Archive for the ‘Last Supper’ Category

3 Mysteries Remembered

April 6, 2023

Holy Thursday
By Fr. Victor Feltes

[Our] Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” At this same Supper, Jesus washed his apostles’ feet, drying them with a towel. Then, when he reclined at the table again, Jesus told them, “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

For this Mass of Holy Thursday, the Church directs me to preach “a homily in which light is shed on the principal mysteries that are commemorated in this Mass, namely, the institution of the Holy Eucharist and of the priestly Order, and the commandment of the Lord concerning fraternal charity.” This no heavy burden. Jesus makes it easy by his actions that night. At the Last Supper, Christ gives us these precious gifts: his Holy Eucharist, his Holy Priesthood, and his holy model of loving service which he commands us all to follow.

Our Bishop William Callahan noted at this week’s Chrism Mass that without priests there would be no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist there would be no Church. The priesthood is essential to the Eucharist, and the priesthood and the Eucharist are essential to Christ’s Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes the words of the first century bishop and martyr St. Ignatius of Antioch in teaching “that without the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, one cannot speak of the Church.” (CCC #1593) And the Second Vatican Council famously teaches that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” For in the Most Blessed Sacrament is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, for it is Jesus himself. All the Church’s other sacraments, ministries, and good works flow from this one sacrifice, are united to it, and united to Christ.

Perhaps there are young men here tonight with a vocation to the priesthood. If you think you may have this divine calling, I urge you to actively pursue it. If you pursue this path and discover you are not called, you will be no worse off but blessed from the experience, and for the rest of your life you will never have to wonder or worry whether you might have had this calling. But if priesthood is your vocation, you will not find anywhere a greater life.

When Jesus commands at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me,” and declares, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do,” he was not only ordaining priests of the New Covenant and showing how them how to serve. Christ’s words are addressed to all disciples; not only that we should faithfully attend Holy Mass, but that we should live the way of love we see from him. The night before offering his Body and Blood on the Cross, Jesus gives these sacramentally in the Eucharist. Before offering up his death on the Cross, we see Jesus humbly provide loving service at table. Do you realize what he has done for you? Jesus has given us a model to follow, so that as he has done for us, we should also do. Do this in memory of him.

Patterns in Christian Dying — Funeral Homily for Ione Seibel, 84

June 6, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

As a priest, I encounter many people in their dying days. And though every life is different, I have noticed often-repeated patterns. Three of these gracious elements are seen in Ione’s story.

Something I often find is the phenomenon of “a last good day.” The dying persons may or may not know they are in their final week of life, yet they are blessed to have a last good day. Sometimes they love being outside, and there’s a rare day in their final week when they feel well enough to go on a walk or do gardening. Sometimes it’s the day of a family reunion, where they delight to see their family and to say goodbye. Ione, despite her Alzheimer’s condition, had a last good day the Wednesday of her final week. Vernie, her husband of nearly 65 years, who was visiting her at her nursing home with a pair of their daughters, says Ione was “grinning, smiling, shining.” He and the staff described it as Ione’s “best day in two years.”

Jesus also had a good day before he died. When he took his place at table for the Last Supper he told his friends, the apostles, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.” Such blessings are bestowed upon us in this life as signs to us of God’s goodness before we enter into the next life.

A second phenomenon I often see is an alertness for the anointing of the sick and last rites. Vernie let me know Ione was dying and I was soon able to visit her on Saturday. When I arrived, he and their children were gathered around her. Now the sacrament of anointing is like the sacrament of baptism in that a receptive person may receive this sacrament even in an unconscious state. Some babies, for instance, sleep through their baptism yet receive the graces of baptism nonetheless. Her family tells me Ione had been unresponsive, but when I greeted her, as I told her who I was and why I had come, she opened her eyes at me. Ione’s family was struck by this but it’s something I commonly see—a providential alertness to receive this sacrament. The Lord often wills for his beloved to consciously experience this gift.

Jesus himself was anointed upon his head with precious perfumed oil in his final days and said, “She has done a good thing for me. … She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.” He was consoled and strengthened by this gift of love, and Jesus desires to console and strengthen us as we enter into his Passion and death.

A third thing I commonly encounter in my ministry is the bittersweetness of a beautiful death. Suffering and death are painful signs of this world’s brokenness from sin. Yet the circumstances which accompany many Christians’ passings are poetic signs to us that death is not our end. As we heard in our gospel reading, on the first Good Friday, a darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. Then our Lord breathed his last, near those who loved him most. The centurion who beheld how Jesus breathed his last said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” And the curtain in the Temple, which veiled its holiest place, was torn in two from top to bottom, from heaven down to earth.

