The Eucharist Matters

Words cannot express how grateful I am to Fr. Tony for allowing me to be the celebrant for these liturgies. It’s my first year of priesthood and so it is a great gift to be able to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper where we remember these mysteries: 1) the institution of the priesthood, 2) the institution of the Eucharist, and 3) Christ’s example of Christian charity.

We hear in our Gospel that Jesus loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. Christ gave everything he had to those whom he loved. Christ’s love is free, total, faithful and fruitful.  Christ’s love is freely given.  Christ was not forced to offer his life for us, but he allowed it for our sake.  Christ’s love was total.  Christ offered his whole self for us in dying for us on the cross.  Christ’s love is always faithful.  There is nothing we can do that would make Christ abandon us.  Christ’s suffering and death proves to us, that no matter how far away we go from God, Jesus will be there. There is no experience we can have that Christ himself hasn’t experienced.  Christ’s love is fruitful.  Out of his self-sacrificing love, the Church was born.  Christ indeed has loved us to the end. 

And its this kind of love that Christ has called His priests to love the Church.  In the letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul challenges married couples to love each other as Christ has loved the Church.  And so, Priests, are called to love the Church as Christ has loved the Church. And here is the underlying, the foundational reason for priestly celibacy.   Just as married couples are called to love each other with a love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful, so too are priests called to love the church freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. The whole life of the priest is to be an offering of loving service for all of you – God’s holy people.  Saint John Paul II explains this very well, “The Good Shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep” and this “refer[s]” specifically “to the Sacrifice of the Cross, to the definitive act of Christ’s Priesthood”. Then he asks, “Do these words not tell us that [the vocation of the priest] is a singular solicitude for the salvation of our neighbor?” The priest’s vocation is to imitate Christ’s loving service completely.

Christ came to this world to be an icon of God’s love in the world.  Priests are called to be an extension of that ministry.  But so is everyone here.  All of us are called to love as God loves.  So how do we do that?  We do that by participating in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  A couple of weeks ago we had our parish mission.  Many of you attended and found Deacon Harold a great inspiration.  And I think, he said something very insightful about the Eucharist.  He said to all of us, “Your children need to hear that what happens at the Eucharist actually makes sense in the world.” In other words, they need to see it lived out in each of us to understand the great depth of God’s love poured out in the Eucharist in their own lives.

Deacon Harold’s insightful statement about the Eucharist is a challenge for all of us.  If a priest, for example, does not love as Christ loves, that lays his life down for God’s people, then that priest can become a block for people to understand the reality of Eucharistic love in their life.  A couple of weeks ago, I received a text from our parish secretary, saying that there was a woman who needed to be anointed and that it was urgent; usually means a person is nearing the end of their life.  I wish I could tell you that when I received that text, I responded immediately and selflessly, Yes!  But it was my day off and I was just about to leave the rectory and to meet a family that I am close with for dinner.  But thankfully, with God’s grace, I responded, “I’ll go anoint this person, but I won’t look like a priest!” And so I went… and I received one of the greatest gifts of my priesthood that day.  I arrived and the husband of the lady who is nearing the end of her life welcomed me graciously, and said: “Father, thank you so much for coming.”  Then I talked with him and his wife, discovered that they have been happily married for 63 years.  Then I prayed with them and anointed her.  At this moment I was getting ready to leave and the lady grabbed my hand and said, “Father, you were a gift from God for me today.”  I think Jesus knew I needed a little reminder that day about who I am called to lay my life down for.  On this day, when I was tempted to live selfishly, this woman looked at me with the face of Christ and said, “you were a gift from God.” 

So it’s important for priests to strive to live their lives in such a way that they represent the mysteries we celebrate today. And Deacon Harold’s words remind us that its just as important for all of us to live “Eucharistic Life” – a life of loving service, in order for it to matter in our world today.  When I think about the best example of someone who lives a Eucharistic life it is my Mother.  Most of you know that my parents are divorced.  I was 21 when they separated.  After the divorce, my Mom got a second job with one goal in mind.  She wanted to be able to keep our family house so that all of us children could come home from college and be together during the holidays. To this day, my Mom works between 60-80 hours a week.  The only reason is sacrificial love.

Here’s the point: The Eucharist matters.  It truly does matter.  And if all of us here are going to believe that the Eucharist matters, we have to respond to Jesus’ call to love as he loves, in other words, to the demands of Christian charity.  When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, it is as if we are standing at the foot of the cross where Jesus pours out his life for us all. And so when we receive the Eucharist, Jesus pours his life and love into his heart. All of us here are members of the Catholic Church.  As members of the Church, we are a real sacrament of the Gospel in the world.  After we receive the Eucharist at Mass, after we meditate on Christ’s sacrificial love for us, we are called to be concrete signs of his love in the world.  May the Eucharist we receive tonight strengthen us to lay down our lives in love for others. The Eucharist matters.  Christ particular love for you matters.


