Second Sunday of Lent
Reading 1 GN 12:1-4A
Responsorial Psalm PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22.
Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Reading 2 2 TM 1:8B-10
Verse Before The Gospel MT 17:5
Gospel MT 17:1-9
Homily for Nativity Second Sunday of Lent 3/8/2020
Gn 12:1-4a 2 Tm 1:8b-10 Mt 17:1-9
On Friday I went to the Archdiocese of Dubuque Middle School Religion Bee. It’s like a spelling Bee, but asking questions related to the Catholic Faith. It was a great event, the questions were really tough, and I was really impressed with how well they did and how much they knew.
Each round had different categories of questions, and as one of the judges, it was my responsibility to review the questions beforehand. One of the categories was “prayer,” and a question that struck me was this: “Which prayer is considered the source and summit of our faith?”
It struck me because of today’s gospel, in which they go up a high mountain, and whenever I think of a “summit” I visualize a mountain. In the bible, when people go up the mountain, it is usually with the intent to experience God, that God is somehow made visible to them.
That is definitely what happened in today’s gospel, it was pretty clear to Peter, James and John that Jesus was God when they saw Him transfigured in all of his glory, “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light” on the mountain top.
So the answer to the question, “Which prayer is considered the source and summit of our faith?” The answer is “the Mass.” Which is basically saying, this here is a mountain top experience where God is made manifest to us, through His word, but also made present in the Eucharist.
And that was also striking about this question, because I had never heard it said that the Mass is the source and summit of our faith, only that the Eucharist was the source and summit of our faith.
There has been a lot of talk about the Eucharist this week, around the parish and around the whole Catholic world actually. In case you weren’t here last weekend, we decided to only distribute communion under one species, just the body, and not the blood, to reduce the possibility of the spread of illness.
Many churches, in town here and across the country, have done the same thing. But the thing that people were talking about this week was whether it is risky to distribute on the tongue or not, so I thought I would address that.
From my perspective, if a person receives correctly, I rarely ever touch anyone's tongue/mouth. The only time I do is when they are watching me and try to move for it or bite at it. When receiving on the tongue, it is best to close your eyes and stick out your tongue, and once you feel the host on your tongue, consume it.
It is pretty easy, but for many people in the United States it is uncomfortable, because we are used to receiving on the hand, that is the normal way here. I mentioned last week that one exception the Pope has granted us is to receive under both species, another exception he has granted us it to receive on the hand.
That means that the normal and preferred way to receive the Eucharist is on the tongue. Why is that? The primary reason is the crumbs, the particles that often remain. Even though it is a wafer and not a really crumby type bread, there are still crumbs that fall off.
I see them definitely at the bottom of the patten, but you’ll notice I often inspect my hands to try to make sure I don’t have any Jesus particles left. So when people receive in the hand, there is always that risk of crumbs that doesn’t occur with receiving on the tongue.
Furthermore, if you want to think from a health perspective, I end up touching way more hands when distributing communion than tongues, because of the level, usually having to distribute lower, and because of the way that people hold their hands…
Knowing that I am always aiming to place the Eucharist in the palm, sometimes peoples hands are closed, so I have to maneuver Jesus in there, and sometimes they have their sweaters over their palms, so I have to put it on their fingers, but regularly I am touching their hands, and hardly ever do I touch a tongue.
I want to be clear that I am not advocating for you to receive either way, as long as it is reverently. I want to read what a young preacher named St. Cyril of Jerusalem said about receiving in the hand back in the 4th Century:
“In approaching [for Communion] therefore, come not with your wrists extended, or your fingers spread; but make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed your palm, receive the body of Christ, saying over it, ‘Amen.’ So then... partake of it; giving heed lest you lose any portion thereof; for whatever you lose is evidently a loss to you as it were from one of your own members.”
So open your hands wide, make a throne for the the King, and we will place Him there in your palm. And, after consuming, I believe it is important to do a quick inspection to make sure no crumbs remain on your hands, and if they do, consume them also, because, we believe every crumb to contain the full body, blood, soul and divinity of our saviour Jesus Christ.
Which brings me to another thing… A couple of months ago, some friends came here for Mass and then we went out to eat afterwards. They said to me, “Father, you celebrate a really nice Mass, but do you think it is really necessary to take the time to do the dishes back there? It takes so long and it is so silent and we are all ready to go.”
And I responded, “I get it. I am very aware of the silence and it is difficult. But that is Jesus there, every crumb of bread and drop of wine is truly the body and blood of Jesus and I would feel worse just leaving Him alone back there until I get done with Mass and greeting people.”
And my friend responded, “Oh yeah, all you had to say was Jesus.”
That’s the point, this is Jesus, God manifested to us on the mountain is manifested to us here at every Mass. After we have received the Eucharist, this time in silence is time we spend with Him, the closest we can be to Him on earth. It’s like when Peter asks to build three tents, He wants to stay there in God’s presence, and we should have that desire too.
Furthermore, I was reading a book recently, a book of private revelation so you are free to believe this or not, but Jesus said to a priest, “if you have any requests, the best time to pray for them is right after receiving the Eucharist.”
That was my paraphrase, but right after receiving communion is when we are closest to Jesus, when He has entered under our roof, in our body, and He wants to bless us and give us what we need at that moment.
So please, take the time after receiving communion, when people are still receiving and when it is silent and I am purifying the vessels, take that time to pray, to talk to Jesus, to make your requests, to be in his presence on the mountain top.
You have arrived at the source and summit of our faith, don’t miss the opportunity to stay here and enjoy it for a moment.