Ione died on a Sunday, Christ’s day of Resurrection. And she died during Easter, the season of Jesus’ victory over death. Like him, she breathed her last in the afternoon’s third hour. And Ione passed away from us on the Feast Day of Jesus’ Ascension, when he passed through the veil from this world into heaven.

A Christian is never truly alone because the Lord Jesus is always with us through life and death. He makes our life story a part of his story, and makes our story like his own. Today is a day of grieving and joy, because we can see this truth anew in the life and death of Jesus’ servant and sister and friend, Ione.

Our Upper Room

June 4, 2022

Pentecost Sunday
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Before his Passion in Jerusalem, Jesus desired a gathering place for him and his disciples. He sent Peter and John into the city, telling them to find a certain house and ask the owner of the home to use its guestroom. They did as Jesus asked and found “a large upper room, furnished and ready.”

This famous room, known as “the Cenacle,” was the site of the Last Supper, the First Holy Eucharist or Mass. Here the Risen Lord appeared to his Apostles after his Resurrection. This is where Mary, the Apostles, and other disciples (“a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place”) “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.” And here on Pentecost, following the Church’s first novena, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in the likeness of separating flames. Then they went forth from there into the world, joyfully proclaiming Jesus to the nations with confidence and power.

Jesus desired his disciples to gather together in the Upper Room. There they meet with him, heard his teaching, and came to know that he is risen. They ate with him and worshiped him. And there his followers socialized, prayed as one, and received the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes people ask, “If God is everywhere, why do I have to go to church?” Yes, there is no place where God is not, but this excuse misses something important. Water is likewise everywhere around us—in clouds, in blades of grass, as vapor in the air—but if you do not wish to die of thirst you are well-advised to drink water from a well or a faucet. Jesus tells us, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.

In the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, “We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some.” This church, St. John the Baptist’s, is our Upper Room. Here we gather together and encounter Jesus Christ in his sacraments, Here we listen, and worship, and receive his gifts, blessings meant for us and for others in this world. Like the Apostles in the Upper Room, we did not build this room or parish. This holy place has been lent to us by those who were before us, and the Holy Spirit inspires us to care for and sustain it.

This weekend at St. John’s is Commitment Weekend for our Inspired by the Spirit” Capital Campaign. You have probably heard me speak about this campaign before, either at receptions or back on Announcement Weekend. 35% of our $80,000 goal funds our 2022-2023 Annual Appeal and other worthy diocesan initiatives, while 65% the goal returns to us to replenish our greatly diminished building maintenance fund.

Now the maintenance of parish facilities is not a flashy thing. Patching cracks in our parking lot or replacing our furnaces as they fail from old age are less exciting endeavors than when we renovated this church of ours into one of the most beautiful in our area. But without funding for the care and maintenance of the mundane things this parish and its mission will fail. That is why I ask you to join me in making a pledge to this five-year capital campaign.

Our pledging phase ends on June 17th, less than two weeks away. So far our recorded pledges total $60,000, so we have $20,000 in pledges to go. If we happen to raise more than our $80,000 goal, know that 80% of that surplus comes back to our parish. I’ll give you an opportunity to fill out a pledge card today during announcement time before the final blessing. I ask you to prayerfully consider pledging a $3,000 gift spread-out over five years, which (after a 10% initial down payment) works out to $45 monthly (above your usual tithing) for 60 months. If you are blessed to be able to pledge more generously than this, please do. If you can only pledge less, that’s ok too. And if you pledge a certain amount now and three of four years from now your financial circumstances change, you can just let us know and we’ll modify your pledge.

On the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit inspired Christ’s disciples to go out into the world, sharing Jesus Christ and his salvation with all nations. But realize this mission began in their Upper Room. Please pledge generously to support our Upper Room: St. John the Baptist Parish.

“Do This in Memory of Me”

April 14, 2022

Holy Thursday
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Did you know that a homily is different from a sermon? A sermon may be about whatever topic the preacher chooses, but a homily must be based upon the liturgy’s readings or prayers, or the particular feast celebrated that day. Rather than a sermon, the Catholic Church directs the preacher to give a homily at Mass, though she usually leaves it up to him to decide which specific theme or themes to highlight from the day’s readings, prayers, or celebration. The Mass of Holy Thursday is one rare exception.

