11 March 2013

Precepts of the Church Sermon Series: the Easter Duty

After a bit of a break-- like nothing else is happening in the Church these days!-- I am pleased to share the next installment of the Lenten sermon series on the precepts of the Church. This week's theme: the Easter Duty, delivered by Canon Raphael Ueda, ICRSS:

Today there is a pause of joy and spiritual comfort which the Church, like a good mother, gives us in the middle of the Lenten season.

“Rejoice, O Jerusalem” the Introit of today’s Mass sings. And Today’s Gospel shows us the miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciple to feed the multitude.

In the life of the Church a meal is often the center of an important activity so as well for our individual lives.

A balanced meal can give us the energy to face another day as giving us all the tangible inputs to sustain our physical strength. But when someone asks you to share a meal with you what are they really asking of you?

Sitting down together for a meal means more than just consumption of calories. It means consciously taking time out of our daily schedule. Whether it’s a long formal dinner or just quick run to first food restaurant to spend a time with a special person.

So people use meal time to pause and focus on some particular topic which might be laugh, surprise, disappointment, or even heartache.

The way of person takes their meals will often tell you a lot about that person.

God also uses a meal to manifest His Will.

In the Old Testament bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator. But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God's faithfulness to his promises.

The "cup of blessing" at the end of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the messianic expectation of New Jerusalem. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.

The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meal when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread, above all at the Last Supper. It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection, and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies; by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.

And a celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection and at the same it makes present them.

So the Holy Eucharist is:

The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior.

The Holy and Divine Liturgy, because the Church's whole liturgy finds its center and most intense expression in the celebration of this sacrament. We speak of the Most Blessed Sacrament because it is the Sacrament of sacraments

Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.

Holy Mass (in Latin Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God's will in their daily live.

At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: "He took bread...." "He took the cup filled with wine...." the signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ.

And Holy Mother the Church, by her precept to receive Holy Communion during the Easter Time, prescribes annual communion in order that we may comply with the divine command to receive the Blessed Eucharist, and that the life of grace may be preserved in our souls.

Because of the central importance of Easter to the Christian faith, the Catholic Church requires that all Catholics who have made their First Communion receive the Holy Eucharist sometime during the Easter season, which lasts through Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Easter.

The obligation of the Easter Communion binds under pain of mortal sin. One does not fulfill the duty if his communion or confession is unworthy.

By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus' passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom.

Only in two weeks we will enter into the Holy Week. So after a brief pause of Laetare Sunday let us continue to live the Lenten Season as offering our prayers and our penances so that we would be united with Jesus more closely.

Amen.

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