktats?
I say to you, take nothing for granted. A time may soon be upon us when we may have to gather in secret to celebrate the sacraments. This is not an exaggeration. Our sin has become our punishment. We have neglected the Sacrament of the Altar by a general and widespread neglect of Sunday Mass attendance and now, we labour under restrictions that make Mass attendance difficult if not impossible for some. The good are being punished along with the bad.
As you gather with your families and friends for Thanksgiving dinner, take nothing for granted. Be thankful for your family life and for the good friends you have. Strengthen your families with the strength that only the faith can give us. If you can, pray the Rosary after your meal and ask Our Heavenly Father to hasten the Triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, the reign of Mary. Pray that you may be numbered among the remnant who will not abandon the faith or the Cross. We must make every effort to make our own the endurancei of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12). May God keep us faithful and grant us the grace of final perseverance. ⧾
i ύπομονή – patient endurance, steadfastness, perseverance.