Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Covenant
All religious practice centres on covenant, or agreement bonding the Creator with the creature. The symbol of blood has a long standing association with the sealing of pacts and friendships giving rise to such descriptions as "blood brothers", or "sisters" as the case may be. Also the sharing of a meal is a universally accepted sign of friendship. All three readings of today's liturgy draw attention to the thought of "covenant", or agreement.

Exodus 24:3-8: Describes how the old covenant was sealed with the blood of sacrifice which Moses sprinkled on the people

Hebrews 9:11-15: The author of the Letter to the Hebrews describes how the new covenant is sealed with the blood of Christ who offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice on the cross.

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26: In this passage from St. Mark's gospel, we read of the detailed preparations made for the Paschal Feast. The Paschal celebration had the greatest significance for the Israelites, and, in the course of the meal which He shared with the disciples, Christ instituted the Eucharist. Future generations of Christians would find in the mystical reality of His Body and Blood present in the Eucharist, Christ's assurance that He would be with them always, even to the end of time.

Point 1: Most of the surveys and studies done on the Church in recent years all reveal one thing - a marked decline in religious practice; but, in the midst of the disturbing statistics, there is a bright note - more people are receiving weekly communion than ever before. For the first time in centuries, it can be said that the majority of people who attend Mass now receive Communion. What is really astonishing is that at the beginning of Christianity, it was taken for granted that when one attended the celebration of the Eucharist, the Prayer of Thanksgiving, one received holy communion. The Eucharist, Communion, and the Mass were inseparable. What happened to change peoples' thinking? How did the Church start with the assumption that everyone participated in the 'Feast of Love', as the Eucharistic meal was called, and then, one thousand years later, needed to enforce an "Easter Duty" obligation that people would receive Communion at least once a year? The answer appears to be - too much reverence. It came to be argued that in order to receive Jesus in Communion, one had to be sinless. Receiving Communion came to be accepted as proof of one's holiness instead of being seen for what it is - another sacrament, or sign, that we give to God asking for the help we need to keep our end of the agreement that we have entered into with Him. When St. Paul condemned those who "eat and drink unworthily" he was condemning those who deliberately profane the sacrament - [1 Cor 11:27] Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.

Point 2: The task of getting people to return to the table of the Lord has been a long and arduous one. Pope Pius X, at the beginning of the century, urged people to communicate frequently. And it has taken Vatican 11 to bring home to Catholics that if they waited until they are worthy to receive Communion, they will never make it. No one is worthy, but all have been invited by Christ to eat this bread and to drink this cup so as to be strengthened to persevere until He raises us up on the last day.

Conclusion: The real malice is not for someone who is a sinner to receive communion, but for someone to receive and, then, to go forth after Communion to live a life in which no effort is made to change. Communion is not for the sinless, for none of us are sinless; but it is for those who, having received in good faith, are prepared to go forth to practice, to the best of their ability, the Faith they profess. The early Christians called the coming together for the Eucharist, the Feast of Love, when participants would share not only their joy, their hope and their commitment, but also their pain, their sorrow , their hurt and forgiveness. Without this sense of sharing, the Mass loses much of its value. We come to Mass not as innocents but as sinners; we come as those ready to forgive and willing to be forgiven. Without such sentiments, the Mass is a fairly empty ritual deprived of its power to transform.

CCC1333 : At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's command the Church continues to do, in His memory and until His glorious return, what He did on the eve of His Passion: "He took bread..." "He took the cup filled with wine..." and, as the priest heeds Christ's invitation - "Do this in memory of Me"! the signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ, shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.