This is a homily I wrote for the Diocese of New Orleans as part of their Year of the Eucharist
Have you ever seen a miracle? Have you ever witnessed something for which there was no rational or scientific explanation? Have you ever caught sight of an event that was so remarkable and out of the ordinary that it could only have been done by God Himself?
Well, if you have ever been to Mass, then you have witnessed just such a miracle.
Every Sunday, when the people of God gather to celebrate the Eucharist, simple bread and wine become the Body and Blood of the Risen Jesus. It is no mere symbol of God’s presence. It is no simple remembrance of what Jesus did two thousand years ago. Rather, it is the real presence of Jesus among His people today. When we look upon the Eucharist, we are looking upon the flesh of our Risen Savior. When we drink the chalice, we are receiving His Blood, the Blood he shed on the cross for our salvation that is now poured out to give life to the world.
There is no scientific explanation of how this bread and wine can become Jesus’ Body and Blood. There is no other way to explain it than that the Holy Spirit of God comes down to transform the simple gifts we offer into the most precious gift imaginable - a gift that God offers to us every Sunday and even every day. It is a true miracle.
Saint John tells us in today’s gospel that many crowds followed Jesus because they wanted to see for themselves the signs He performed. They heard the stories of how He had given sight to the blind, had healed the paralyzed and cleansed the lepers. They wanted to see for themselves the mighty acts He performed. Saint John tells us that they gathered to hear Him with the expectation that something out of the ordinary would take place before their eyes.
Everytime we gather for Mass, it should be with the same excitement and anticipation that the crowds had in Jesus’ day. Something incredible and out of the ordinary happens here. God has prepared something miraculous for us to witness. In one way or another, if our eyes are open to His presence among us and our hearts are ready to receive Him, each of us will be touched by God.
One way we are touched is through the word which is proclaimed. Every Sunday we read from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the letters of the New Testament and from the Gospels. The Church teaches us that because the Scriptures are the very word of God, whenever they are read at Mass it is God Himself who is speaking to us. So when we gather for Mass, it should be with the expectation that God has a word to speak to us. On our way to church or as we sit in the pew praying before Mass begins, we should pray to the Holy Spirit to open our minds to the readings we are about to hear. We should ask Him to speak to our hearts so that we can have a deeper knowledge of His love for us and a deeper awareness of how we are to live our lives. By doing so, we may be surprised by what we hear and how deeply we can be touched.
Another way we are touched is through the Body and Blood of Christ which we receive. Through this great sacrament, He will enter our bodies, and we will enjoy a deep union with Him. He comes to bring untold graces of healing, peace and the abiding sense of His presence. That is why, before coming to Mass, we fast from food and drink for an hour, so that we can already have our bodies, minds and hearts focused on the One we are to receive. It is a miracle of God’s profound and unfailing love for us that cannot fail to touch and transform us if we welcome it with anticipation and trust.
If we found out that an historic event was taking place in our town we would go out of our way not to miss it. We would want to be the first in line. That is the same attitude we must have about the Sunday Mass. We should make every effort not only to attend but to participate in it enthusiastically for we are witnessing the greatest miracle of all - the transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and our transformation into children of God.