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  • Writer's pictureFr. Paul MacNeil

Homily for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Teaching Mass (August 5, 2023, Fr. Paul).

So this weekend's Mass was a little different. Without compromising the integrity of the Mass itself, I offered as much teaching around it and while I was doing it as I could. Two types of people can benefit from this: Those who come to Mass every week but never really stop to think about what we are saying or doing and those who have been here for the first time and wonder what it's all about. I think we all fall into both of these categories at one time or another!


So for this little blog, I'll highlight a few elements I mentioned on Sunday. First, I shared a story from my past. Whenever I am asked, "Why am I a Catholic," my answer is simple: I am a Christian because of the resurrection of Jesus, and I am a Catholic because of the Mass, because of communion. For me, Jesus's resurrection is the fulfilment of HIs message to us that He is the Divine Son of God, that He is the Messiah, that He is God. And if this is true, he asked us, at the last supper, to "do this in memory of Me." What did he do? He took bread blessed and broke it and said, "This. is my Body." He did the same with the wine.


This sounds great, but what does it all mean? My heart changed about this a few years ago when I taught in South Korea (1994). I had the chance to go to a funeral service for a colleague who passed away from cancer. During the service, we made a little shrine for him with his picture, and all of us (hundreds of us) offered food, wine and sweets. We placed it at the foot of this make-shift "altar," and we gave him our hearts and food. But it didn't stop there. After the service was over (it wasn't over), we all went to the staff room and celebrated with all the food. That was offered. I had been in the seminary for four years, and I didn't realize until that moment what the Mass was about. At the Mass, in a way, we are doing precisely the same thing. We bring gifts of bread and wine to be offered on an altar; then, we receive these same gifts to complete the sacrifice. It's like a light went on in my heart.


Notice, for example, that when I am preparing the altar after the hospitality ministers have e started taking up the collection (also gifts to be offered), I say a little prayer quietly on Sundays and out loud on weekdays:


Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: the fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.


Blessed be God forever.


Sometimes when teaching Mass to teenagers, I stop at this point and give them a little demonstration. I take a rose in my hand and give it to one of the students and say: "Gentlemen, if you want to succeed at dating, make sure you never do what I just did. What was wrong with what just happened?"


"Well, you're a priest," is the usual first answer.

"Besides that."

Eventually, it came out that the rose I gave the girl was fake. I tell them, "If you're going to offer a girl a rose, do yourself a favour and go to the 7-11 and buy a real one. What is real is much more valuable."


So the following question: What gift can we give God for all the beautiful things He has done for us that would be worthy of God? He already owns everything.


"My faith," one might say.

"But have you ever doubted? Of course, you have. You are only human; your faith will be less than perfect."

"Our love."

"Have you ever hated anyone?" is my reply.


Both our love and our faith, we want to give them to God for sure, but they are and always will be imperfect. The only perfect thing that is worthy of God, obviously, is God Himself. How can we offer God Himself? We offer His perfect Son, Jesus Christ: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life." This is the gift that is being offered on the altar.


But how is that possible? Because Jesus asked us to do it: Take this, all of you and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you." For you to offer to God as a complete offering, a perfect offering, the same one made on Calvary.


And so I continued with the Mass, pretty much as it was written. And then, at communion time, we come forward to share in this sacrifice and the very divine life itself. This is why I am a Catholic, and this is what I hope you can appreciate more and more each time you come to Mass, offer that beautiful gift of God Himself and receive Him in his fullness - a genuine gift and a gift that, at least for the moment, only the angels in heaven understand and appreciate. But for us, it is our hope of reconciliation with God, and it is the hope of salvation.


Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: the fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.


Blessed be God forever.

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