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  Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

July 5, 2015

From the Jaws of Death

Let’s stop for a moment and just think about the impression we are left with from today’s Epistle and Gospel. The Gospel story is about the feeding of the multitude. What does that make us think about? What is the Church teaching us by repeating every year this story how Our Lord took the break, gave thanks, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples? Do these words remind us of anything? And if this picture is a foreshadowing of the Last Supper, of the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, what then do the words of the Epistle have to do with it?

The Epistle, as the writings of St. Paul usually are, is a little harder to grasp than the Gospel. Its picture of baptism, death and resurrection is rather abstract and therefore more difficult to understand than the straightforward narrative of the Gospel. And that’s a pity because it gives us the key to the Gospel—a key that unlocks the door to a more complete understanding of Christ’s actions in feeding the multitude. Fortunately though, this works the other way round too, and the Gospel is our key to understanding the Epistle.

The Epistle starts out by asking if we know that when we are baptized, we are baptized into Christ’s death? That’s not usually the connection we make, is it, when we think about baptism. We are more accustomed to thinking in terms of being “born again” in the water and the Spirit. Born into life, not death. But here’s St. Paul reminding us that it is a baptism into death. And so it is, in this sense, that when our souls are baptized, they are washed of their sin, and from that time forward, we must be dead to sin. That our “old man is crucified” with Christ, “that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”

And so, with baptism, we die with Christ. And in doing so we shall be like Christ also in his resurrection from the dead. “If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” This resurrection, that we believe in and look forward to, is of course the resurrection of the body, one of the articles of the Creed. The resurrection that will unite our bodies and souls with Christ for ever and ever in heaven. Our ultimate union with God.

In brief we must die to sin so that we might live in union with God for ever. And how are we to die to sin? Baptism is the first step. When we are baptized all our sins are wiped clean from our soul, whether original sin, or even actual sins if we are old enough to have committed any. But baptism is only the first of the seven sacraments. The other sacraments also give us the graces we need, either to return to the state of grace, through the Sacrament of Penance and Extreme Unction, or to help us remain in the state of grace and increase it, through Confirmation and Matrimony. The Sacrament of Holy Orders provides us with men with the power to give us these sacraments, validly. All these sacraments then, unite us in some way with our God.

Of course, I’ve missed out one sacrament, and that’s because I wanted to leave the most important till last. The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament, which above all, allows us to experience in this life the union with God which will be ours for all eternity if we remain dead to sin. This potential union with God is the reason why we exist—so that by loving and serving God in this world, we may be with him forever in the next. And we cannot be united with God in the next world, unless we unite with him in this world through the sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

I’m not just making this up because it’s a nice thought. The Church didn’t just invent this sacrament to make sure people go to church on Sunday and put money in the collection basket. This precept, this commandment to unite ourselves with Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, comes to us from the mouth of Christ himself. “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” said Our Lord, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Do we begin to see then how important, how essential it is, to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion? And as often as we possibly can? Do we understand yet that these are not just nice words, but a command from God, which, if we do not obey, we will not be allowed to enter heaven. Do we understand now, what is the correct way to love our Protestant neighbor? Not by patting him on the back and lying to him that he can be saved through his own heretical church that rejects the Mass and the Holy Eucharist. But by rescuing our neighbor from the poisonous heresies of Protestantism, where they do not recognize Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, where they refuse to receive him in Holy Communion, to worship him in the tabernacle, to unite themselves with the Physical Body of Christ in the Mystical Body which is the Church? Isn’t it obvious now, why outside that Church there is no salvation? Because outside the Church there is no obedience to the commandment of Christ that we must eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ. And without obedience to Christ and his commandments, there is no love. “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.” And without this true love of God, there can be no salvation. Simply calling on him “Lord, Lord” is not enough. He told us so himself. No. You must receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord in Holy Communion.

All seven of the sacraments revolve around this most holy of them, the presence of Christ among us and our union with him through the Mass and the Eucharist. The grace we need to save our souls comes through this and the other sacraments, seven in total. This grace is our Bread of Life. “And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And he commanded, commanded, the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples… so they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the bread that was left seven baskets.” No matter how much we partake of these seven sacraments, there will still be seven sacraments for more people to partake of. It is the never-ending font of grace that comes from God, and as Catholics we alone have full access to this grace and to salvation. Let us rejoice that we have been given the grace to be born, or to have been converted, to this One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

In the Church’s daily Mass of the Dead, when we remember those who have gone before us to be with God, the Gospel at this Mass reminds us what we must do to follow in their footsteps. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Last week we gave a passing glance to some of the recent very serious sins of this world, and this week we are given the answer to it.

Our job in this world is to bring as many others with us to be able to partake of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Mass. Pagans, Jews, Protestants, Moslems, none of them truly love God, because none of them obey his commandments to eat Christ’s Body and drink his Blood. That goes for the faithful who still follow the church of Vatican II, where they are deprived of the true Mass, robbed of their birthright to receive true and valid sacraments. Instead of the bread of life, they have been given poison to eat, the new Mass with its universal apostasy and the mockery of all that is holy. The poor Catholics who haven’t figured out they need to turn their backs on these false shepherds, these are also our neighbors who need our help.

All these men and women, the teeming multitude which is very great, they have nothing to eat. And Jesus, seeing them, has compassion on the multitude. “They have been with me three days,” he said. Three days, as though dead with Christ in the tomb. But on the third day, it is time for them to rise and live with Christ. Time for them to be dead to their sins, and partake in the Resurrection, where they can live unto God, as the Epistle says. We, as faithful Catholics, must follow Christ’s example and have compassion on the multitude. Not only did he and the apostles sit down and eat the bread he so miraculously provided, but they also fed the multitudes. Our job is not to condemn heretics, nor to admonish sinners. Our job is to bring them all to the altar rail so they may worthily partake of the seven sacraments, and especially that sacrament which will save their souls and unite them to God forever.

 Sermons from the Chaplain