For this evening, the Church requires in the current Third Edition of the Roman Missal: “after the proclamation of the Gospel, the priest gives a homily in which light is shed on the principal mysteries that are commemorated in this Mass, namely, the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the priestly Order, and the commandment of the Lord concerning fraternal charity.” In other words, tonight’s homily must be about Jesus beginning our celebration of the Holy Eucharist, his founding of the New Testament priesthood, and his commandment that we love one another. All three of these themes are reflected in Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance (or do this in memory) of me.

On the first Holy Thursday, the night before he died for us, Jesus gathered his disciples for a meal, the Last Supper. While at table, he “took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you.’” After that, he took a chalice and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Before being betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus hands himself over to his disciples. Before suffering his Passion, Jesus’ Body is broken and his Blood is poured. Before his death on the Cross, Jesus offers a sharing in his self-sacrifice. And Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me.

Ever since, this “Breaking of the Bread,” this consecrating of the Holy Eucharist, this celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, has continued to our day. Read St. Justin Martyr’s Apology, an account from the 150’s A.D. describing how Christians worshipped together on Sundays. You will clearly recognize the elements and structure of the Mass. We have done this ‘in memory of him‘ from the era of the Acts of the Apostles to this very evening.

In commissioning his apostles to “do this in memory of me,” Jesus was ordaining them ministers of this new, Christian Sacrifice. He made them priests of the New Covenant, to lead, and teach, and sanctify his people. Without appointing clear shepherds for his Church on earth, Jesus knew his flock would inevitably scatter. Without priests, there would be no Eucharist to make us one in Christ. Please pray for your priests, please pray for more priests, and if Jesus may be calling you to ordination please do not ignore his call. The priesthood is that important for the salvation of souls.

Finally, in saying “do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus was not only telling his Church “do this sacrament until I come again.” And Jesus was not just telling his apostles “do this as my priests.” In saying “do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus was telling each of us to love like he does.

Did you know there are no words of consecration to be found in St. John’s Gospel? Jesus saying, ‘This is my body‘ and ‘This is my Blood‘ at the Last Supper is recounted by the other three gospel writers and by St. Paul in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians (as we heard tonight). So why does St. John leave this out? Perhaps, being the last gospel writer, he saw no need to repeat details others had already made well-known. Instead, John’s is the only gospel book which features the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.

This humble, beautiful act of Jesus helps reveal more fully the meaning of his Eucharist Sacrifice. He, the Master and Teacher, washes feet. He, our God and Creator, gives himself as food. He, the King and Holy One, dies on a cross. Jesus does these things for us because he loves us. He says, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do… Love one another as I have loved you… Do this… do this… in memory of me.

Mary & the Holy Eucharist

August 14, 2021

Solemnity of the Assumption
(20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B)

The first three evangelists, Saints Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all detail the same event from the Last Supper. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul recounts it in these words:

“I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”

At every Mass, we recall how Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist the night before he died. But the Gospel of John does not feature these words of institution. The Last Supper spans five full chapters in John’s Gospel—spending far more verses detailing Jesus’ words and deeds at table that night than is done by Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined—yet the phrase “This is my Body” is not included there. Why is this?

Both the early Church Fathers and modern scripture scholars agree that John’s was the last canonical gospel to be written. St. John probably thought it was unnecessary to retread again the same familiar ground as his predecessors, so he chose to omit the institution narrative. Instead, St. John shares with us the Bread of Life discourse. We’ve been listening to this chapter from John for the previous two weeks. Next Sunday presents the resolution of this story. And this Sunday, we would ordinarily be hearing the climax of Jesus’ teaching. Rather than being quoted saying “This is my body” at the Last Supper, in this gospel Jesus declares at the synagogue in Capernaum:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. …For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. …The one who feeds on me will have life because of me. …Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

The other gospels include the eucharistic words of institution, but John particularly emphasizes Jesus’ real eucharistic presence.

As I said, we would ordinarily be hearing this climax to Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse this weekend, but it is preempted this year by the August 15th Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now I’m a very big fan of Mary but I also love that particular gospel reading from John 6, so I was a bit disappointed when I realized the first would be cancelling the second. But then I reflected upon Mary’s profound connections to Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist, and there is actually great beauty in the convergence of these two holy days.

Consider: from where did Jesus receive the flesh he gives us in the Holy Eucharist? God ordained that Jesus Christ receive his human nature from his mother, Mary. At the Annunciation, Mary gave God her pure flesh and pure “yes,” saying “Let it be done to me according to your word,” on behalf of all humanity. That she might respond with a truly free “yes” and be a truly worthy source and vessel for her Son, the most Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved in flawless holiness by the grace of God from the first moment of her life. She lived all her days on earth in sanctity untainted by sin. The 16th psalm proclaims of God: “You will not allow your holy one to see decay.” And so, “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This is the wonderful event which we remember and celebrate with Jesus and Mary today.

