The greatest gift you can give yourself is to take time before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in prayer.
How should we respond to Jesus when He makes tough demands of us? What do we do about those who reject the Church’s teachings?
This is my homily for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B
As we prepare to welcome Pope Francis to New York at the end of the month, I would like to ask everyone to view this video about something he was personally involved with that is astounding: the Eucharistic Miracle of Buenos Aires. (I wrote about this in a previous post which you can view here.) This story gives tremendous strength to anyone whose faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is doubtful. It is eight minutes long and very inspiring.
By the way, I will be one of the priests on CBS News in New York alongside Mary Calvi covering the Pope’s visit this month.
I pulled a great prank on my parishioners today at Mass. Several people told me it needs to be on my blog, so here it is!
I was having dinner with a friend the other night who is not Christian but who was asking me a lot of questions concerning what our Catholic faith is all about. When I explained it to him, he said I pretty much captured it in a nutshell. Since he found it helpful, I thought it might help someone else by posting it on my blog, so here goes!
With Original Sin, Heaven was lost to mankind. Satan had his entry into our world, and with him came his greatest weapon: death. No matter how good any one of us tries to be, because of Original sin, when we die, we would enter into Hell and condemnation for all eternity, and there was nothing we could do about it. A good image would be of us being thrown into a prison and shackled to the wall with the door slammed shut behind us. With Satan, all our pleading and begging for mercy to let us out falls on deaf ears. The only one who can help us is God. We need his help; without him we’re doomed. God did come to our help by becoming a man. He took on our human nature precisely so that now he could enter the realm of death, something he couldn’t do as God alone. He took on flesh in the person of Jesus, who is both truly God and truly man. When he died on the cross – which was his plan from the beginning – he was able to enter into Hell and free us. You can imagine it as Satan letting the one person in who had the key to our shackles and the gate to Hell. When he rose from the dead, he destroyed death’s hold over us. It’s as if Jesus paved a highway that goes right through Hell and up to Heaven. So Jesus totally reversed the power of death by taking Satan’s prime weapon and turning it against him. What Satan intended as the means to enslave us in his kingdom – death – is now the way we leave his power and enter into heaven. We will still die, but death now leads to our salvation and not our condemnation. But in order for us to follow the path, we have to be one with Jesus. God took on our nature, and now we must take on his. This is accomplished through the Sacraments. In Baptism, we die with Christ and are buried with him, but we also rise with him. We inherit heaven and become heirs with Christ to everything he won by his death. In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us his body and blood as our food so that our flesh is now made up of his flesh, and every time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we are on the cross with him in an unbloody and painless manner, are buried with him and risen in him over and over again. It’s as if Jesus created a power line that transverses eternity for us to plug into his death and resurrection and receive the salvation he won for us once and for all. He made the sacrifice he offered on Calvary forever present to us in the Holy Mass. He also gave his teachings to the Apostles with the authority to continue these Sacraments for all of time, and told them to “teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:20) We still have to walk the path to heaven – there is no moving sidewalk that automatically takes us there – and sometimes, because while Baptism washes away Original Sin, concupiscence (the inclination to sin) still remains – we stray from the path. Christ calls us back to the right path constantly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and teaches us through the Church, especially the successor to St. Peter (the Pope) to whom Jesus gave the ultimate authority to speak in his name (cf. Matt. 16:13-20), to help us know when we’re not sure if certain activities or beliefs lead us to heaven or not. So, in order to reverse the effects of Original Sin, we must accept Jesus as God-made-man, be baptized, receive him in Holy Communion every Sunday for the forgiveness of our sins, and allow him to keep us on the path to heaven by following the way he shows us through the teachings of the Church. Do that and you’ll get to Heaven. It’s as simple as that!
P.S. Thanks, Joe, for the inspiration!!
Throughout the history of our church, there have been reported miracles of the Eucharist. The first known one was the Miracle of Lanciano, Italy, about 700 AD. This miracle still baffles scientists to this day. Here is an account of a Eucharistic miracle that Pope Francis approved when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The facts of what took place are narrated by Ron Tesoriero in his book Reason to Believe, published in 2007.
