The Sacrifice of Calvary – Fr. Michael Guastello

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily June 23, 2019

“Since the sixth Sunday of Easter the Church has given us a variety of feasts and solemnities to celebrate for the Sunday Liturgies.  Four weeks ago you’ll recall that we celebrate the Ascension, the namesake of our parish, followed by Pentecost where the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to breathe life into the Church.  Last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity and this Sunday we celebrate Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. I think that the Church is wise to give us these as opportunities to pray and reflect on these themes of our Catholic faith.  The words corpus christi translated from the Latin means, ‘the body of Christ’ or ‘the body of the anointed one’ of course when we think of the Body of Christ we think of the Eucharist.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the body of Christ, the Eucharist, is the source, center and summit of the Church’s life. It is the sacrament in and through which all of the other sacraments flow.  St. Thomas Aquinas said that, ‘Though all the sacraments contain the power of Jesus, only the Eucharist contains Jesus himself.’ When we receive the Eucharist we receive the whole Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity becoming thereby conformed to him in a very real way.  The word eucharist means thanksgiving and it comes from the word eukharistia which is a Greek verb which means to give thanks.  What is the only acceptable thanksgiving to the Father absolutely speaking?  The sacrifice of the Son, the sacrifice of Calvary. Jesus Christ offers his body to the Father as a sacrifice to atone for all sin from the original sin to all the sins of the world and Jesus did this for one reason: redemption.  Now when we hear the word redemption we often associate it with a type of a commercial transaction. We can redeem shares of stock, or we can redeem airline miles things like that, but Jesus came not to redeem stock or airline miles, but for us, to redeem us, to purchase our freedom from sin, Satan, and death and he did it by the sacrifice of his body and blood.  At the heart of the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Calvary.  The sacrifice of Calvary is where all the spiritual power in the universe lies, the power for forgiveness of sins, the power for forgiveness of sins, the power of reconciliation of humankind to God, the power of eternal life.

Our Gospel today is a familiar story to many of us where Jesus takes five loaves and two fish and he multiplies them in order to feed 5,000 of his followers.  Now just to be clear, just so that we are all on the same page here, this was a miracle that happened. It was an event and Jesus multiplied loaves and fish for his followers.  It is true. Now there are some who will try to say, ‘Well it’s not so much about a miracle, this story of the feeding of 5,000, but it’s really Jesus teaching his disciples how to share.’  This is not correct. This is an inaccurate theological position. The multiplication of the loaves and fish was real and it was a true miracle and it was affected by Jesus Christ who was God and it is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist itself.  Listen to what Luke says here, (Jesus) ‘He took the loaves and fish, said the blessing, broke them, and gave them to his disciples.’ Does this language sound familiar to anyone? These are the words that the priest prays as part of the prayer of consecration.  We say, ‘He took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples.’ Friends this is not a coincidence. This is very intentional. This event that we read about in our Gospel today really prefigures the first Mass that was the Last Supper.  It was at the last supper that Jesus instituted the sacrament of his body and blood. On the night before he died Jesus celebrate the passover feast with his apostles and instituted the Holy Eucharist. The same body and blood that the apostles received at that Last Supper is the same body and blood that we will receive here at this Mass in about 20 minutes or so.  Think about that for just a moment. Let that reality sink in, that the body and blood of our Lord that we receive at Holy Communion every time we attend Mass is the same body and blood that the apostles received 2,000 years ago. Now I’m going to attempt to explain how this is possible. I’m going to try to explain our Catholic theology behind this. Every Mass that is celebrated throughout the world is a commemoration of the Last Supper which was in essence the first Mass and like I said at that Mass Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist.  Now the Eucharist is bonded to what we call the Paschal Mystery, the Passion, death & resurrection of Christ and our theology is that the Paschal Mystery is an event that happened outside of time and space. Now it is an event that happened in history for sure, but it exists eternally. It exists outside of time and space. What this means for us is that whenever we participate in the sacrifice of the Mass, we don’t repeat the sacrifice. Christ died once for all and so we don’t recreate the sacrifice, we enter into it and make it present. You see at Mass during the consecration time stands aside and we are at the Last Supper.  We are on Calvary. Now you might ask, ‘Well how is this possible? How does the Eucharist which is tied to the Paschal Mystery exist outside of time and space? Well you have to remember that Jesus was a divine person and in his divinity he was not constrained by time and space. As human persons, we live, we move, we operate in and through time and space, but Jesus was a divine person and while he had a divine nature he also had a human nature and in his human nature Jesus moved and lived and operated in time and space, but in his divine nature he was not limited to time and space. In his divine nature he could operate outside of time and space and so it was through his divine nature that Jesus instituted the Eucharist and it is Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit who uses the priest as his instrument to affect the Holy Eucharist at Mass.  Now a follow up question might be, well how could Jesus offer the sacrifice of the Mass on Holy Thursday when the sacrifice didn’t take place until the next day? And again the answer is the same. Jesus who was a divine person not constrained by time and space had the ability to reach into the future and make the sacrifice present on Holy Thursday even though the sacrifice would not take place until the next day. Most Catholics don’t know this. Most Catholics have not ever heard this and I believe if Catholics knew this, if we could just interiorize it, Catholics would never miss Mass on Sunday and those who have left our beautiful Catholic faith would have never left knowing the beauty that we have in this miracle that we have in the Holy Eucharist.

St. John Vianney said that, ‘If the priest really knew what he was doing when he elevated the host and chalice at Mass he would just die.’  And I think he’s right. I do. I shared this quote with Fr. Tom to which he said to me, ‘Well you know you’re not dead yet.’ And that’s true I’m not.  I’m not dead yet, but I reminded him that he’s not dead yet either, but I think that that’s true and you know sometimes I think about that when I’m elevating the host or chalice during the consecration.  I should be dead if I really knew what I was doing. A number of people have asked me what it is I am doing and what kind of prayers that I’m saying when I elevate the host and chalice during the consecration.  Well I want to start by saying this: when we attend Mass, when you attend Mass on Sunday, the elevation of the host and chalice is the most spiritually efficacious and powerful moment of your week. I can say that with 100% certainty and without any fear of error.  The elevation of the host and chalice during the consecration is the most spiritually efficacious and powerful moment of your week. Period. Exclamation point and so what I’m doing during the consecration as I’m elevating the host and chalice, first of all I’m offering up the Mass intention for the Mass because as you all know every Mass has a specific Mass intention.  I’m offering up the petitions that are read from the pulpit. I’m offering up my own personal intentions. I’m offering up all the prayers and petitions of everyone who is present at that particular Mass. Now hopefully this is something that all of you are doing and it’s something that I encourage you to do, offer your prayer and petitions, whatever they are whatever is on your heart during the elevation of the host and chalice, but for those who are not, I’m doing it for them and so I want to encourage you to do that, to offer your prayers and petitions at the time of consecration at the elevation of the host and chalice.  If you remember nothing else from this homily here this afternoon please remember this, for those of us who attend Mass on Sundays it is the most spiritually efficacious and powerful moment of the week and the Church has given us this beautiful feast, the solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord to ponder this great mystery, to pray about it, to reflect on this miracle that has been given to us by Jesus Christ the gift of his body and blood to nourish us, to let us know that he is with us so that we may be with him one day in Heaven for all eternity.”