Archive for the ‘Corpus Christi’ Category

The Priest, the Eucharist, and the Church

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Corpus Christi

June 10, 2012

1st Reading: Ex 24:3-8, 39-40; 2nd Reading: Heb 9:11-15; Gospel: Mk 14:12-16, 22-26

The Priest, the Eucharist, and the Church

The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, “What can we do in this Church? There is no Mass; Our Lord is not longer there: we may as well pray at home.” When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.

-Saint John-Mary Vianney, May 8, 1786- August 4, 1859

This quote from St. John Vianney is as relevant today as it was in the 1850′s. You may be wondering why I decided to use it. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney (Cure of Ars) his Holiness, Benedict XVI, announced a special “Year for Priests” from June 19, 2009 to June 19, 2010. The Pope also declared St. John-MaryVianney the Patron of All Priests in the World. Friday, June 15th, is the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and is designated as “World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests.” Let us remember to pray for our priests.

Why are we talking about priests and the priesthood on the Feast of Corpus Christi? What is the connection between the priesthood and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ? Historically speaking, Jesus called the twelve apostles out of the numerous people following him. He trained them publically and privately for a period of three years. He ordained them on Holy Thursday and entrusted to them his body and blood and asked them, “Take and eat, take and drink…do this in remembrance of me.” (cf Lk 22:19) The apostles later founded the Church after they were kicked out of the Temple. And through all the persecutions, the Church was sustained with doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (cf Acts 2:42). So it logically follows that the apostles came first, then the Eucharist, then the Church. Obviously, therefore, without the apostles (priests and bishops) there is no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist there is no Church. How important is the Eucharist? And how important is the priesthood to the Church? Let’s see.

The Eucharist is the sacrament that contains the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ through the appearance of bread and wine. The Eucharist is the most noble and most important of all the sacraments in the Church. Although Christ is present in his Words (in the Gospel), at prayer, and in religious symbols and rituals, he is most present in the Eucharist. In other words, the Eucharist is the Real and Actual Jesus. Without Jesus there is no Church and the one who is invested with the power to bring Jesus about through Consecration, is the priest. Thus, by hypothetical syllogism we can conclude that “without the priest, there is no Church.” As we celebrate the Feast (Solemnity) of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we are also celebrating the priesthood. What challenge does that give us?

First, it reminds us of our identity as a Eucharistic people. Second, it challenges us to pray for more vocations to the priesthood. The priest is the one who leads us in the battle against principalities and powers of darkness. The constant attack we observe on the priesthood and the attempt, even by some Catholics, to reduce the relevance, the significance, and importance of the ministerial priesthood in the Church is the work of the Devil. Some of us are so quick to condemn our priests and look for what is wrong with them all the time. The more we do this, the more we are discouraging vocations. Unfortunately, we are so blind to that reality

Another thing to observe is how some modern day Catholics are so sophisticated that they have removed the Tabernacle from the Church so that Christ is no longer the center of worship. They put him behind, in a separate chapel, where nobody can see him. And all we are left with is “ego” worship then it becomes “all about us.” And of course, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction are already forgotten in some of our parishes. The only thing they have not done is to change their name from “catholic” to something else.

At this juncture it is also necessary to send words of appreciation to all those who appreciate the ministerial priesthood and are promoting vocations to it. We thank those who see Christ in their priests and give all necessary support and encouragement to help them fulfill their ministerial duties. Thanks to those who have been supporting us spiritually, morally, and materially. Thanks also to those who are promoting Eucharistic Adoration everywhere.

May the Lord give us the grace to appreciate the gift of the Holy Eucharist in our time.

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

Feeding On Heavenly Food

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Theological Reflection for the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (year A)

June 26, 2011

1st Reading:  Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 2nd Reading:  1 Cor 10:16-17; Gospel: Jn 6:51-58

Feeding On Heavenly Food

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. By this feast we acknowledge the Real Presence of Christ under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine.