In 1996 in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina, when the present Pope Francis was Auxiliary Bishop under Cardinal Quarracino, an amazing Eucharistic miracle took place. He himself had it photographed and investigated and the results are astonishing.
At seven o’clock in the evening on August 18, 1996, Fr. Alejandro Pezet was saying Holy Mass at a Catholic church in the commercial center of Buenos Aires. As he was finishing distributing Holy Communion, a woman came up to tell him that she had found a discarded host on a candle holder at the back of the church. On going to the spot indicated, Fr. Alejandro saw the defiled Host. Since he was unable to consume it, he placed it in a container of water and put it away in the tabernacle of the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. On Monday, August 26, upon opening the tabernacle, he saw to his amazement that the Host had turned into a bloody substance. He informed Bishop Jorge Bergoglio (Now Pope Francis, Auxiliary Bishop at that time), who gave instructions that the Host be professionally photographed. The photos were taken on September 6. They clearly show that the Host, which had become a fragment of bloodied flesh, had grown significantly in size. For several years the Host remained in the tabernacle, the whole affair being kept a strict secret. Since the Host suffered no visible decomposition, Cardinal Bergoglio (Who became Archbishop by that time) decided to have it scientifically analyzed. On October 5, 1999, in the presence of the Cardinal’s representatives, Dr. Castanon took a sample of the bloody fragment and sent it to New York for analysis. Since he did not wish to prejudice the study, he purposely did not inform the team of scientists of its provenance (the source of sample was kept secret to the scientists). One of these scientists was Dr. Frederic Zugibe, the well-known cardiologist and forensic pathologist and former Medical examiner of Rockland County. He determined that the analyzed substance was real flesh and blood containing human DNA. Zugibe testified that the analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves. This muscle is responsible for the contraction of the heart. It should be borne in mind that the left cardiac ventricle pumps blood to all parts of the body. The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism. They require a living organism to sustain them. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.
Two Australians, journalist Mike Willesee and lawyer Ron Tesoriero, witnessed these tests. Knowing where sample had come from, they were dumbfounded by Dr. Zugibe’s testimony. Mike Willesee asked the scientist how long the white blood cells would have remained alive if they had come from a piece of human tissue, which had been kept in water. They would have ceased to exist in a matter of minutes, Dr. Zugibe replied. The journalist then told the doctor that the source of the sample had first been kept in ordinary water for a month and then for another three years in a container of distilled water; only then had the sample been taken for analysis. Dr. Zugibe was at a loss to account for this fact. There was no way of explaining it scientifically, he stated. Also, Dr. Zugibe passionately asked, “You have to explain one thing to me, if this sample came from a person who was dead, then how could it be that as I was examining it the cells of the sample were moving and beating? If this heart comes from someone who died in 1996, how can it still be alive?”
Only then did Mike Willesee inform Dr. Zugibe that the analyzed sample came froma consecrated Host (white, unleavened bread) that had mysteriously turned into bloody human flesh. Amazed by this information, Dr. Zugibe replied, “How and why a consecrated Host would change its character and become living human flesh and blood will remain an inexplicable mystery to science; a mystery totally beyond her competence.”
Then Doctor Ricardo Castanon Gomez arranged to have the lab reports from the Buenos Aires miracle compared to the lab reports from the Lanciano miracle, again without revealing the origin of the test samples. The experts making the comparison concluded that the two lab reports must have originated from test samples obtained from the same person. They further reported that both samples revealed an AB positive blood type. They are all characteristic of a man who was born and lived in the Middle East region.
Only faith in the extraordinary action of a God provides the reasonable answer: faith in a God, who wants to make us aware that He is truly present in the mystery of the Eucharist. The Eucharistic miracle in Buenos Aires is an extraordinary sign attested to by science. Through it Jesus desires to arouse in us a lively faith in His real presence in the Eucharist. He reminds us that His presence is real, and not symbolic. Only with the eyes of faith do we see Him under appearance of the consecrated bread and wine. We do not see Him with our bodily eyes, since He is present in His glorified humanity. In the Eucharist Jesus sees and loves us and desires to save us.