18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

     There is a tradition in the Catholic Church that a priest’s parents give him a chalice, the cup that is used to hold the precious blood at Mass, as an ordination gift. While it is possible to find cheap chalices, if you want one truly worthy of its sacred task, it is going to cost a small fortune. Yet, knowing and firmly believing that the chalice actually holds God Himself, my parents fully aware of what it was going to cost, insisted that that I have a chalice made of either gold or silver and truly majestic in appearance. While I was shopping around for chalices, out of nowhere a box arrived for me at the seminary. When I opened the box I found a gorgeous 100 year old chalice and a note offering me the chalice with a request that the donors remain anonymous.

     This chalice, the one I use every Sunday at Mass, was simply too beautiful not to use but my parents wanted to make it personal for me and so they gave me a family diamond to attach to it, wanted to have it hand engraved with a message memorializing my ordination, and have a case made to protect it. As you can imagine, the chalice business is not really a booming market so the closest place to have work done properly on the chalice and to have it appraised for insurance purposes is New York. Not wanting to risk anything and unable to insure it without an appraisal I decided to fly with it to New York myself.

     I wrapped the chalice in a few fleece blankets and locked it in securely in my carry on case. Since I’m privileged to have Global Entry I thought nothing about going through security with it so tightly wrapped but, unfortunately TSA became suspicious of my bag, because of how it was packed, so they made me take out the chalice. The sight of the shining gold cup with rubies on it caught the glimpse of the person in line after me. After what the cup was used for and receiving a little Catholic Mass 101 he asked me how I could spend so much money on a cup when there are so many starving people in the world. As I packed the chalice up and walked to my gate I continued the discussion by agreeing with him that all Christians need to do more to relieve the physical sufferings of others, but that we as Catholics believe the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ. I explained to him, that just as Jesus offered food for the Israelites wandering in the desert with the manna, the bread come down from heaven, He still offers us who are journeying through the desert of life towards heaven food come down from heaven, His own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

     Since Jesus Himself will dwell in this cup I told him that it only made sense that the chalice should be best that money can buy. After all doesn’t it make perfect sense that since Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, we should only use precious metals to hold Him? While Jesus will come and rest on the vessels of gold and silver, He will also come to dwell inside of us as well. If we should only use the finest materials to hold Jesus on the altar, then shouldn’t our bodies be the most pure possible receive Jesus?

     This is why St. Paul warns us that “whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup,”[1] With this exhortation in mind, the Church reminds Catholics that they should not receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin. That is to say if we have committed a grave sin, that we knew was wrong, and we did it freely, we should not receive Communion until that sin is forgiven in the sacrament of Confession.

     Friends, Jesus offers us Himself as for the journey. Like the people in today’s Gospel it is easy for us to ask Jesus to give us this life saving bread, but are we prepared to receive it? It can be easy for us to come to Mass and receive communion, but do we frequent the sacrament of confession to be sure we are properly disposed to receive Communion? Every time we receive Holy Communion God literally comes to dwell inside of us. Are we prepared to receive Him? If not what do we need to do to be able to receive that essential spiritual nourishment?

[1] 1 Cor 11:27-28

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