The Eucharist is the sacrament that contains the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ through the appearance of bread and wine. The Eucharist is the most noble and most important of all the sacraments in the church. Although Christ is present in his words (in the Gospel), at prayer, and in religious symbols and rituals, he is most present in the Eucharist. In other words, the Eucharist is real and actual Jesus. The Church teaches; “the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained in the Eucharist. This presence is called ‘real’- by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be real too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense; that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and men makes himself wholly and entirely present.” (CCC, #1374).

Today, the world witnesses various attempts by human beings to continue to live. We fashion cosmetics, drugs, and different types of food to keep us longer on the face of the earth. The science industry is making an attempt to make people live as long as 150 years. The human instinct to live on and on is very strong, but we all know that no one can really live forever in the physical body.

In today’s gospel passage the Lord Jesus gives us the assurance of everlasting life, “Whoever eats my flesh and eats my blood has eternal life…” (John 6: 54). Everyone needs food to survive and live, but here we are talking about living forever, and the life we are talking about is not just physical life. There are three basic human needs: food, clothing, and shelter. Of these three, the most basic and indispensible one is food. In ancient times, there were people who lived without clothing and shelter, but they still had food. Even today there are still places where people live without clothing and shelter, but nobody can live without food. Just as the physical sustains the human body, the Eucharist, which is a spiritual food, also sustains our souls.

As a Church, we celebrate today, the gift of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. We celebrate the food which sustains our life during our pilgrimage on earth, and also assures us of life after death. In many parts of the world the Church has a tradition of public Eucharistic Procession today. Some regions however cannot do it for pastoral or political reasons. This is one of the ways in which we evangelize and proclaim to the world the unique blessing we have as a Eucharistic community.

Let us continue to give thanks to God for this great gift. Since the Bible calls us “citizens of heaven” (cf Phil 3; 20), our life can only be sustained by the food that comes down from heaven. In other words, we need to live not on earthly, but on heavenly food. Just as we need gas to constantly sustain a moving vehicle, we need the Eucharist to sustain us on our life pilgrimage. Let us also pray for those who are not able to partake of the Eucharist, that the Lord may bring them to the table of this heavenly food, which gives strength and everlasting life to those who feed on it. Amen.

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

I Am the Bread of Life

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Theological Reflection for the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (year C)

June 6, 2010

1st Reading:  Gen 14:18:20; 2nd Reading: 1Cor 11:23-26; Gospel: Luke 9:11b-17

“I Am the Bread of Life”… (John 6:51)

The Eucharist is the sacrament that contains the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, through the appearance of bread and wine. The Eucharist is the most noble and most important of all the sacraments in the Church. Although Christ is present in His words (in the gospel), at prayer, and in religious symbols and rituals, He is most present in the Eucharist. In other words, the Eucharist is a real and actual Jesus.

Today the Universal Church celebrates, profoundly, the blessing and the gift of this most Holy Sacrament. In today’s second reading, St Paul tells us how he receives Eucharistic tradition. He refers to what he was taught by the apostles who were with Jesus during the last supper; “This is my body…this is my blood of the new covenant…do this in remembrance of Me.” (cf 1 Cor11: 23-25).  What is the significance of this feast? What challenge does it pose to us as Christians?

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives. In other words, the Eucharist is indispensable to us as Christians.  Jesus makes it clear to us in the Bible that He is the “bread of life” (Jn 6:51-58). Just as the human body cannot survive without physical food (bread), the Christian soul is dead without Christ.   It is the Eucharist that strengthens us to live according to the word of the Master. It is the Eucharist that nourishes our souls and strengthens us to obey the commandments of God and live according to the scripture. No wonder the Catholic Church is built on the Eucharist (Jesus). The early Christians survived the persecutions and trials with the strength of the Eucharist, the scripture, and communal sharing (cf Acts 2:42-47).

