Friday, May 30, 2014

Missing Sunday Mass

Why is skipping Sunday Mass a mortal sin?

Today some Christians have adopted a very casual idea concerning public Sunday worship. To them, because people can pray in private, there is no real need to pray within a community. But concerning private and public worship, Catholics do not see this as an "either…or" situation, but a "both…and."
Throughout the entire history of the Church, attending Sunday Mass has been considered an essential aspect of living one's Christian Faith. Consider the countless brave Christians who risked and endured persecution and execution by various totalitarian regimes in order to go to Mass. In many times and places, the opportunity to attend Mass was (and still is) likewise an opportunity for martyrdom. They believed that the rewards greatly outweighed the risks. And what are the rewards? The reception of the very Body and Blood of Christ, a participation in the sacrifice of Calvary, the reception of sanctifying grace, the guidance and empowerment to live virtuously, the opportunity to gather and support one another as a family of faith, the chance to express thanks and praise to God as a community, and many other things besides.
Consider what I have presented here in light of the following teachings from the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Quote:  Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:53-54) 
Quote:  "…and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…" (Hebrews 10:24-25; emphasis added) 

Quote:  CCC # 2182: Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church. The faithful give witness by this to their communion in faith and charity. Together they testify to God's holiness and their hope of salvation. They strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

Also consider the 3rd Commandment (which Protestants number as the 4th):
Quote:  "Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8) 

As you know, Christians transfer the observance of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday (i.e., the Lord's Day; as described in CCC #2174 & 2175). The Catechism teaches that attending Sunday Mass is one of the ways in which we obey this commandment:

Quote: CCC #2176: The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship "as a sign of his universal beneficence to all." Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people. 

The ancient Christians referred to the Mass as "the breaking of bread". For example, "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them…" (Acts 20:7). St. Justin Martyr, writing in the 2nd Century, gives us a very detailed description of Sunday Mass in a document called the First Apology (most notably in Chapter 67 of this work). Such references underscore the importance of Sunday Mass, and show how from the beginning it was considered a foundational aspect of Christian living.
Sunday Mass is a wonderful gift from God and is a time for spiritual enrichment and joyful fellowship. But in light of all that I have presented, it is also (as we say about very important things in life) "serious business." If something is serious business then refusing to do it must result in serious consequences. The Catechism addresses this in the following manner:

Quote: CCC #2181: The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin. 
In terms of the Precepts of the Church, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is included in the 1st Precept.

Simply put, if people believe that Sunday Mass is no big deal, then such a view is contrary to the beliefs of the martyrs, to what has historically been taught in Christianity, and to the biblical passages I quoted above. On the other hand, those who believe that Sunday Mass is, indeed, a big deal must admit that that skipping it is likewise a big deal (or else there is a strange disconnect between the great worth of the Mass that one professes, and the small value one ascribes to it when it is missed). In stating that to knowingly and willingly miss Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation results in mortal sin, the consequence of rejecting so great a gift is clearly depicted. Participating in Sunday Mass is a life-giving experience, and the only realistic consequence of a serious rejection of life-giving grace is spiritual death, which culpability to mortal sin entails.

Fr. William Saunders: "Is Missing Mass a Mortal Sin?" found here

God Bless

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Real Presence, Part 4

“A type is a person, thing, or event in the Old Testament that foreshadows something to come later in time. It is like a taste or hint of something that will be fulfilled or realized. Types are like pictures that come alive in a new and exciting way when seen through the eyes of Christ’s revelation.” The type is always lesser than the anti-type. The anti-type (New Testament event) is always greater than its type (shadow of an event in the Old Testament). And both are independent of each other.

Many of the first Christians used this method to find new insights in the Scriptures. We see these‘types’, or ‘figures’ or examples in many places in Scripture like in 1 Cor 10:11 and Heb 11:19 for example.

One of these instances can be found in the Gospel of Matthew where we see that the Egyptian Exodus told in Hosea 11:1 is quoted exactly in Matt 2:15 when speaking of Jesus’ return to Israel from Egypt: “where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of EgyptI called my son."”

What Matthew has done here is he took an historical event and interpreted it as a shadow of something greater to come in the future, which he sees as ‘fulfilled’ in the person of Jesus the Messiah.

