4th Sunday of Lent Teaching Homily – Epiclesis and the Institution Narrative

Over the past month or so, the priests at my parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale, Arizona have been speaking on the parts of the Holy Mass during their homilies to catechize the parishioners. Below is Fr. Chad King’s homily from yesterday, March 10, 2013 on the Epiclesis and the Institution Narrative. Fr. Chad has been a priest for nearly 3 years, but in that short time is becoming a great homilist. His passion for the Sacraments is a true blessing to all who come in contact with him. He truly embodies St. Francis de Sales and Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and their love and zeal for the souls of the Church. We are blessed to have him at the parish and part of the new breed of priests.

Today we continue our teaching Mass on the Mass with beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer.  The Eucharistic Prayer begins with the Epiclesis.  In which the priest, with hands outstretched over the gifts of bread and wine, asks the Holy Spirit to come down and transform them into the Body and Blood of Christ.  And then the priest, in the Person of Christ, says the exact words Jesus said at the Last Supper.  As we know, the Last Supper was the 1st Eucharist when Jesus gave His Body and Blood to the apostles.  That is the truth of what we believe as Catholics, what has been revealed to us in Scripture and Tradition.

Today, I will use the readings to help explain what Jesus giving his Body and Blood means for us.  We will look at the Jews and the celebration of the Passover in the Old Testament, and then reflect on Jesus’ salvific work with us in the New Testament.  Together we will see God’s plan from the beginning to save us, which is revealed and lived out through the Eucharistic Sacrifice.  Perhaps I will teach you something you don’t already know, I will show how God makes the reality of the past, present.

Our 1st reading from the Old Testament tells the story of how Joshua, Moses’ successor, led the Israelites into the Promised Land God had prepared for them.  Recall, how through Moses, God saved his people from the slavery of sin and led them on the journey to the Promised Land he had prepared for them.  And in order for the people to keep in mind and heart how they were saved, God commanded that the people celebrate the Passover by sacrificing and eating a lamb with unleavened bread.  And recall how God gave Manna as bread for the people every day to give them strength for the journey.  Remember how God revealed himself to Moses and to the people, and made a covenant with them.   God gave Moses a real experience of His presence and allowed him to see his back as he walked behind him, and how because of this, Moses’ face radiated with seeing the glory of God.  And so Moses had to wear a veil over his face whenever he went back to the people so that they would not be blinded by the glory of God.  Finally though, after the many years of wandering in the desert, when they were celebrating the Passover, as our 1st reading says, the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, the land of Canaan.  And as they entered into the Promised Land, the Manna ceased because the journey was over.

Flash forward a couple thousand years to the time of Christ.  The Jews were still practicing their religion and celebrating the Passover every year recalling how God had saved them from their slavery to sin in Egypt.  However, throughout the years, they had broken the several covenants God had made with them and kept falling into sin – they were still in need of a Savior.  Christ came, and although he had revealed himself to be God, many were stuck in the past.  Many Jews were not open to believing that the living God would make the reality of the past, present.  They would not believe that God would reveal himself to them again, this time allowing them to see, hear, and talk to the living God in the person of Christ, His Son.   They would not believe that God would make yet another new, and this time everlasting, covenant- by Jesus taking on the sins of people and being sacrificed on the Cross to save them from their sins.  Some Jews were not open to Christ being the Savior or open to experiencing a new, and this time complete, salvation from sin.

Flash forward another couple thousand years to the present time.  There are many who still don’t believe in Jesus Christ.   And there are still many others who believe that Jesus came 2000 years ago and died for their sins on the Cross, however, that fact of the past doesn’t affect their present.  That is they have a hard time making the reality of the past, present.  They believe in Jesus, but their faith is abstract, they say they believe but are still stuck in their past sin and won’t accept God’s love and compassion, or won’t forgive themselves.  They are like the younger son who is willing to stay with the pigs, and won’t repent and come back to the Father.  Other people might say they believe that Jesus died on the Cross to save them from their sin, but they don’t feel the need to go to Church.

However, for us Catholics we must go to Mass, in fact, unless we are physically incapable, it is a mortal sin not to go to Mass every Sunday, this is because the Eucharist makes the Cross present.  This is an important point to understand.  You see, Christ’s death and resurrection really happened at a particular moment in the past, but the Eucharist makes Christ’s death and resurrection present.  Remember how the Jews celebrated the Passover by sacrificing and eating a lamb with unleavened bread; at the Last Supper, which is when Jesus institutes the Eucharist, the Passover is what Jesus is celebrating with his disciples; however that Passover is not completed until Christ, the new Lamb of God, is sacrificed upon the Cross.  So Christ’s crucifixion makes the Passover present, it completes the Passover of the Jews.  And just as Christ offers his body for our salvation upon the Cross, so Christ offers his Body in the Eucharist for our salvation.  That is why it is called the Sacrament of Salvation, because the Eucharist makes Christ’s death and resurrection, the source of our salvation, present.

The Eucharist, like Moses’ experience, is God’s very real presence, though in a veiled. God gives us the Eucharist as the food for our journey as He leads us to our Promised Land, Heaven.  We draw closer and closer to our Salvation, our salvation is made a little more real, each and every time we come to Mass and open our hearts.  Join me in thanking God for the gift of the Eucharist and making God’s saving acts of the past, present in this and every Eucharist.

Fr. Chad King Rev. Chad King is the Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Scottsdale, Arizona. He also serves as School Chaplain at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona. Besides the every day duties of parish life, Fr. Chad works with many of the young couples preparing to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony at the parish. He truly finds joy in helping couples seek Christ in their marriages.

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