The Eucharist is always a miracle. The miracle is not only in the feeding of many people from one single table but more profoundly in the way it happens. Through Eucharistic miracle, the Lord, as in today’s gospel passage, continues to feed countless number of people with Himself. Let me now touch an area many people do not always like to hear:

In today’s gospel passage, the Lord uses His disciples as ministers to bring the loaves of bread and fish to the crowd. In the same way, He uses the ministry of the priest to bring Himself down to us every day. Remarkably, without the Eucharist, there is no Church; and without the priest, there is no Eucharist. The priesthood, therefore, comes first before the Eucharist and the Church. Moreover, the priesthood is inseparable from the Eucharist and the Church. Even though we may not want to hear this I dare to assert that:

Without the priest, there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist there is no Church. Thus, without the priest, there is no Church.

There will always be need for the priesthood so long as Christianity exists on earth. The Christian community is headed by the priest, who acts in person of Christ, the High Priest. The priest has the duty to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, teach the people of God, sanctify them, and govern them on behalf of Christ.

Remarkably, the Church teaches that we are all priests but there are two kinds of priesthood; the common priesthood, which we share through our baptism, and the ministerial priesthood, which we share by virtue of ordination. It is from among the common priests that God calls the ministerial priests. This is not a job or a profession like medicine or engineering; it is rather, a special and noble vocation. No one can make himself a priest (cf Hebrews 5:1-4) .The miracle of the Eucharist happens every day when a priest says the very words of Christ at consecration to change ordinary bread and ordinary wine to the precious body and blood of Christ. By this ministry the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father is made present and available to us from generation to generation. Consequently, as the Eucharist is necessary for us to be a Church, priests are also necessary to bring the Eucharist about. This is not debatable; it is just the way it is.

Unfortunately, our society has become so worldly that many of us do not see the need for God in our lives anymore. This disease (secularism) is unfortunately affecting the Church as well; so much that we think that we can do away with priests, and of course, the Eucharist. The less we have of priests, the less of Eucharist we shall have; and the less of Eucharist we have, the less of Church we shall become. What we need today is not a multiplication of extra-ordinary Eucharistic ministers; we need priests who can change the bread and the wine to the body and blood of Christ. To have ten extra-ordinary ministers serving communion to a congregation of only one hundred people is ridiculous. We need ordained priests. One thousand extra-ordinary ministers are not equal to one priest. If we want to remain a Eucharistic Church, we need to pray for more priests who can feed our souls with the word and the sacraments. The priesthood of Christ, in which we all share, cannot be diminished by any human being. Fashioned after the order of Melchizedek, this priesthood of the New Testament is eternal (Heb 7:1-26). Moreover, embedded in this priesthood also are the prophetic and the kingly roles of Christ. In other words, every priest whether ministerial or common is also a prophet and a king. We all have the vocation to teach, to bless, and to rule at various levels. It is just the way it is.

One of the funniest things in our Church today is how we try to formulate weird theologies to back up positions that affirm the common priesthood of all Christ’s faithful, but deny the significance of the ministerial priesthood. We cannot affirm one and deny the other. It is like joining the military and accepting the rank of Captain but denying the rank of Major General. The only way to avoid the truth, the significance and relevance of the Major General is to quit the military.

Today’s celebration challenges us to reflect and see if we want to be a Church or a club.  As a Eucharistic people, we have to develop love, respect, and devotion for Jesus our Head. The more we share of the Body and Blood of Christ, the more united we are in Him.

Priests are human beings who need support, care and encouragement. If we want priests to serve us adequately we need to take care of them very well. In this year of priests we are challenged to see what we can do as individuals and families to encourage our ministerial priests. I would like to end with a quote from St. Mary John Vianney, Patron of all priests:

The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, “What can we do in this Church? There is no Mass; Our Lord is not longer there: we may as well pray at home.” When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.

-Saint John-Mary Vianney, May 8, 1786- August 4, 1859

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi

The Priest, the Eucharist, and the Church

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Theological Reflection for Corpus Christi (year B)

June 14, 2009

1st Reading: Ex 24:3-8, 39-40; 2nd Reading: Heb 9:11-15; Gospel: Mk 14:12-16, 22-26

The Priest, the Eucharist, and the Church

The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, “What can we do in this Church? There is no Mass; Our Lord is not longer there: we may as well pray at home.” When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.