The sacred body and precious blood of Jesus we see held aloft at Mass come to us through the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is symbolically present on the altar as well. Consider the chalice. It is made from a precious metal and fashioned for a sacred purpose. It is traditionally veiled, denoting its dignity and sanctity. It is femininely curved, a vessel open to receiving and holding God’s gifts. The chalice is a symbol of the Virgin Mary, who is not to be adored as God and yet who is most profoundly close to him. Like Mary at the visit of the Magi, the chalice holds Jesus for all peoples to adore him.

At the Annunciation, after Mary responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word,” did she feel anything the instant the Word became flesh within her? Maybe she had the most enrapturing mystical experience ever known. Or maybe, when the angel departed from her, she felt nothing at the moment of the Incarnation. Either extreme seems possible, or it may have been something in between. When you receive the Holy Eucharist, you may or may not be graced to feel any different from the presence of Jesus within you. But consider how Jesus Christ has come to dwell in you at the center of your being as he did first within the Blessed Virgin Mary.

May Blessed Mary, the source of Christ’s flesh; the Lord’s holy chalice; the first Christian to commune with Jesus; intercede for you, helping you to know, love, and follow her Son. May you join them both in heaven one day so that all generations may call you blessed.

The Master Chef — Funeral Homily for John Kenneavy, 74

July 22, 2021

John KenneavySt. John the Baptist Parish is honored welcome you and to offer our greatest prayer, the Holy Mass, for John’s soul and the consolation of all who know and love him. No short funeral homily can capture the fullness of a person. If I were to preach to you for an hour about his life, afterwards I bet that each of you here could add another unique story. This morning, I’m going to reflect upon just a single aspect of John’s life, one that all of you who are his family and friends are already familiar with: his being a chef.

John opened and operated the Kenneavy’s Kitchen restaurant for seventeen years, preparing homestyle dishes, fresh bakery items, and his famous pizza. After selling that restaurant in 1993, he cheffed at several other Door County restaurants. He went on to be one of the first cooks hired to run the kitchen at a brand new, area nursing facility. And, in his own retirement, he helped to helped cook and serve a weekly lunch for his Florida residential community. In addition to his customers and neighbors, how many countless times did he use his culinary talents to feed his family and friends? Consider how much nourishment and delight John provided for literally thousands through his culinary gifts in life. And John delighted in doing it.

So what is the joy in cooking? Everyone likes to eat good food – chefs included – but the joy from cooking is more than merely eating. There is delight in creating a dish and delight in sharing it. The chef offers up a gift of self to create a great meal and offers this meal to others. A chef’s feast is offered for peoples’ nourishment and joy, that they may have life and have it more abundantly. And a great feast brings people together, connecting the chef with his friends, family, or guests.

At the Last Supper and at the Holy Mass, Jesus gathers his friends for a feast. The Good Shepherd spreads a table before them in the house of the Lord. Christ prepares a meal for his family, makes a gift of himself for us, and offers us this gift. Jesus says: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” This is not mere metaphor, for Jesus insists, “my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink,” and so his Church has always professed and believed. This meal brings us into communion with the Chef who prepares it: “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” Whoever eats this bread will live forever with the Lord on the holy mountain that the Prophet Isaiah describes, where death will be no more and those who are saved will rejoice in their salvation.

When St. Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, was dying she famously told her son, “Bury my body wherever you will…. Only one thing I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.” St. Monica knew the Holy Mass is our greatest prayer because this feast connects to the Lord and one another, that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Today, let us pray for the peace of John’s soul and receive Christ’s consolation for ourselves. Jesus Christ the Master Chef has prepared his feast for us, and “blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.”

The New Passover Lamb

April 1, 2021

Holy Thursday

The Lord gave specific instructions to Moses and Aaron for the feast of Passover—commandments containing secret significance only later to be revealed. Every Hebrew family had to procure a lamb, a year-old male without blemish, one apiece for each household. If a family was too small for a whole lamb they were to join the nearest household in obtaining one and feast in the same house together. The lamb could not to be eaten raw nor boiled in water, but had to be roasted, baked whole and entire, once some of its blood had been taken to be dabbed on the house’s doorposts and lintel. The whole community of Israel was to celebrate this feast and no one was to go outdoors until morning.

