TEXT: (Holy Thursday) Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, March 29, 2018

31Holy Thursday

Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

March 29, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

In Holy Week, especially as we enter into the Sacred Triduum,

Holy Mother Church calls us to remember

the events of those most Holy days 2000 years ago

when Jesus suffered, died and rose for our sins.

But She does not bring us to a play, acting out the parts,

but rather she takes the key events,

and places them in the context of the Liturgy.

Because while they are actual historic events that took place in time,

they are much, much more than that,

much that is even well beyond human understanding.

And so we don’t call them mere “events,” but “sacred mysteries.”

Mysteries revealed by God, but so wonderful in their divinity

that for 2000 years we have constantly continued

to plumb the depths of their beauty.

 

And so, rather than acting out a play that captures only the history,

instead, like a beautiful diamond,

placed at the center of a gold and jewel encrusted crown,

we enshrine these Sacred Mysteries in special rites, rituals and prayers.

 

Nowhere is this more apparent than at this Holy Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

An ordinary Mass, in many ways, yet set apart by its unique significance.

For tonight we remember the event and the mystery,

of Jesus establishing for us the Sacraments of both

the Most Holy Eucharist, and the Holy Priesthood.

 

____

The liturgical presentation of these mysteries, however,

does not keep us from going back in history, with our imaginations,

and placing ourselves in that night, at the Lord’s Supper.

Rather, the liturgy encourages us to do so,

as a starting point to discovering their inestimable meaning.

 

So…one wonders how it was that night,

at the Passover Supper of Jesus and His apostles,

on the night He was betrayed.

 

In particular, tonight I wonder what the apostles were thinking.

About Jesus saying He was going away,

and they could not follow Him, but that He would come back for them.

About how the crowd had at first greeted Jesus as King,

but now they seemed to have turned on Him,

spurred by the Pharisees who were plotting to kill Him.

 

Most particularly….I wonder what they thought

when He took bread and wine and said,

“this is My Body which will be given up for you,”

and “this is the chalice of My Blood… which will be poured out for you.”

 

Certainly they remembered how He had once told them:

“The bread I will give you is my flesh….

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life….

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

 

And they knew how time and again He’d proven His incredible power

to do amazing things:

from feeding 5,000 people with only five loaves and 2 fish,

to raising the dead.

 

They most certainly noted that Jesus, who always carefully observed Jewish law,

had now grossly strayed from the Passover ritual,

shifting the focus from the Lamb they ate

to this bread and wine He gave them.

 

Perhaps they pulled all this together to understand

that this was the new manna, the heavenly banquet,

that the prophets said the Messiah would bring,

or that this was the new sacrifice of the new passover, of the new covenant

that the prophets had also foretold.

 

Perhaps.

But most probably they were mainly confused,

and didn’t know exactly what was going on.

But they knew 3 things for certain:

First, they knew, that they believed in what He said, in His word,

because, as they had responded to Jesus’ promise to give His flesh to eat:

“You have the words of eternal life.

We have come to believe and are convinced

that you are the Holy One of God.”

Second, they knew He had just said: “This is my body… this is my blood.”

And third, confused and uncomprehending, still, with the faith of children,

Jesus had said it, so they knew they had to believe it.

 

In any case, they knew this was something

singularly and uniquely important to Jesus, and so to them.

So much so, that while Jesus’ body lay in the Tomb,

the Apostles, even as they were in hiding, consumed by fear,

took the time to tell the other disciples what had happened.

So we see how on Easter, when Jesus appeared

to two of those disciples on the road to Emmaus,

they recognized Him only “in the breaking of the bread”

that the apostles had already told them about.

 

And it didn’t take long after the Resurrection for the apostles to

more fully understand the significance of the Eucharist.

First of all, the Resurrection assured them of Jesus power to do whatever,

and I mean whatever, He said He would do.

They understood for the first time that He was truly God in the flesh.

 

But more than that, most probably

Jesus Himself explained it to them after the Resurrection,

as the Gospels tell us,

“He opened their minds to understand the scriptures,”

And then after the Pentecost they would understand even better,

as Jesus promised, also at the Last Supper:

“the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things

and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
And so the Eucharist became one of the 4 main pillars of the Church

right from the beginning,

as the scripture tells us that right after the Pentecost,

the very first Christians,

“devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship,

to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

 

And their understanding rapidly continued to deepen,

so that, in his 1st letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul

would identify the Eucharist with the sacrifice of the Cross:

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,

you proclaim the Lord’s death…”

And he would make clear his faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist:

“The bread which we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ?