-Saint John-Mary Vianney, May 8, 1786- August 4, 1859

This quote from St. John Vianney is as relevant today as it was in the 1850’s. You may be wondering why I decided to use it. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney (Cure of Ars) His Holiness, Benedict XVI announced a special “Year for Priests” from June 19, 2009 to June 19, 2010. The Pope also calls St. Vianney the Patron of All Priests in the World. If you will recall June 19th is the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and is designated as “World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests”.

Why are we talking about priests and the priesthood on the Feast of Corpus Christi? What is the connection between the priesthood and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ? Historically speaking, Jesus called the twelve apostles out of the numerous people following him. He trained them publically and privately for a period of three years. He ordained them on Holy Thursday and entrusted to them his body and blood and asked them, “Take and eat, take and drink…do this in remembrance of me” (cf Lk 22:19). The apostles later founded the Church after they were kicked out of the temple. And through all the persecutions, the Church was sustained with doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (cf Acts 2:42). So, it logically follows that the apostles came first, then the Eucharist, then the Church. Obviously, therefore, without the apostles (priests and bishops) there is no Eucharist and without the Eucharist there is no Church. How important is the Eucharist? And how important is the priesthood to the Church? Lets see.

The Eucharist is the sacrament that contains the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ through the appearance of bread and wine. The Eucharist is the most noble and most important of all the sacraments in the Church. Although Christ is present in His words (in the Gospel), at prayer, and in religious symbols and rituals, He is most present in the Eucharist. In other words, the Eucharist is the real and actual Jesus. Without Jesus there is no Church and the one who is invested with the power to bring Jesus about through consecration is the priest. Thus, by hypothetical syllogism, we can conclude that “without the priest, there is no Church”. As we celebrate the Feast (Solemnity) of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we are also celebrating the priesthood. What challenge does this give us?

First, it reminds us of our identity- we are a Eucharistic people. Second, it challenges us to pray for more vocations to the priesthood. The priest is the one who leads us in the battle against principalities and powers of darkness. The constant attack we observe on the priesthood and the attempt, even by some Catholics, to reduce the relevance, the significance and importance of the ministerial priesthood in the Church is the work of the devil. Some of us are so quick to condemn our priests, “paint them black”, and look for what is wrong with them every time. The more we do this, the happier the devil becomes. Unfortunately, we are so blind to that reality. Another thing to observe is how some modern day Catholics are so sophisticated that they have removed the Tabernacle from the Church so that Christ is no longer the center of worship. They put Him behind, in a separate chapel, where nobody can see Him. And of course, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction are already forgotten in some of our parishes. The only thing they have not done is to change their name from ‘catholic’ to something else.

At this juncture it is also necessary to send words of appreciation to all those who appreciate the priesthood and are promoting vocations to it. We thank those who see Christ in their priests and give all necessary support and encouragement to help them fulfill their ministerial duties. Thanks to those who have been supporting us spiritually, morally, and materially. Thanks also to those who are promoting Eucharistic Adoration everywhere. Without Christ we can do nothing. And we can see from experience how much of ‘nothing’ we have been doing without Him.

Throughout this new year, which begins on June 19th, a day that is dedicated as “World day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests”, I would like to invite you to join the Universal Church in praying for the priests. Priests are ordained to pray for others, so who is praying for them? I would like to conclude this reflection with an excerpt from the Holy Father concerning this special year:

“The centrality of Christ brings with it the correct appreciation of the ministerial priesthood, without which there would be neither the Eucharist, nor even the mission nor the Church herself. In this regard it is necessary to be alert to ensure that the “new structures” or pastoral organizations are not planned on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the proper promotion of the laity for a time in which one would have “to do without” the ordained ministry…”

Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI
to the Members of the Congregation for the Clergy
on the Occasion of their Plenary Assembly

Monday, 16 March 2009

Rejoice Always!

Fr. Clem Oyafemi