The first Passover was held for the salvation of God’s people, so that deadly judgment would pass over their households and they would no longer be slaves in Egypt. Once they were freed, they continued keeping the Feast of Passover, renewing and celebrating their great deliverance by God’s power. All of these were signs and symbols of things to come, of the still-greater things which came with Christ.

At the Last Supper, Jesus told to his apostles, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.” The Gospels note the bread and wine on the table, in accord with the Jewish Passover tradition, but where is the lamb at the center of the meal?

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

Jesus asked the apostles that night, “Do you realize what I have done for you?” Jesus is the Passover Lamb of God: an innocent young man, unblemished by sin, whose blood is poured out upon the vertical and horizonal beams of the Cross, to free and save all within his house. Tonight we gather in one house, Christ’s Church, as a family, joining with other households together at Mass, to really receive in the form of baked bread Jesus’ whole self. As St. Augustine once preached to newly baptized Christians: “Recognize in the bread what hung on the cross, and in the cup what flowed from his side. [T]hose old sacrifices of the people of God…represented…this single one that was to come.”

Jesus’ sacrifice saves us from deadly judgment and slavery to sin, and at this meal we renew and rejoice in our great deliverance through him. By God’s grace, may we always have priests and the freedom to offer the Mass on earth, and the grace to never wander off from God’s house into the outer darkness until the first light of the new dawn breaks—when Jesus Christ returns in glory.

Jesus asks his apostles, “Do you realize what I have done for you?” Do you realize what Jesus has done for you? Know that he has eagerly desired to share this Passover with you.

This is His Body Given up to Save Many

March 21, 2020

Laetare Sunday — 4th Sunday of Lent—Year A

This past Wednesday evening, I saw this image online with the caption: “Darkness has fallen: every single U.S. diocese has suspended public celebrations of the Mass.”

Our Laetare Sunday rejoicing is more subdued this Lent. The sad but necessary suspension of public Masses by our nation’s bishops is a painful loss. And for many of the faithful, the greater their love for the Lord the greater the pain they feel. They are like the woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house who could bathe Jesus’ feet with dripping tears ‘because she loved much.’ (Luke 7:47) However, darkness has not overcome us.

Brothers and sisters,” today’s second reading tells us, “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” God is still God, Christ is still Lord, and we are still His. Though public liturgies have ended the Holy Mass continues to be privately offered in most every Catholic church. The graces of Jesus’ sacrifice pour forth from these altars into Christian souls throughout the world, for our good and the good of all his holy Church. Priests are celebrating these Masses in obedience to the command of Christ recalled at every Consecration, “Do this in memory of me.” Yet each of us, ordained and lay people alike, is called to keep this commandment of Christ in a deeper way; by personally imitating Jesus in his loving self-sacrifice for others.

Today, and in the critical weeks and months ahead, all of us are called to sacrifice in ways that will seriously limit our activities and impact our finances. Why are we doing this? To stop the spread of a deadly disease not merely to ourselves but to our many neighbors around us. From my research into this grave topic, it appears that hundreds of thousands—potentially millions—of American lives depend upon the extent of our collective and individual actions now. So please respond with a firm resolve from a Christian love for others.

When you ache today because you can neither gather for Mass nor physically receive our Lord, take heart in the reason for your sacrifice. This is his Body given up to save many; we do this in memory of Him. And soon, when you are asked to help people in the community meet their material needs, sacrifice for them knowing whom you are also serving. For whatever you do for the least of your brethren, you do it for Him. Invite Jesus now to enter into your heart and be with you, to console and strengthen you, today and in the trials ahead of us.

Aphantasia — A Corpus Christi Homily

June 5, 2016

Aphantasia (Greek for “without fantasy”) has been written about since 1880 but it has recently gained increased attention. To understand what I am talking about, picture a red triangle, a horse running, or the house where you grew up. With a moment’s attention you can see them in your mind. However, people with  Aphantasia are incapable of voluntarily forming images in their mind’s-eye.

Blake, a successful 30-year-old software engineer only recently learned he experienced the world differently from others. He relates a conversation similar to this with a Facebook friend:

—If I ask you to imagine a beach, how would you describe what happens in your mind?
    —Uhh, I imagine a beach. What?
—Like, the idea of a beach. Right?
    —Well, there are waves, sand. Umbrellas. It’s a relaxing picture. Are you okay?
— But it’s not actually a picture? There’s no visual component, right?
    —Yes, there is, in my mind. What are you talking about?
—Is it in color?
—How often do your thoughts have a visual element?
    —A thousand times a day?
—Oh, my goodness…

An African BeachIf someone were to ask Blake to “imagine a beach,” he could ruminate on the concept of a beach: it has sand, waves, heat, sun. He could recognize a beach when he saw one, but even if he were standing on a beach he could not recreate or remember the image with his eyes closed.

