Sunday, July 26, 2015

Homily – 17th Sunday Year B July 26, 2015

By Deacon Jerry Franzen  Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption
2 Kings 4:42-44          Ephesians 4: 1-6                   John 6: 7-15

Today’s homily will be a bit different than my usual homily.
Instead of placing the main focus on the scriptures of today,
I will be focusing on the Mass.
Some people might call this liturgical preaching.
I will however make reference to the scriptures of today.

How would you complete the sentence, “The Mass is …….”?
Three answers might be the following:
1.The Mass is …….a sacrifice, the same sacrifice as that on Calvary,
in an unbloody manner.
Christ is both the victim, the one offered,
and the priest, the one offering the sacrifice.
Fr. Maher here stands in for Christ.
All of the baptized share in the priesthood of Christ.
And one way we can do that is by joining Fr. Maher
in also offering the Divine Victim, Christ, to God
and by offering our lives as well to God in the Mass.

2. The Mass is …………a meal;
the Last Supper is made present again for us in each Mass.
We receive the Body and Blood of Jesus
 just as the apostles did at the Last Supper.
This is our spiritual nourishment to lead us to eternal life.

3. The Mass is …………..the greatest prayer that we have!
I believe that we have lost the concept of the Mass as a prayer.
I dare say that few of us come to Mass prepared to “pray” the Mass.
We come to receive Jesus in Holy Communion;
We come to hear God’s Word and an engaging homily.
We come to gather as the Body of Christ.
We don’t come prepared to “pray” the Mass. More about that later.


It is important that we know what we are doing,
especially when it comes to liturgy.
For those of you who have wished that you would hear
more about the Mass in homilies,
your wish is about to be granted.

There are some obvious similarities
between today’s gospel and the Mass.
A crowd had gathered.
They gathered to be with Jesus.
They gathered because of what Jesus had done.
We heard in the last line of the Gospel reading last Sunday
that, after Jesus disembarked, he taught them many things.
That was in St. Mark’s Gospel,
and the feeding of the five thousand is what occurred next
in Mark’s Gospel.
It so happens that today’s version of the feeding of the five thousand    is from the Gospel according to St. John.
There was a meal, not an ordinary meal, but a miraculous meal.
After the people had partaken of this miraculous meal,
they believed in Jesus.
More than that, they wanted to carry him off as a king.

In the Mass, we too are a crowd gathered to be taught by Jesus
          and to be with Jesus,
1. Jesus in the Word,
2. Jesus in the person of the priest,
3. Jesus in his flesh broken and blood poured out for us
AND 4. Jesus in the people assembled as the Body of Christ.
We gather to be taught by Jesus and to be with Jesus
because we too know what he has done.
We partake of the miraculous meal,
and our “Amen”,
both at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer
and when we receive Holy Communion means, “Yes, I believe.”
We are dismissed to carry, Jesus, our Messiah, our King,
out to others.

The Gospel story began with the crowd gathering, coming together.
The Church says that the very first thing we must do is to gather,
but not as a group of disconnected individuals
who happen to be in one church building.
St. Paul did not describe the Ephesians and us
as a collection of independents;
in the second reading he said “one body and one Spirit...
the one hope of your call.”
In his first letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 12),
he described us gathered as the Body of Christ,
intimately connected to one another,
each one dependent on the others.
Prior to the Second Vatican Council,
the Church had become a “God and me” Church,
God and the priest in the realm of Latin,
God and each individual in the pews,
saying the rosary, praying from a prayer book,
meditating on the statues and windows, day dreaming...
We have returned to being a “God and us” Church.
It’s not just a matter of being together
in the right place at the right time.
We encounter Jesus as the gathered Body of Christ,
truly dependent upon one another,
AND we should prepare for that before Mass. 

1. Timing is important.
Those who arrive at the last minute, or worse yet late,
have no time to get settled into their dependence
on those around them
and into their support of those round them.
We must come to church seeking to give and receive
care and support.
What signal are we giving to God and others
when we arrive at the last minute or arrive late?
The same question can be asked about those who leave early.

2. Our dress can be important.
Now, if it’s just you or me and God, dress may not be important.
But it’s not just you or me and God.
Each of us is a member of this worshiping community.
How we dress and present ourselves to others
can speak volumes to others
about how we feel about our place in the community
and about others in this community.

3. Preparation for actions at Mass is important.
As a community, we are silent at times in the Mass.
Today, many are uncomfortable with silence.
I have a news flash for many of you.
In those times when you are silent and the priest is speaking,
you should be PRAYING the Mass along with the priest.
We all, now hear this, ALL offer the sacrifice
of the Son to the Father at Mass; not just the priest.
I have become aware of that more and more as
I assist priests and the bishop at Mass.
Notice how many times when the priest is saying prayers out loud
that he uses the first person plural – we, us and our.
That is not just the editorial “we”
where he is really referring only to himself.
It is a “we,” meaning “all of us.”
We should be silently praying those prayers along with the priest.
We do that by listening to what he says and thinking those prayers,
making them our prayers also.
As a community we praise God in the prayer of song.
It’s not meant to be optional, only for the vocally gifted.
Prepare to pray in song with the formation of an attitude
that your participation in the singing is necessary,
not just for you,
but also for your brothers and sisters around you.
I know that I sing better when I am singing with a group.
Tuesday evening I heard a presentation by John Michael Talbot,
a popular Catholic author, composer
and performer of Christian music.
He said that Catholics are terrible singers,
not that we can’t carry the tune.
We don’t have the corner on that market;
we are terrible because we don’t sing.  So, sing! And pray!

As a community, we respond aloud in prayer at certain times;
it’s not optional.
It’s required that we be together, in sync,
with the rest of the community.
Prepare for Mass with the formation of an attitude that
to be a member of the Body of Christ,
you must speak and sing as a member
of the Body of Christ.
When I am assisting at a wedding or a funeral,
and the priest says “The Lord be with you.”
and I can’t hear many people say “And with your spirit.”
I feel lonely.

As a community we listen to God’s Word and the homily.
You can prepare by reading the scriptures ahead of time.
Google USCCB and go to Daily Readings.
Click on the Sunday date in the calendar
and “Voila!” you can read the scriptures for the day .
Familiarity with the readings will help you
with listening to the readings and to the homily.


Prepare to be an example of a full active participant in the Mass,
an example that will help to support others
in their full and active participation.
We must be here not just for ourselves
not just because we have to in order to avoid serious sin.
We must also be here because we are members of this community
to be support for others and to have each others’ support us.

We are each here to also foster our personal relationship with Jesus.
John Michael Talbot would say “WOW.
Our God is right here with us.”
If we truly recognize that we are preparing for
the miraculous meal in which we meet and receive Jesus,
there should be no doubt about the importance
of the need for the preparation.   

St. Augustine taught that when we say “Amen”
to the words the “Body of Christ" at Holy Communion,
we are saying “Yes, I believe.”
to three implications:
“Yes, I believe that the host is the Body of Christ;
          Yes, I believe that I become the Body of Christ;
 AND Yes I believe that we are the Body of Christ.”
We must live and worship not as individuals,
but as a gathered and interconnected community,
truly supporting one another as the Body of Christ,

in order that the “Amen” that we say might be true.