In Christ’s love,

Fr. Stephen

Spring Cleaning: Time to Purify the Temple

Is anyone else here super pumped that it is March?  I have been loving the sun and warm-er weather this week!  Hopefully, this means we have moved beyond the bitter cold!  I also am super pumped for March Madness; although I need to get over MSU’s loss yesterday evening… But March is also known as a time for Spring cleaning… and something like that is happening in our Gospel: Jesus Purifies the Temple.

What was the significance of the temple for ancient Judaism? The shortest answer is that it was everything.  It was the center of culture. It was the place where the religious, political and economic spheres of life met.  But it was more than that.  It was also the place where heaven and earth met. Why?  Because it was the house of God.  Here was the purpose of the temple: it was supposed to be the place where people came to pray and encounter God.

In our Gospel today, we hear about a moment when Jesus becomes angry.  Why does Jesus need to cleanse the temple?

The reason for this was that the temple had become corrupted.  It no longer was fulfilling its purpose.  The Temple was no longer a place to experience God.  In a sense, it had become everything else in culture and lost its true identity.  We all love Donut Sundays right?!? Now, imagine, if on Sunday we held a donut social without Mass… that would be ludicrous!  Worse yet, it even became a place where false gods were worshipped.   For ancient Jews, however, one of the qualities expected in the coming Messiah, was that he would come to purify the temple.  He would reform the temple and bring it back to its original purpose – the place to encounter God.

Certainly, this Gospel is important for Fr. Tony, myself and the pastoral staff to reflect on to ensure that we are keeping the original intent of the Mass, but I think there is a personal reflection here as well for each of us.

What is the modern-day temple?  Saint Paul answer this question for us, I urge you, brothers and sisters, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).  Or again, he asks, Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…? (1 Cor 6:19).

So each of us is a temple of God.  Here is the great wisdom of our church.  We are asked to meditate and pray on this Gospel during the season of Lent.  A season that we are intentionally trying to turn back to God, and purify our hearts – to purify our temples! 

Here is a good question to ask ourselves this week…. “What would Jesus do, if he came into my temple right now?”  The challenge then is to allow our consciences to be stirred up.  The challenge is to let Jesus come into our hearts with a whip made of cords, to turn over the areas of our lives that need conversion.

How do we do this?  We turn to the first reading and meditate on the ten commandments.  Like the ancient Jews who had allowed worship of false gods to exist in the temple, do our hearts worship false gods in our lives: in the way of our attachments to things (phones!), sports, work, money etc? Do I love God with all my heart and seek a deeper relationship with him?  Do we love our neighbor?  How is our speech of others?  How do we respond to the needs of the poor?  Are there dark areas that exist in my heart (addictions)?

Here’s the good news… And I wish I could say that Fr. Tony and I knew that we were planning it this way.  But tonight, we are having our parish-wide penance service.  We will have adoration and confessions available.  Friends, I encourage you, to come tonight an encounter the living God in adoration and in the Sacrament of Penance.  May we all allow Christ into our hearts and to purify our temples!


In Christ’s Love and Friendship,

Fr. Stephen

But He would do it for us

Some very close friends of mine had been trying to adopt a child for years.  It was a difficult time for them.  There were many times that they would be one of the top two or three couples, only to find out they were not chosen.  Eventually, they finally were chosen,  and today they are proud parents of a beautiful little girl.

Now, lets put Abraham’s story into our modern context.  Just like my friends, he and his wife Sarah, find out that they are unable to have children.   Here is a man, that desires a child.  And after waiting for years to become a Father (Abraham is 100 years old when Isaac is born!), God finally answers his prayers and blesses him and Sarah with a son.  It would be similar to a couple today that are unable to have children, yet miraculously become pregnant. 

And then God says to this couple, after so great a miracle… Ok, tie your son up, carry him up the mountain, and sacrifice him for me.


Here’s the point… we are supposed to be shocked.  We are supposed to be feel bad for Abraham.  We are supposed to think, “God how could you ask Abraham to do that for you”.  Here is precisely where this story should mean everything to us.  Because God, would, in fact, never ask us to do this.  But he would do it for us…

Let me say that again… But Our Father in heaven would do it for us!

Here’s the thing… I think it is almost impossible to understand this story from Genesis without looking at through the lens of Christ.

The Parallel between the Heavenly Father and Abraham is striking!

Abraham offers his beloved Isaac a sacrifice

– Heavenly Father offers his only beloved son as a sacrifice

Isaac carries the wood he will be sacrificed on

– Jesus carries the wood of the cross!

Isaac is saved by a substitute Ram (caught by its horns in the thorns)

– Humanity is saved by Christ, who is the substitute and wears a crown of thorns

Place of sacrifice for Isaac is on Moriah

– King Solomon will build a temple on Mount Moriah, which is in Jerusalem

– Jesus is offered on Moriah; the mountain that the city of Jerusalem sits on.

You see my friends, just like Abraham, God loved his only began son, Jesus Christ.  But he loves us too!  And this is what Saint Paul says to us this weekend, If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?

This is why Lent is so powerful.  Because every week during Lent we call to mind those major moments in salvation history that show us how important we are to God.  May we remember that we have a God who loves us more than we could ever imagine.


In Christ’s love and friendship,

Fr. Stephen