Other examples of Jesus Christ type/antitype pairs are:

A) Jonah in the belly of the whale is a type of Christ in the tomb. For Jonah stayed in the belly for three days as did Christ stay buried for three days until His resurrection as Jesus explained Himself “In the same way that Jonahspent three days and nights in the big fish, so will the Son of Man spend three days and nights in the depths of the earth. “(Matt 12:40)

B) The deadly bites of serpents are healed by the brazen serpent, which was lifted up that those bitten might look at it and live (Num 21:9). Jesus Himself gives the explanation of this: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in Him may not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:14)

C) In God’s request that Abraham sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen 22:2) we find another type of Christ. The birth of both was supernatural (remember, Abraham was a hundred years old and Sarah an elderly woman when she bore Isaac). Both are sons of promise. Both were called “the only begotten son.”Both carried the wood of their own demise up the same mountain, Moriah. Both consented to endure death. Both were bound. Both were offered by their fathers. Both were laid on the wood. Both were in the vigor of life, and both live again after the offering.

D) Melchizadek is another type of Christ. We see evidence of this in Heb 6:20 “On our behalf Jesus has gone in there before us and has become a high priest forever, in the priestly order of Melchizedek.” and “Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and also a priest of the Most High God, brought bread and wine to Abram [whose name was later changed to Abraham] and blessed him, and said, "May the Most High God, who made heaven and earth, bless Abram!”(Gen 14:18)

In the Paschal lamb which the Israelites were commanded to eat as part of the Passover celebration is another strong foreshadowing of Christ. Each family is commanded to take a lamb without blemish and to sacrifice it (Exo 12:7-8). The lamb was to be roasted and eaten with unleavened bread and wild lettuce. The Paschal Lamb prefigured symbolically Christ, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

We can agree that Jesus is a priest forever of the order of Melchizedek (Heb 6:20), and that he is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) because we find these statements in Holy Scripture. By putting these to types together we see that Jesus is a priest forever but also the sacrificial lamb to atone for our sins. Jesus as priest offers up to God a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins, Himself. That sacrifice, as in the Passover sacrifice of the lamb, we are to EAT the lamb. Now, how are we to eat the lamb when the sacrifice is in the form of bread and wine? We find the solution in Jesus’ own words in the Last Supper when He raises up the bread and then the wine and says: “this is my body…this is my blood”. The bread and wine presented and consecrated is transformed into the body and blood of our Lord but in keeping the same form of bread and wine! A perfect fulfillment of both types including a third type where Jesus calls Himself the true bread of Heaven which gives eternal life! John 6:48-50 states “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died. But the bread that comes down from heaven is of such a kind that whoever eats it will not die.”

The difference between Christ’s death on the cross – the event- and the Eucharist – the sacrament – is the difference between history and liturgy. The historical event happened once and it will never again be repeated (Heb 9:25-26). The liturgical sacrament, however, not only keeps the past from being forgotten; through it the Eucharist of history –Jesus’ passion and death – is made present again. While his act of physical death will never be repeated, Jesus’ act of total self-giving to the Father for us (Rom 8:32) continues eternally in Love – that is, the Holy Spirit.

This moment in salvation history is the culmination of all of Scripture. As the Israelites were to sacrifice and eat the Passover lamb, so now are we to re-present His sacrifice forever in the form of bread and wine and eat His body and drink His blood because HE is the perfect sacrificial Lamb that we are to eat for our salvation (John 6:51). As the first Isrealites had to eat the sacrificial lamb, so too must we do the same.

God Bless

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Real Presence, Part 3

Third reason to believe:  Scripture

For Scriptural verses supporting the Real Presence I will reference only two sections of our Bible.  John chapter 6, verse 51 and 1 Cor 11. 

JOHN 6 (Bread of Life Discourse)
Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

-- Jews grumble at this.--

47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Many Disciples Desert Jesus
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[e] and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.


1)       The first thing to notice is “what else could Jesus have said to make it any more plain?”  Six times He tells them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood.  6 times!


2)       Second, He doesn’t correct those that leave Him for misunderstanding Him since they thought He spoke literally while He supposedly spoke only symbolically.  My question is: why didn’t He say so before they left Him?


3)       Thirdly, the apostle John recounts Jesus using two different words when speaking of ‘eating’ His flesh.  In the beginning of His discourse He uses the word “PHAGO” which is defined as ‘eat’ and which can sometimes be taken symbolically.  But when the Jews have difficulty accepting Jesus’ second attempt at clarifying His teaching Jesus switches to the word “TROGO” in verse 54 when speaking of ‘eating’ His flesh, a word which is NEVER used symbolically in Scripture and means to ‘munch, gnaw or crunch’ His Flesh making it extremely clear that Jesus was speaking literally.

And so Jesus let the Jews leave because they understood Him correctly, they just couldn’t accept this ‘hard teaching.’

My favorite verse of the whole ‘Bread of Life’ discourse is verse 51.
Verse 51 of John 6 says this: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.

Jesus is the living bread.  We are to eat this bread.  This bread that He gives for us to eat is the flesh that He will give for the life of the world.    If the bread is symbolically His flesh then the flesh that He gives for the life of the world must be symbolic as well.  That’s how Jesus describes it.  Was the flesh on the cross symbolic? Or real?  The flesh that we are to eat, is it symbolic or real?  If the flesh on the cross is real then the bread that we are to eat is that same flesh.