 

And then in his letter to the Hebrews

he would write about the Eucharist and the Mass saying:

“you have come to …the heavenly Jerusalem,

and to innumerable angels…

and to the assembly of the first-born enrolled in heaven,

and to Jesus….

Therefore …let us offer to God acceptable worship,

with reverence and awe…”

St. John would allude to this same theme in the Book of Revelation:

“Blessed are those who have been called

to the wedding supper of the Lamb.”

 

____

Over the centuries this understanding would continue to deepen,

as through grace, prayer and study,

theologians and saints would penetrate more and more

to the heart of this amazing mystery.

 

Never changing or discarding what came before,

but receiving all that with faith, and discovering new beauty in it.

Again, like an exquisite diamond:

when first you see it, you recognize its beauty,

but then over time you as you examine and turn it you see different facets,

and discover new colors, new refractions of light, new brilliance.

Same diamond, same beauty, but now deeper appreciation of it’s that beauty.

 

So for example, around the year 400, the great St. Augustine

would teach at length about the Eucharist,

including the necessity to adore It, saying:

“It was in His flesh that Christ walked among us

and it is His flesh that He has given us to eat for our salvation….

No one, however, eats of this flesh without having first adored it …

and …we would sin if we did not do so.”

 

And in 12th and 13th centuries,

men like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas

would build on this and give a new emphasis to devotion and reverence,

both in the form of Eucharistic Adoration and the celebration of Mass.

 

___

Sadly, not all Eucharistic theology has been so fruitful

—especially when it ignored what was handed down.

We see some of this taking hold after the Second Vatican Council.

Now, let me be clear: the Council itself spoke explicitly in defense of the Tradition

handed to us from the Apostles

through men like Ignatius, Augustine and Aquinas,

and called for a deepening of the understanding of this Tradition

by both priests and lay people alike.

 

Unfortunately, what we often saw in parishes

directly contradicted the writings of the Council,

and rather appealed to the supposed “Spirit of Vatican II”,

especially as many tried to downplay or disregard

the teaching on the real presence and sacrifice.

And so we see, even today, some Masses celebrated as if the Eucharist

is just a nice communal meal to make us feel welcomed, or entertained,

rather than, as Vatican II actually taught,

“first and foremost the sacrifice of the Cross.”

 

Some today teach that almost anyone can receive the Eucharist

—even though the early church was very clear that was not at all the case.

As St. Justin Martyr wrote from Rome in 150AD:

no one is allowed to partake but the man

who believes that the things which we teach are true,

and who has been washed …for the remission of sins [baptism]…

and who is living as Christ has commanded….”

 

____

But thanks be to God the truth prevails.

and the Church continues to hand on the ancient truths.

 

So that tonight Its wonderous meaning is clearly before us:

that simple child-like faith of the apostles at the Last Supper

has grown into a profound and rich tapestry of understanding.

Yes, still a divine mystery of unfathomable depth,

but oh so beautiful in what we have come to appreciate.

 

It is…the new sacrifice of the New Passover,

the entrance to the New Covenant with Christ.

It is the Sacrifice of the Cross made truly present here in our midst

—the same sacrifice made once for all 2000 years ago,

but by God’s mercy, plucked out of time into eternity

and placed here at this time for us.

It is the Real Presence of Jesus, truly, body, blood soul and divinity,

hiding under the outward signs of bread and wine.

It is truly the Word made flesh, dwelling among us;

the bread of heaven, the bread of eternal life, the bread of angels.

And it is the heavenly wedding banquet

as Christ gives Himself entirely to His Bride, the Church.

It is heaven come down to earth, and earth lifted up to heaven,

as we are surrounded in this place by all the saints and angels.

It is Christ crucified, risen and ascended to heaven.

All because it is really and truly Jesus.

 

_____

And we should not think that penetrating this mystery

is just the work of theologians and saints.

Each of us should, in a sense, do the same thing,

learning about the great treasure that has been handed on by the Church,

and letting it shape our own approach to the Eucharist.

Letting our minds and heart penetrate these amazing truths,

and letting them penetrate our minds and hearts.

And so be filled with absolute awe, reverence and wonder.

 

__

Most especially, we priests should always live in this awe,

as the reason the Sacrament of Holy Orders was give to us,

was primarily for this purpose: to “confect” or “make” the Eucharist.

Without the Eucharist there is no Church,

but without the priest there is no Eucharist.

 

Particularly tonight,

when we celebrate both Christ’s institution of the Eucharist,

AND the Priesthood,

as Christ commanded his apostles, the first priests:

you “do this in memory of me.”

So that through the Priesthood, the great and sublime mystery of the Eucharist

could then be made present to each and every generation of the Church.