Philip is a 42-year old photographer from Toronto. He is happily married, but he cannot conjure up his wife’s face (or any other image) in his mind’s eye. He was recently listening to a podcast presenter describing aphantasia. He says it came as a complete surprise, “I was like ‘what do you mean? People do that?’” He thought it was a joke so he checked with his four-year old daughter. “I asked her whether she could picture an apple in her mind, she said ‘yeah, it’s green’. I was shocked.

A 2009 survey of 2,500 people suggests that aphantasia is the experience of about 2% of people. So far, I have found it in two of my friends, including  a fellow priest. He tells me that when our spiritual director in seminary would tells us to prayerfully picture ourselves, say, at the table of the Last Supper he thought it was just a metaphor. He was surprised to learn that when people “counted sheep” to fall asleep that was more than just a figure of speech.

Disbelief is a common response when people on either side of this phenomena hear that other people do no experience the world like themselves. (“That’s impossible. You’re lying. You’re pulling my leg.”) However, unless we happen to carry around an MRI machine, we have to take our friend at his or her word in order to know the truth. And here we come to the connection with this Feast of Corpus Christi.

An extraordinary experience at the center of our Faith is founded upon a trust in our friend Jesus Christ’s testimony. At the Last Supper, Jesus does not say, “This is like my body,” or “This symbolizes or represents my body.” He says, “This is my body.” Around the year 150 AD, St. Justin Martyr described what early Christians everywhere believed about these words:

“The apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “Do this in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood” … “This food is called among us the Eucharist… For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

Princess Grace (Kelly) Receives The Holy EucharistThe Church has always proclaimed and worshiped Jesus Christ as truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. This belief has been confirmed for us throughout the centuries. The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised would lead us to all truth and remind us of all that he told us, has reaffirmed this teaching in Councils of the Church. Jesus has also allowed Eucharistic miracles to unveil this mystery we cannot normally perceive. For instance, at the Miracle of Lanciano in eighth century AD, a priest who was doubting Jesus’ Real Presence witnessed the bread become flesh and the wine become blood (which coagulated and broke into five globules in the chalice) as he said the words of consecration. In 1971, scientific analysis indicated that, as at similar miracles, the Host was human cardiac muscle. Who would go through such trouble when a fraudster’s more convenient use of pig’s flesh would have been undetectable? The truth is that Jesus gives us his heart in the Eucharist, along with his whole self. You can go to Lanciano, Italy and behold this Host today.

For many Christians, the Lord’s Supper is merely a symbolic commemoration, a ritual that remembers him. But if Jesus is everywhere, then he is nowhere. It then impossible to physically draw near to him any place on earth. Unless you are blessed with a vision of Jesus, you can never see him with your eyes or touch him in your flesh until after your death and resurrection. But with the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, “Behold, I am with you always…

If you have always enjoyed mental images, or if you have received the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion since you were a child, then you may not appreciate the gift you have. If you experience aphantasia, or if you have never believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, then you may not even know what you are missing. So for our non-Catholic family and friends, tell them about this treasure—Jesus wants them to receive him, too. And for ourselves, let us truly appreciate the incredible gift that we are blessed to receive.

Returning the Favor — Holy Thursday Homily

March 24, 2016

St. Augustine wrote a famous reflection on Proverbs 23:1 :

“If you sit down to eat at the table of a ruler,
observe carefully what is set before you.”

Why? Because you will be expected to provide the same kind of meal for him. This proverb is a practical tip of worldly wisdom, but St. Augustine goes deeper; what is its spiritual meaning for the Christian?

Who is our ruler?  It is Jesus our Lord.
Where is his table? It is here, his altar.
Now carefully observe the food he sets before us: it is the Eucharist, his very self.

Jesus, like others in the ancient world, reclined at table.Jesus calls us to prepare the same kind of meal for him. He says, “This is my body, given up for you. Do this in memory of me.” We must make a gift of ourselves by living our lives for him, and we are to serve him in others for he tells us, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

After washing his disciples feet at the Last Supper where he institutes the Eucharist, Jesus says to his disciples, and to us: “Do you realize what I have done for you? … I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.