In 1 Corinthians 11, verse 27.  Paul writes to the Corinthians about eating the bread and drinking of the cup unworthily, to do that is to be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  Paul explains it this way: “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”  How can one sin against the body and blood by eating and drinking unworthily of the bread and wine UNLESS the bread and wine are now the body and blood of the Lord.

Two verses later, verse 29, Paul explains how it can be a sin to eat and drink unworthily.  It’s a sin because: “…anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  How can one DISCERN the body of the Lord in the bread if its NOT the body of the Lord?  To discern it as the body of the Lord means that the bread is, in fact, the body of the Lord.

And the last Scriptural verse that I want to bring to prove the Real Presence in the Eucharist are from the words of God Himself at the Last Supper.  Jesus raised the bread and said “This IS my Body.  He didn’t say that the bread was just a symbol, a sign or a figure of His body.  He lifted up the bread and said “this IS my Body”.  He never pointed to a door and said “This is my body”.   God Himself said “Let there be light.  And there was light”.  God the Son said “This is my body” and so, no matter what our senses might tell us, we are obliged to believe Him.  That His Word has power.  For God, to say it is so…makes it so.

God Bless

Friday, May 9, 2014

Real Presence, Reason 2

Last week we learned that we do in fact have extra-ordinary events, by that I mean unexplainable by scientific means, that prove the message of the True Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. But as the Lord said to ‘doubting’ Thomas when he finally touched the wounds of Christ and believed: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Many have done just that, they have believed even when their senses tell them otherwise.   And so I come to my second reason to believe, its history.  We find in the writings of the early Christians, people throughout history who believed in the actual presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  This belief is a continuous belief from the very first generation of Christians to today.  Those writings where they speak of others who do not believe in the True Presence are the beliefs of those who no one from today would even consider being Christians.  For 1500 years, until the Reformation, all Christians believed in the True Presence.  Here are a few quotes for your consideration…

A quote from St Ignatius of Antioch who heard the Apostle John speak and was the second successor of the Apostle Peter at Antioch.  He wrote in c.110 AD:

Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us.  They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty.  They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness raised from the dead.” (Letter to the Ephesians, par. 20)

Here is a second quote from Ignatius:

I have no taste for the food that perishes nor for the pleasures of this life.  I want the Bread of God which is the Flesh of Christ, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood which is love that cannot be destroyed.”

St Justin Martyr was born a pagan but converted to Christianity after studying philosophy.  He was beheaded with six of his companions some time between 163 and 167 A.D.  He said:

This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us.  For we do not receive these things as common bread and common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from Him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”(First Apology, Ch. 66, c. 150 AD)

Cyril of Jerusalem at 350 AD said:
He once in Cana of Galilee, turned water into wine, akin to blood, and is it incredible that He should have turned wine into blood? 

Here’s another by Cyril:
Then having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual Hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth His Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before Him; that He may make the Bread the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ; for whatsoever the Holy Ghost has touched, is surely sanctified and changed.

I could go on but in the interest of time I will give you one last quote from an early Christian considered a saint and hero by many in the Protestant community.  St Augustine lived in the late fourth century at a time where great discussions were under way in determining which books actually belonged in our Bible.  He had no small part in cementing the canon of Books for the whole Christian community.  What he said on how he understood the words of our Lord at the Last Supper when He said “This is my Body” is my favorite quote on the Eucharist by an Early Church Father.  He said: “And was carried in His own hands: ‘how was He carried in his own hands’?  Because when He commended His own Body and Blood, He took into His hands that which the faithful know; and in a manner carried Himself, when He said: ‘This is my Body’” (Augustine, on the Psalms, 33:1, c. 400 AD)

We can find this belief in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist in all 2,000 years of written Christian history from its first years after the Apostles to today.  No one can make that claim for a symbolic presence only.  In fact, you can’t find this understanding of a symbolic presence only about the blessed bread beyond 500 years ago.  Why is that?   Could it be because it simply wasn’t a belief the early Christians entertained, let alone accept in the early years of Christianity?  If that is the case then the belief in a symbolic presence only in the Eucharist should be rejected as the invention of man that it is.  Let us keep to the teachings of the early Christians who learned the faith from the Apostles and ultimately from God incarnate, Jesus Himself.


God Bless

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Real Presence

First reason to believe, The miracles…

Yes it’s a miracle in the change from bread and wine to the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord but I’ve always wondered why such a miracle is not visible as all the other miracles our Lord did like those described in the Bible as the lame walk and the blind could see.  Why is it that the greatest miracle of all, our Lord and God making Himself present to us in such a way as being visible and concrete to our senses, is only seen as ordinary bread and wine?  To answer this, I guess we’ll first need to have a closer look as to why miracles happened in the first place.