 

Now, the priest must not take a false pride in this,

as if he himself, made this happen.

As a man, he is a sinner like anyone else: Judas was one of the first 12,

and even Peter denied Jesus three times.

But as a priest, by God’s grace acting through him,

he can stand in persona Christi, “in the person of Christ,” at the altar.

As St. John Vianney, patron of priests, once wrote:

“Were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth, we would die:

not of fright, but of love…”

“Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail….

But then he adds, “The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you”.

 

_____

Tonight we image the very first priests, the apostles,

and remember that night 2000 years ago when Christ gave them, and us,

both the Eucharist and the Priesthood.

But we don’t only imagine and remember:

tonight they become present to us: they are here with us.

Because tonight we all stand at the foot of the Cross,

the Cross which stands in time but also in eternity,

an act of a dying man, but also of the eternal God.

And so we stand also in eternity,

with Jesus on His throne beside His heavenly father,

surrounded by His Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, the faithful Apostles,

and all the saints and angels of heaven.

Heaven comes down to earth, and earth is lifted up to heaven.

 

As we continue more deeply into this Holy Mass tonight,

may the Lord Jesus grant us the childlike faith of the Apostles,

and the grace to allow the rich treasury of truth to penetrate our hearts,

so that we may love and worship Him in awe and wonder

as they once did on Earth, and now do in heaven.

May we believe because He has the words of eternal life.

Especially the words He spoke 2000 years ago,

and still speaks at every Mass:

“This is my body….This is… my blood.”

HOLY WEEK SCHEDULE 2018

Holy Week Schedule 2018

 

Holy Week Confessions

 

Holy Thursday, March 29: No Confessions

Good Friday, March 30: 11:00am – 12:00pm/4:45pm–6:00pm (after the 3pm Liturgy)

7:30pm (until the line runs out)

Holy Saturday, March 31: 1:00pm–3:00pm

(Note: There are no Confessions on Holy Saturday at 5pm & no Confessions on Easter Sunday)

 

Holy Thursday, March 29

No Masses during the day at St. Raymond’s

(10:30am Chrism Mass at St. Thomas More Cathedral)

No Confessions on Holy Thursday

7:00pm “Mass of the Lord’s Supper”

  • After Mass, Night Watch is kept until Midnight in the Parish Hall

 

Good Friday, March 30

(a day of mandatory fasting and abstinence)

11:00am – 12:00pm: Confessions

3:00pm: “Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

(Veneration of the Cross & Communion Service)

4:45pm–6:00pm: Confessions (Confessions begin after the 3pm Liturgy)

7:00pm: Stations of the Cross

7:30pm: Confessions (until the line runs out)

 Holy Saturday, March 31

(a day of voluntary fasting and abstinence)

12:00pm: Blessing of the Easter Baskets

1:00pm–3:00pm: Confessions

8:30pm: Easter Vigil Mass

EASTER SUNDAY, April 1

Normal Sunday Mass Times: except no 5:00pm Mass

7:00am, 8:45am, 10:30am and 12:15pm

There will be no confessions on Easter Sunday

 

TEXT: Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

March 25, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

One day they shouted:

““Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!.”

But only a few days later they shouted: “crucify Him!”

 

The crowd cheering their messiah one day,

is the same crowd crying for is blood, or abandoning Him to the cross

only a few days later.

 

Today you are here worshiping your beloved Jesus…

but this week will you abandon Him?

Will you, by your sins, join the crowd shouting “crucify Him!”,

or simply leave Him to the crowd because you’re too important or too busy.

 

Or will you make this week, truly a Holy Week?

In the original Greek Scripture the word that we translate as “holy”

literally means “set apart.”

So let this week be truly holy—set apart—

radically different from every other week of the year.

 

Every day, take time to think and pray, if ever so briefly, but constantly,

about the Lord’s Passion.

Feel compassion for His terrible suffering,

and sorrow for your sins that cause it.

And think: let your intellect, guided by faith and grace,

lead you to understand more fully the mystery of God’s love

and the depravity of our sins.

 

But this week is not just about mere feelings or reason.

As St. Paul reminds us today, it is about, how God the Son

“emptied Himself,” of divine glory and came “in human likeness,”

–in human flesh.

And how He allowed that flesh to be torn by whips, thorns, nails and a sword,

and even to die “on a Cross.”

 

This week, then, we must live out our sorrow for and understanding of

the Lord’s suffering in our own flesh:

by saying a kind word rather than a cruel word;

by giving a helping hand, rather than the back of our hand;

by being chaste, rather than yielding to lust.

 

And all this week the Church offers us unique beautiful liturgies

that help us to walk with Jesus in His hour of need

and to stand at the foot of His Cross.

