Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), November 11th, 2018:
We are here today for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is a sacrifice. It’s important to explain the meaning of that, relative to today’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. The key passage is verse 26, which says in part “But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”(Heb 9:26).
Some context is necessary. The author’s writing this letter, or perhaps a homily, to a Jewish Christian church. They have been baptized into the faith of Jesus Christ, into “the way.” So their original sin and their personal sins are washed away. They are saved. But then, they sinned again. So what did they do? They returned to the Jewish temple to offer an atoning sacrifice for the subsequent sins. Then, they remained in the Jewish faith, which rejected Christ. This author must answer this in order to strengthen the faith of the Jewish Christians so that they will remain in their Christian faith. That is the author’s purpose for writing this. In Hebrews 2:1 the author writes: “Therefore we must pay the closer attention to what we have heard lest we drift away from it.” In Hebrews 3:12 he writes: “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” The author establishes the priesthood of Jesus Christ to strengthen the faith in this church. He writes that Jesus Christ’s priesthood is superior to Moses and Aaron. And Jesus’s priestly sacrifice (of Himself) is superior to the atoning sacrifices offered repeatedly, every year, in the Temple. And in fact, the Temple Jesus offers His Sacrifice in is superior to the Jerusalem Temple too. The author argues that the repeated Temple sacrifices are superfluous and unnecessary because “…as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb 9:26).
What does the reality of that one and only sacrifice for our sins mean for us here today? It means that Jesus’s blood, shed on the Cross, washes away our sins and forgives them. How do we affirm our faith in that so that we don’t fall away? By attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass today.
This sacrifice of the Holy Mass re-presents the reality of Jesus’s one-time sacrifice for our sins to you and me, here today. His one and only sacrifice is timeless. But time limits us. So to strengthen our faith, Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice is re-presented in space and time here today. Jesus is not re-sacrificed. Our faith in His once-for-all sacrifice is affirmed in space and time here today. Can Jesus do this? Yes. Jesus can do this because He suffered and died on the Cross, then rose from the dead. Jesus Christ lives forever. He is immortal, and His sacrifice is immortal. “The glorious immortality of Christ’s body after its resurrection, far from being an impediment to the continuation of His sacrifice, is the very condition without which the sacrifice, once consummated could not avail as a sacrifice that is to endure for all eternity.” (Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, pg. 519).
We are here today to experience the reality of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, once for all, here today, One hundred years from now, your children and grandchildren will be here to experience this same reality. So therefore, the reality of Jesus’s one-for-all sacrifice, applicable to us here today, demands that only Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood can be offered at this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. No symbol of Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood can do this. No mixture of Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood with the Bread and the Wine can do this. Only Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood, transubstantiated, changed completely, can accomplish this re-presentation of the reality of Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice. In this Church, only Jesus saves.
There is one more important point. Jesus tells us to do this through His disciples at the Last Supper. Listen to His Words: “And He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And likewise the chalice after supper, saying, ‘This chalice which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20). These passages from St. Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 22:19-20. In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 25, Jesus says: “Take, eat; this is my Body”(Matt 25:26). “And He took a chalice, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”(Matt 25:27-28). The action words are “take,” “drink of it, all of you;…”
This Sacrifice of the Mass is an act of faith on our part to acknowledge, to believe, and to unite all of us to the truth and the reality of Jesus Christ’s one and only sacrifice for our sins, here today, two-thousand-years later. The faith we express by being here today is the same faith the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tries to strengthen in his Jewish-Christian church. To show the way for us, the widow at Zarephath, believes blindly in Elijah’s words that come from “…the Lord the God of Israel”(1 Kings 17:14), “The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the pitcher of oil shall not fail, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth’”(1 Kings 17:14). “And she went and did as Elijah said;…(1 Kings 17:15). She expresses her faith in God’s words. To show us the way, the widow in St. Mark’s Gospel reading today “…put in two copper coins, which make a penny (Mark 12:4). It was “…everything she had, her whole living”(Mark 12:44)To express our faith in Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice, we must come here today, to the Sacrifice of the Mass, Jesus’s Sacrifice. In the first reading, we hear that the oil and meal did not run dry until God ended the drought. The Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will continue until Jesus comes “…a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him”(Heb 9:28).
We need priests to do all of this until Jesus’s Second Coming. So as National Vocations Awareness Week concludes, please pray hard for more faithful, holy, and repentant priests to continue this once-for-all Sacrifice of the Mass until the end of time.
COMMENT: The linchpin that holds this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is Jesus Christ’s Real Presence in Eucharist. It is His Body and His Blood that unites us in our faith to the altar, to His Church (the Roman Catholic Church), and literally, to Jesus Christ Himself. If we reject the Eucharistic theology, then this unity of faith explodes into as many different directions as there are different Christian faiths in the world today. That number is in the thousands when the truth is that only one church accepts EVERYTHING that Jesus Christ says about Himself in Eucharist. Only one church accepts without qualification and reservation EVERYTHING that Jesus Christ says about Himself in Eucharist. And only one church accepts literally EVERYTHING that Jesus Christ says about Himself in Eucharist. That church is the Roman Catholic Church and Holy Mother Church is right in doing so for the forgiveness of our sins and for our outright salvation.
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