Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Not everyone likes the Eucharist

This past Sunday the Gospel reading continued it's journey through John 6. This multi-week emphasis on the Bread Of Life discourse should help us reflect more deeply on Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist. As I shared previously this is the font & summit of our lives, both individually and as a catholic community. It is the principle source of spiritual nourishment for our souls. Yet, not everyone is a big fan.

I'm not speaking here of Fundamentalist objections to transubstantiation, but about the very real spiritual world in which we live. This was brought home to me in a very personal way this past Sunday. While attending mass with my two oldest daughters I noticed a young woman sitting in the very front acting very strangely. I had discerned that she was under the influence of an evil spirit, particularly of a sexualized and sacrilegious one (for more on discernment of spirits see 1 Cor. 12). I had the very distinct impression that she was going to do something at communion, but I wasn't sure what it would be.

At communion I was kneeling at my pew and had a clear view of this woman. I watched as she went up to receive the Eucharist and observed that she did not consume the host but brought it back to her seat in her hand. Someone sitting next to her noticed this and apparently leaned over and told her to eat the host. By this time I was in line for communion myself but still able to watch her. As I received the Eucharist she got up from her seat and began to walk towards the back of the church. I followed. I watched as she exited the lobby of the church and through the glass doors/windows was able to see her look around then spit several times into a trash can.

After mass I pulled aside one of the parish staff that I knew and explained what happened. She too had seen this woman initially not consume the host and then walk out immediately after putting it in her mouth. A search of the trash can was unable to find anything of substance resembling the host.

It's ironic that our priest had devoted his homily to expounding upon the Eucharist as our best weapon against the Culture of Death in society while a real spiritual battle was taking place at that very time. I'm not one for seeing demons behind every rock, but I do believe in their existence and their ability to harass and influence people. St. Paul had this very reality in mind as he wrote in Ephesians 6 that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

I ask for prayers for this young woman that she may be set free from the spiritual bondage she is under, that she might know the love of Jesus, the very one she spit from her mouth, and the power of his loving mercy.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lessons Learned

As many of my friends and family know, Lisa & I spent about 10 years outside the Catholic Church. During our sojourn to non-denominational Evangelicalism we gained a deeper appreciation for our Catholic heritage and were blessed by the things our Protestant brothers and sisters taught us. As much as the Church has to offer, we can also learn quite a bit from the other members of Christ's mystical body.
One such lesson is taking full advantage of what you've been given. I know many Catholics who, when looking to their seperated brethern, focus on what is lacking in these various denominations when compared to the full riches of Catholicism. In particular, it is easy on one hand to see how Christ's Eucharistic presence is missing from their worship. I would counter however, that many Protestants do more with the little they have than so many Catholics who squander this great gift of God.
In light of the current liturgical focus on the Eucharist, I am speaking principally of passion in worship. Passion, as I use the term here, may include but is not limited to emotions. Certainly some brands of Pentecostalism seem to the observer as excessive emotionalism--and from personal experience some of it often is just that. What I mean in the way of passionate worship is worship in which the worshiper is fully aware of the act of giving worship, of giving himself completely to God in that moment of spiritual intimacy. Again from my own limited personal experience it seems to me that Ive met more passionate worshipers in the Protestant faith communities than in the Catholic parishes to which I've belonged.
As a disclaimer I must admit that we have found a wonderful, passionate community of believers in the young adult ministry of our current parish. In fact, I have always argued that it has been in a passionate, engaged Catholic setting that we have had our most meaningful encounters with Christ. I also have encountered many "pew warmers" in Protestant churches that are just as disengaged from worship as some of the Catholics of which I am now speaking.
What makes me scratch my head is that as Catholics we do have the Real Presence of Jesus in our midst and yet so often and for too many the liturgy is simply something to endure and get through. I confess that I've had this attitude myself. What is it about our nature that we can so easily become so complacent in the face of such awesomeness?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Bread of Life

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” - John 6:35
We are in the midst of several weeks of readings from John 6 during Sunday liturgies. Here we have the story of the feeding of the multitudes and the Bread of Life discourse. What a great opportunity to reflect upon the gift of the Eucharist.
The Catechism reminds us of the clear teaching of Vatican II that "the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life." (Lumen Gentium 11, CCC 1324) It is in the Eucharist that we both recieve the grace to live out the Christian faith and clearly see the perfect fruit and purpose of that faith: union with God. It is in the Eucharist that our souls are fed and strengthened to endure the trials that come our way.
Through the Eucharist we become one Body in Christ. St. Augustine spoke of how it takes many grains of wheat being crushed, mixed with water and baked together to make one loaf of bread; and in the same way we are many different grains of wheat brought together and "crushed" through humility, "moistened" through the water of baptism and baked in the fire of the Holy Spirit to become one body, one bread.