 

Today St. Paul tells us:

“Jesus…did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at,”

or “clinged to.’

This week, what will you grasp at as more important than your suffering Jesus?

Will you cling to work, or busy schedules or even school?

Or this one week, will you humbly cling to Christ?

 

So I ask you right now, in your hearts, will you promise Jesus

to come to one or more of the holy week liturgies or sacraments?

If you haven’t been this Lent, will you finally come to confession?

Will you come daily Mass at on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday—or all 3?

Will you promise Jesus to come to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday,

commemorating His institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood,

and to watch and pray afterwards with the Lord

like the apostles in the garden of Gethsemane?

 

Will you come on Good Friday at 3 o’clock, the hour of the Lord’s Death,

–the holiest hour in all history–

for the powerful liturgy of the veneration of the cross,

to stand in line to kiss the cross of Christ,

and then to receive His crucified Body in Communion?

 

And, finally, how many will commit in their hearts right now, to come

to the most beautiful Mass of the Year Saturday night

—the Easter Vigil: the first celebration

of the light of the Resurrected Christ piercing the darkness?

 

Do not leave Christ behind in the church today,

or alone with the crowd this week.

Be with Him all week, at every moment—in your minds and hearts,

and in your bodies as well: at work, at home, and here in church.

Do not let this let this most sublime week of love ever in human history

be just like any other week of the year.

Let this week be different, set it apart, and let it be for you a truly HOLY WEEK.

Fr. Mark Pilon (1943 -2018) Requiescat in Pace

Fr. Mark A. Pilon (1943-2018)

Pilon-Rev-Mark-A

 Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine upon him.

May he rest in peace.

Fr. Pilon served as the parochial vicar of St. Raymond’s from 2009 -2012.

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS

Visitation

Date: Thursday, March 22nd

Time: 4:00pm to 7:00pm

Vigil Prayers will be offered at 7:00 p.m.

Location: St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church,  8750 Pohick Rd. Springfield, VA 22153

FUNERAL MASS

Date: Friday, March 23rd

Time: 10:30am

Location: St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church, 8750 Pohick Rd. Springfield, VA 22153

(All are invited to attend, please plan on carpooling)

Burial

Date: Friday, March 23rd

Location: Fairfax Memorial Park 

Time: Immediately Following the Funeral Mass 

Reception to Follow in the Parish Hall after the Burial

 

TEXT: 5th Sunday of Lent, March 18, 2018

Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 18, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today’s Gospel is taken from St. John’s account of the last week of Jesus’ life.

And it’s clear that Jesus knows that this is going to be no ordinary week,

that He’s going to suffer and die this week, as He says,

“I am troubled now.”

But it’s equally clear that He must and will endure it:

“Yet what should I say?… it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.”

 

He had waited for this hour all His life.

But in reality, the whole of creation had waited for this hour

from the beginning of the world.

Because only He—at this hour—

could restore to creation what it had lost in its beginnings:

only He could restore creation’s obedience to its creator.

 

____

The book of Genesis tells us that in the beginning

everything God created lived in perfect harmony and peace,

there was no discord.

In short, there was nothing bad, there was no evil

–everything, as Genesis tells us, “was very good.”

 

Genesis also tells us that God had entered into a covenant with Adam and Eve,

giving them His love and everything He created in the world,

except for 1 thing:

the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And all He asked for in return was their love,

and in the context of that love, obedience.

Unfortunately, Adam and Eve failed to love Him: they broke the covenant.

And so placing their will above God’s will,

they disobeyed Him and ate from the forbidden tree.

And they discovered what they had never known before:

the difference between good and evil.

And from that moment on, everything God had given them

would never again be exactly as it was supposed to be:

Disharmony and confusion, pain and sorrow, sin and evil,

would reign in the world.

 

But God did not create man for sin, but for His love,

so right from the beginning God promised he would send someone

to restore order to creation: a Savior.

Eventually, in order to prepare the way for the Savior,

He again made a Covenant with a group of human beings—the Israelites:

as we read in today’s 1st reading, He promised:

“I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

He would protect them, give them a home,

and give them a law that would teach them

how to live in harmony with each other, and with Him—how to love.

And in return they promised to love and obey Him, without reserve.

 

Yet time and again His people broke the covenant.

Until finally things got so bad that He told his prophet Jeremiah:

“The days are coming,

when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel…”

But this covenant would not be like the old one:

it would not be something to read on blocks of stone,

but it would be written in the very hearts of His people:

it would actually change them and make it possible for them

to overcome the confusion of sin.

 

And He kept His promise.

