I remember the encounter I had with a woman in a certain parish in Curitiba, Brazil. It was communion time and I decided to distribute both species of the Eucharist (the Body and Blood). After the Mass, a woman walked up to me, with a smile on her face and said, “Padre, the holy communion today was delicious, because you dipped the bread in the cup, and I prefer it better than the ones I’d been receiving…” For a moment, I stared at her in great astonishment and shock, and the next question that spontaneously came from me was, “are you truly a communicant; did you truly understand what you just received”? And she responded, “yes, I have been receiving communion for a long time and in the northeastern part of the country where I came from, the parish priest has never made it delicious this way. He only gives us the bread during Communion. It was then that I realized that the woman needed a thorough catechesis on the Eucharist. Then I asked her to wait for a little, while I greet the other parishioners (queuing up to meet me) as was the custom. When I eventually turned to speak to the woman, she was gone.
Dear friends n Christ, ‘overfamiliarity,’ they say, ‘invites disrespect’ (or breeds contempt). From the story above, we see a woman who, although a Catholic, has less knowledge of her faith; does not understand what the Holy Eucharist is. Her attention was apparently on the physical sweetness of the consecrated host and not on the spiritual sweetness. This is an unfortunate case of overfamiliarity and ignorance. For the woman, the Holy Mass is like a routine and receiving the Eucharist is a quest for physical sweetness, such that she had no regard for God who is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine. Unfortunately for the woman, her faith had been robbed through her overfamiliarity with the Holy Mass.
The Readings of today speak in consonance with the woman’s story. In the Gospel (cf. Lk. 4), Christ was not welcomed but rejected in his home town where he was bred. For the Jews (who claimed they were God’s own people, with vast knowledge about God and his promises) Jesus was a mere carpenter’s son whom they know too well, as as such, they felt he had nothing to offer; how then could he claim to be the Prophet/Messiah anticipated in Scriptures and speak so authoritatively. For this reason, they rejected him.
Many a time, we wonder why God chooses to manifest himself through simple men and women, non-Catholics or even non-Christians – this is because some of us who claim to be Catholics and equipped with the means of salvation through the Sacraments have gotten so used or overfamiliar with God to the point of losing the sense of the sacred and our faith. To buttress his points further, Christ drew the minds of his audience to the story of Naaman the leper (a non-Jew) as we see in the First Reading (cf. 2Kgs 5:1-15), who was a beneficiary of God’s grace through Elisha the prophet, irrespective of all other lepers in Israel (God’s own people) who were not graced with healing. Likewise, the pagan widow at Zarephath who also benefitted from Elijah during the time of great famine, regardless of the Israelite widows. Hearing this truth, they sprang to their feet to kill Jesus by throwing him down the cliff, but He escaped through their midst.
Dear friends in Christ, and especially my fellow Catholics, it is high time we cultivated a true sense of the sacred and a profound recognition of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I pray this season of Lent offers us a better opportunity to achieve this task. If after possessing the Seven Sacraments and a better way of preaching the Word to you, and it still appears that God has shut His ears against us, we should examine ourselves properly and recognize our lack of faith and overfamiliarity with the things of God. We should ask for his forgiveness, and thirst for God, like ‘the deer that yearns for running streams’ as seen in the Responsorial Psalm [Psalm 41(42):2-3,42:3-4]
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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