Stained Glass Symbols — The Host & Chalice

February 8, 2014

Host and Chalice - Sacred Heart Catholic Church -  Wauzeka WIA Symbol of Christ’s Death

Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist Host and chalice, yet the Host and chalice are symbolic as well. At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which will be given up for you.” Then he took a chalice of wine and said, “This is the chalice of my blood… which will be poured out for you…” When a living creature’s blood is separated from its broken body, death naturally follows. Though Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity are fully present in every fragment of the Host and in every drop of the chalice, the symbolic separation of Jesus’ body and blood points to his sacrificial death.

Sending Another Advocate — 6th Sunday in Easter—Year A

May 29, 2011

At the Last Supper, Jesus told His apostles that He would soon be departing from them. His disciples found this news distressful. Jesus had been their spiritual leader and intimate friend. For the better of three years, they spent almost all day, every day, with Him; sharing breakfasts in the morning, walking down the roads and conversing with Him, watching Him preach and heal n villages, spending evenings with Him around the fire. Not only had he taught them about God, he had also made them more godly men. And so, understandably, word of their Good Shepherd’s departure saddened them.

But Jesus told them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” In obedience to His Father, Jesus was going away, but He told the disciples that they would not be left orphans. God would send them another person to lead and sanctify them. Jesus told them God the Father would send them another Advocate, another Helper, another Guide, to be with them always. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit, who would continue the same work which Jesus had begun in them. The Father had blessed them before by sending them Jesus. Now, at Jesus’ departure, the Lord wanted them to trust and remember this: that they would be blessed again.

Today, this Gospel is fulfilled in our hearing. Father Stoetzel has asked me to read you this letter from him:

Dear parishioners,

Bishop Callahan has asked me to take a new parish assignment beginning July 1st. I will be the next rector of St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral in La Crosse. Also, I am very happy to announce your new pastor here and St. John the Baptist in Marshfield. He is Fr. Samuel Martin who is presently the director of the Holy Cross House of Formation and teacher at Aquinas High School in La Crosse. Please welcome him graciously as he is being sent by the bishop to be your pastor.

I want to thank you very much for the privilege of being your pastor for the past 15 years. My gratitude goes to you for the prayers and many acts of kindness you have shown. Let us continue to pray for one another. Be assured that you will be in my fondest thoughts.

Fr. Stoetzel

The fact that our bishop has appointed Fr. Stoetzel to be the rector of the cathedral (the bishop’s own parish) says much about Father’s quality as a pastor. We will miss him in many ways. I don’t know Fr. Martin too well, but every encounter I have had with Him has been a positive one. I predict that we will all be very pleased with him when he comes in July and will be blessed by getting to know him better. In the meantime, let’s remember pray for Fr. Stoetzel, as he prepares for his new assignment in La Crosse. Let us also pray for our pastor-to-be, Fr. Sam Martin, as he prepares for us.

Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” The Lord wants us to trust and remember this: that He has blessed us before and that He we will be blessed again.

The Way, Truth, & Life — 5th Sunday in Easter—Year A

May 22, 2011

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The Mass is an encounter with Jesus Christ, leading us to God the Father. Like Jesus Himself, the Mass contains the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus. First, we journey on the Way to Jesus, then we come to the Truth of Jesus, finally we join in the Life of Jesus.

The Mass begins with the sign of the cross, for God is the beginning and end of everything. Next, we confess our unworthiness to approach the Lord, asking mercy for our sins, so that we may dare to take this journey to God. The, from the Holy Scriptures, we hear of God’s words and deeds among the Old Testament peoples and within the New Testament Church. In this, we learn of the providential way that God has prepared throughout time for us to encounter Jesus Christ today. Just as the journey on this Way through history leads to Jesus Christ, so the liturgy of the Word leads to the Gospel. Certainly, Jesus Christ the Word of God is present throughout the entire Word of God which is Sacred Scripture, but for the reading of the Gospel, we all stand up for Him and sing “Alleluia,” “Praise the Lord,” because we have come to Jesus Christ and He is more fully present among us in the proclamation of the Gospel.

