A favorite phrase in any language: “It’s time to eat.” Always seems to get the attention of children, adults, senior citizens. Regardless of age, everybody usually gets hungry at certain times of the day and all of us like to hear, “It’s time to eat.”
That’s the reason that we come to Holy Mass, not only to worship, but also to eat and to drink the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus is the center of everything that we do, but particularly when we gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The early Christians did not use the word “Mass”, which means sent. They gathered secretly, at the risk of being killed for their faith, to break the bread and share the cup as Jesus had commanded His Apostles to do in His memory. With the legalization of Christianity under the Emperor Constantine in the year 312, everything changed. Christians no longer had to hide. The Lord’s Supper could be celebrated in public and without danger of persecution. Churches, monasteries, convents were constructed and Holy Mass began to be celebrated on a weekly and then on a daily bases. By the sixth century the Roman Canon was written in Latin. The Council of Trent put out a missal in Latin and Latin became the official language of the Church. Vatican II permitted the vernacular, or the language spoken by the people to be used in 1965. Some of us are old enough to remember the rules for fasting: from 12 midnight until Holy Communion was received. Therefore the early morning Masses became very popular. Not uncommon to see people faint. The rules were lightened to 3 hours and now we need only fast for one hour. Since 1975 people who are divorced can receive Holy Communion—not to be confused with people who are divorced and remarried outside the church.
In times past, only the priest distributed Holy Communion at the Communion rail with an altar boy holding the paten under the chin. (I hit many an Adam’s apple) To each communicant the priest would say, “Corpus Dómini nostri Iesu Christi cusódiat ánimam tuam in vitam aetérnam. Amen.” The number of those who approached for Holy Communion was few and certainly not before going to Confession. Bad thoughts were considered to be mortal sins. Even folks who had already gotten in line would change their mind and return to their seat. No deacons, no lectors, no extra-ordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The priest “said” the Mass and we came to “hear” the Mass. The emphasis now is on participation—the challenge that Jesus has made to us from the beginning—participate.
We are not to be spectators. APW’s Apathetic pew warmers. “Eat my flesh; drink my blood.” The meal has been served and the Lord is the One who invites us. Remember, we are what we eat. If we believe what we say that we believe, we should be the happiest people in the world. We believe that we will not have to die. Jesus made a promise: that His Body and Blood are the food for everlasting life—our ticket to eternal life. Therefore, we need to give witness of our happiness—a smile helps. The family is the place where we most have to practice being in “Communion” with each other. Since Fathers are the priests of their families, they have to set the pace. Your wife, your children look to you to be the face of Christ. We pray for all fathers—they have a tuff job. But you also have friends in high places, especially St. Joseph. Happy Father’s Day. May the Lord continue to guide your steps as He guided Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Long life to you for years to come.