Last week we read:

“God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”

And the Son came into the world to undo what Adam and Eve had done.

He came not to be disobedient, but to obey His Father.

He did not reach up to the tree to pick a forbidden fruit,

instead He came down from heaven, like a fruit falling to ground to die.

He did not try to lift Himself up like Adam and Eve, to be glorified like God,

but rather allowed Himself to be lifted up from the earth on a Cross,

in humiliation and suffering.

 

But as Jesus says in today’s Gospel:

when I am lifted up from the earth,

I will draw everyone to myself.”

By obediently suffering and dying out of love

He gives Himself to the Father, and to us.

He undoes the disobedience of Adam

and undoes the disharmony between the Father and mankind.

He comes to us from the Father, so we can come to the Father through Him .

We need never again be separated from Him, never live in the disharmony of sin.

 

____

But Christ did this 2000 years ago.

How do we now, today, share in His great act of obedience?

How are we given the grace of his love for the Father?

Today’s Gospel tells us:

unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,

it remains just a grain of wheat;

but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

Jesus doesn’t compare His death on the Cross

to the death of “a grain of wheat” by accident.

To the Jews wheat meant only one thing:

the most basic and staple food of their existence: bread!

For over 12 hundred years God’s prophets had promised the chosen people

that the Savior would bring with Him bread from heaven

—food that would be so wonderful and powerful that they would, in effect,

never again hunger for Adam’s tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And just month’s before Jesus was lifted up on the Cross,

He promised that He would somehow give them Himself

as this bread to eat.

 

And so on the night before He was lifted up on the Cross,

He took bread made of wheat and said to His 12 apostles:

“This is my body which is given for you.”

And then He took a cup of wine, fruit of the vine, and said:

“This is the chalice of My blood, the blood of the new Covenant.”

 

The promise of the Savior made to Adam is fulfilled in Christ.

And the promise of the new covenant made to Jeremiah is fulfilled on the Cross:

Jesus gives Himself to the Father by giving His body and blood

—His whole life—on the Cross.

And He gives Himself to us

—to each of us and all of us, whether living in the year 33 AD,

or the year 2018 AD

He gives Himself to us by giving His body and blood in the Eucharist.

And by receiving this Eucharist,

eating the wheat which has fallen to the ground to die,

we are lifted up into this perfect life:

He does not remain outside of us

like a stone with the law carved on it,

but rather enters into us, really and truly,

to give us new hearts of love.

And uniting Himself to us in this Holy Communion,

making us one with Him in His perfect obedience and love for the Father,

He restores the perfect harmony between God and man, even 2000 later.

 

____

But there is a catch:

just as Adam and Eve freely chose to act in disobedience to God’s will,

we must also freely choose to act in obedience to God’s will.

Neither the Cross or the Eucharist is magic—they are part of the Covenant.

To participate in this Covenant we must not only

accept the free gift of Himself that Christ offers to us,

we must also give Him ourselves in return.

 

So as Christ gives Himself to the Father by obediently accepting His will,

we must also give ourselves to Christ

by obediently accepting His will for us,

even if it means changing our hearts to love Him,

even if it means giving up our old lives dominated

by the world of confusion and evil.

And so Jesus tells us that:

“Whoever …hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.

Whoever serves me must follow me, …

The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

And St. Paul tells us that in his obedience to the Father, Jesus:

“became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

 

____

All  Lent we practice obedience through the various sacrifices we make.

Yet as we struggle even with these small things,

we realize we really have very little strength to be obedient to ourselves,

much less to God.

But just as all of Lent points to the Cross of Christ, it also points to Eucharist.

Without the Eucharist Christ cannot come to us, He can not unite Himself to us.

But with the Eucharist He can transform our feeble efforts

and unite them to His own:

–uniting our sacrifices to His, our obedience to His, our love to His,

our whole life to His.

And in the Cross’s mystery of OBEDIENCE,

we find not demeaning humiliation,

but the glory that Adam and Eve sought and lost

through disobedience.

Jesus asks:

“Father, glorify your name.”

–and Father responds: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”

So in the Eucharist, Jesus offers to unite us not only to his obedience,

but also to his glory.

 

____

As we continue the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,

in a few moments I’ll ask you to “lift up your hearts to the Lord.”

When I say that, you’re supposed to do that!

So when I say that, lift your hearts and your whole self,

up to Christ in obedient sacrifice,

just as Christ Himself was lifted up in obedient sacrifice on the Cross.

And later, when I lift up the body and blood of Christ for you to see and adore,

open your hearts to receive Him, to become one with Him.

And remember the promise He made of the New Covenant:

“when I am lifted up from the earth,

I will draw all men to myself.”