The Gospel reading proclaims Jesus, who is the Truth. The homily that follows proclaims that the Truth matters for us here and now and demands our personal response. To this call, we answer with the Creed, proclaiming our faith in who God is and what He has done for us. In the Creed, we proclaim our acceptance of Jesus, the Truth. In the prayers of the faithful, we petition the Lord for our needs and concerns, saying in so many words, “Lord, let your kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven! Let us share you life! Give us your life!” At Mass, the Way leads to the Truth, and from the Truth we long for God’s Life. At Mass, the Liturgy of the Word leads to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The presentation of the gifts is not merely about moving around cash and bread and water and wine. The presentation of the gifts is about the presentation of everything that we have, and everything that we are, to God. We lift up our hearts to be one with our sacrifice. Amidst praises to the Father, the one life-giving sacrifice of the Last Supper, of the cross, and of Heaven becomes present here to us. We join in offering this sacrifice through Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus, in union with the Holy Spirit, to God the Father in Heaven.

Through this offered sacrifice, we join in God’s Life. We pray “Our Father,” because uniting with the paschal mystery, the great Easter deeds of Jesus, gives us life as the Father’s sons and daughters. Then we share with one another the sign of peace, the loving peace that is possessed by God’s holy ones. Finally, at the climax, we partake of Jesus Christ, Life Himself, most truly present in the Holy Eucharist.

Sometimes people say, “I just don’t get anything out of going to Mass. Father, I know that you say all this important and wonderful stuff is going on, but I don’t see it and I don’t feel it. The Mass is boring for me.” I understand. When I was a boy, I made a point of going to the bathroom (sometimes twice) during every Mass, just to break up the monotony. When I would see the priest cleaning the dishes at the altar—that was a good sign, because it meant that the Mass was almost done. I didn’t really know what was happening at Mass, so I really didn’t believe in what was happening at Mass. But as I grew older I began to learn what was happening, and as I grew in faith I began to believe in what was happening, and my experience of the Mass was transformed.

People who say that the Mass is boring resemble St. Phillip in something he said to Jesus at the first Eucharist, the Last Supper: “Master, (we don’t see or feel the presence of God the Father,) show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” And Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (Whoever has been to Mass has encountered my mysteries.) How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (How can you say, ‘The Mass is boring?’)” The awesome mystical realities of the Mass are true, and real, and present and active at every Mass we attend, whether we see them, or feel them, or believe in them, or not.

Jesus Christ and the Holy Mass contain the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and we shall receive from them according to our faith. Let us pray, that at this Mass and every Mass, we may be as fully present to Jesus Christ and His mysteries as they are to us at every Mass.

“I Thirst” — Good Friday

April 22, 2011

Shortly before He died on the cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.” Why did He say, “I thirst”? He was certainly physically dehydrated. As Psalm 22 foretells, His throat was as dry as broken pottery and His tongue stuck to His palate, but there was more reason for His words than just this.

Last night, at the Last Supper, Jesus had postponed drinking the traditional fourth and final cup of Passover. He said “I thirst” so that they would bring Him wine, so that He could drink, and unite the Last Supper and His Passion as one event. However, there is even more reason for His words than this.

Beside the crucifixes, in all of the chapels, in all of her religious houses around the world, Blessed Mother Teresa had written the words, “I thirst.” She understood that what Jesus thirsts for on the cross is us. Mother Teresa wrote, “Jesus is God, therefore His love, His Thirst, is infinite. He the Creator of the universe, asked for the love of His creatures. He thirsts for our love…” 

As we come to Him on the cross today, let us satisfy His thirst with the refreshment we can give to Him.

“Do This…” — Holy Thursday

April 21, 2011

At the Last Supper, the night before he suffered for us, Jesus took some bread. He thanks to God for it and He broke it. And He declared it to be His body which would be given up for others. Then He offered it to those He loved. When the supper was ended, Jesus took a cup of wine. Again He gave thanks and praise to the Father. And He declared it to contain His blood, blood to be shed for all. Then He offered the cup to His disciples and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus ordained His apostles the first priests of the New Covenant. They and their successors would do this in remembrance of Him, throughout the centuries, up to this very night, and until He comes again. When you and I celebrate the Mass we remember Him and what He did, and more than just recalling it, we re-encounter it as that same sacrifice is offered in front of us. But Jesus’ words, ‘to do this in memory of Him’ means more than just coming to Mass.

Jesus is calling and commanding us to do the thing that He is doing. We must give God thanks and praise for what He has given us. We must take our bodies and give them up. We must take our life’s blood and pour it out. And we can do this, for God and for each other, in as many ways as there is to love. The sacrifices of your daily life, at home, at work, and at prayer; the work of washing feet; may not seem significant to you now, but these sacrifices shall your glory in Heaven forever.

As Jesus washed His apostles’ feet He said, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” And when He had finished He said, “If I, … the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” At the Last Supper, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Tonight, He says the same to us as well.