A miracle was most commonly performed by God for the purpose of convincing the listeners of the authority of the message.  That the message does indeed come from God.  The splintering of so many different denominations believing differently on key salvific issues is an important factor in showing the most obvious problems of finding the one who is truly speaking God’s Word (In this particular case whether the consecrated bread and wine turns into the actual Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ).  


One possible solution to this dilemma in determining who’s got it right is by recognizing that the individual that is being sent directly by God will perform miracles so as to authenticate his message.  You see, because there is a definite possibility that many will be deceived into believing that they, themselves, were sent by God, there must be a way to verify their ‘pedigree’, as you can appreciate the difficulty in finding someone teaching God’s Word amidst a sea of different ideologies and beliefs.  Indeed, we find many examples of these in the Bible where these individuals, who are sent directly by God, performing supernatural signs to prove they were speaking God’s Word.


Examples like in the Book of Exodus where we find Moses performing miracle upon miracle to convince the Pharaoh to release the Jewish people.


Or in the first Book of Kings, chapter 19, verses 36 through 39 we read:

“Then at the time of the offering, Elijah the prophet came near and said, O Lord, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, let it be seen this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things by your order.   Give me an answer, O Lord, give me an answer, so that this people may see that you are God, and that you have made their hearts come back again. Then the fire of the Lord came down, burning up the offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and drinking up the water in the drain.  And when the people saw it, they all went down on their faces, and said, The Lord, he is God, the Lord, he is God.”


But most notably in the Gospel of John, specifically in John 10:37-38 where even Jesus admitted “Do not believe me, then, if I am not doing the things my Father wants me to do.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, you should at least believe my deeds, in order that you may know once and for all that the Father is in me and that I am in the Father."


So why am I speaking of miracles to prove that a message is from above?  Because throughout history, our Lord has shown us that he is really present in the Blessed Sacrament.  Catholics believe that the consecrated Host is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord, under the appearance of bread and wine.  Therefore, Jesus, through many Eucharistic miracles, manifests His Presence in a more tangible way through visible and undeniable miracles.  So, in the case of Eucharistic miracles, the miracle itself is the message.


Miracles like in Sienna, Italy on August 17, 1730 where the consecrated Hosts remain unprotected and yet perfectly preserved for over 250 years.  


Or in Amsterdam, Holland in 1345 where a Eucharist is thrown into fire overnight and is miraculously unscathed.


Or in Blanot, France on March 31, 1331 where the Eucharist falls out of a woman’s mouth unto an altar rail cloth.  The priest tries to recover the Host but all that remains is a large spot of blood the same size and dimensions as the wafer.


Or in Bolsena-Orvieta, Itatly.  A priest has difficulties believing in the Real Presence, and blood begins seeping out of the Host upon consecration.  Because of this miracle, Pope Urban IV commissioned the feast of Corpus Christi, which is still celebrated today.


As a last example we can look at the Eucharistic miracle which happened in the eighth century in Lanciano, Italy.  Again, a priest has doubts about the Real Presence; however, when he consecrates the Host it transforms into flesh and blood.  This unexplained event has undergone extensive scientific examination and can only be explained as a miracle.  The flesh is actually cardiac tissue which contains arterioles, veins, and nerve fibers.  The blood type as in all other approved Eucharistic miracles is type AB!  


The analyses were conducted with absolute and unquestionable scientific precision and they were documented with a series of microscopic photographs.  These analyses sustained the following conclusions:

The Flesh is real Flesh.  The Blood is real Blood.

The Flesh and the Blood belong to the human species.

The Flesh consists of the muscular tissue of the heart.

In the Flesh we see present in section: the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve and also the left ventricle of the heart for the large thickness of the myocardium.

The Flesh is a “HEART” complete in its essential structure.

The Flesh and the Blood have the same blood-type: AB

In the Blood there were found proteins in the same normal proportions (percentage-wise) as are found in the sero-proteic make-up of fresh normal blood.

The preservation of the Flesh and Blood, which were left in their natural state for twelve centuries and exposed to the action of atmospheric and biological agents, remains an extraordinary phenomenon.


To read further about these and other Eucharistic miracles please go to


So we do in fact have extra-ordinary events, by that I mean unexplainable by scientific means, that prove the message of the True Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. But as the Lord said to ‘doubting’ Thomas when he finally touched the wounds of Christ and believed: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”


Many have done just that, they have believed even when their senses tell them otherwise.   And so I come to my second reason to believe, its history.


Next week, we will look at the history of this belief.


God Bless

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