We are coming to the end of the wedding season. So, during the summer, it’s like back-to-back weddings throughout the summer. This happens to me almost every single time I go to a wedding reception. I don’t know why it happens, but people tend to come up to the priest, and they tell us everything that’s wrong about the Catholic Church, and that includes fallen-away Catholics. So, I’m getting a little bit tired of that. So, I did, and I said something. I don’t know where it came from. I’m normally not like that; I am usually very kind and very patient. Two weekends ago, somebody came up to me, and she said, “Father, I don’t go to Mass anymore, you know, I, I don’t go. She said, “But I’m a good person.” Suddenly, these words jump out of my mouth. I said to her, “No, you’re not. You’re not going to mass on Sunday. You’re not following God. You’re not following the precept of the church to go to Mass every Sunday. You’re not receiving the Eucharist. You’re not a good person.” And so, I said it, and I was like, I can’t believe those words just came out of my mouth. So, I was trying to process that later. By the way, she came up to me later and said, “Hopefully, I’ll see you at Holy Family.” I was talking to another Priest, and I said, “I can’t believe what I just said to this lady.” The priest said, “Maybe that was the Holy Spirit, maybe that’s what she needed to hear.” So, I am trusting that was the Holy Spirit.
Now, this weekend, I had another wedding and another reception. So, I went to the reception, One of the guys, a grade school friend, We went to Holy Family grade school together in Parma, I went to public high school, and he went to Catholic High School. His parents, who are Catholic, sent him to a Catholic high school. His kids are going to Catholic Grade School right now. He came up to me, and he said, “You know there’s a lot of things in the church I don’t believe.” I’m like, here we go. So, he starts rattling off, “I don’t believe in purgatory. I don’t believe in celibacy. I don’t believe in this. Where is it in the Bible? I tried to say, “Well, if you go to the Bible and confession, and you go and read about the passage where Jesus hands the keys of the kingdom to Peter. He says whatever you will be bound, whatever you release will be released”. I continued, “You’ve got to get this right?” He answered, “That’s not what that means.” I said, “Well, who is telling you that’s not what that means? He answered, “Well, I go to the Mega Church right down the road. They tell us that is not true, none of that is true” Then he said, “None of the Sacraments are true. None of the Sacraments are necessary.” How do I respond to this during a wedding reception right? So, we got on to talking, and I said, “You’ve got to believe in the Eucharist. The true presence in the Eucharist is Christ.” He responded, “That’s just a symbol; I receive communion at the protestant church.” I said to him, “Just a Symbol? Do I hear you right? This is the true presence of the holy body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.” This is a kid that went to Catholic grade school and Catholic High School.
When I was in the seminary, he was going to daily Mass. He said, “No, that is not what we believe.” I responded, “What do you mean, that’s not what we believe? We believe that is the Eucharist. This is the true presence.” We went on and on and talked about different things. His basic thing was where is it in the Bible, where is it in the Bible? I told him where it was in the Bible. He said, “That’s not what it means. We are a faith of scripture and tradition capital T tradition.” “It’s the tradition that the scripture came out of when Jesus appointed Peter to be the first pope there is no scripture there. He was insulting Peter, who we believe is the first pope. When Jesus said that you had to receive baptism, there was no scripture at that time. There was a sacrament, and out of the church came the scripture. It’s through the church that we come to understand what the scripture means. So when I say, “Take this all of you in eat of it. This is my body, which will be given up for you. We believe that. This is my body.” Now somehow, they have taken that and twisted it. You know, part of me gets flushed when I’m in the middle of these conversations. I am willing to bet this happens to you guys, right. You’re the faithful Catholics. I bet people come up to you like this and do the same thing. So, I think it’s essential that we know our faith and that we are totally on fire in our faith.
Now we hear a couple of interesting things in the first reading and the gospel. They’re both about people outside of the faith. So, God comes down to Moses in a cloud, and He bestows the Holy Spirit on the 70 elders in there. They’re in the tent. They begin to prophesy. There are these two guys outside of the tent, and, some way or another, they receive the Holy Spirit. They begin to prophesy. So, there is confusion. Eldad and Medad are prophesying outside the camp, and Joshua, who is Moses’ right-hand man, said, “Moses, stop them, stop them, they should not be prophesying. They weren’t in here. Moses said, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord be Prophets. Would that the Lord might bestow His Spirit upon them all.” So, God wants to give us all the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I wonder, if we were truly on fire with the Holy Spirit, would so many of our Catholics be going to the mega-churches? If we truly believe this is the Eucharist, would that be the case? So, the difficulty continues in the gospel. John said to Jesus, “Teacher, someone is driving out demons in your name. Jesus responded, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” If you have a Catechism, lookup 1257. If you don’t have a Catechism, please get one because a catechism answers all these questions. It tells you where it is in scripture, tells you how we have come to it in our tradition, and to the Revelation of what it truly means. But the Catechism says the Lord affirms the necessity of baptism for salvation. God has bound salvation to the sacraments. God has bound the church to the sacraments. However, He is not bound by the sacraments. What that means is when we celebrate the sacraments, we’re receiving true God and true man, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, God still wants to reach all the people who are not here in this church? Yes, He still wants to bring the holy spirit upon them.
Now, here’s where it gets difficult because the gospel shifts. It says whoever causes one of these little ones, who believes in me, to sin, it would be better for great millstones to be put around his neck, and he is cast into the sea. Now, this is where we have a problem because I know for a fact, and if my friend, who I mentioned earlier in this homily, said this when he goes to the mega churches, they would convince him that the Catholic church is not correct. They would persuade him Catholic Church is evil. I look at this and say, whoever causes one of these little ones, who believes in me, to sin. So, when Jesus said, “If they are not against us, they are for us.” I think sometimes these other churches are not for us. They’re not. They’re against us, and they’re leading people astray. And the ones that are being led astray are the little ones, as Jesus said. The little ones who haven’t fully matured into the faith, who haven’t fully become disciples, or haven’t fully appreciated what we have. The Altar and the sacrifice of our Lord are what we have, and these little ones need to be protected. So, yes, this is the fullness of the church; we receive the fullness, body, blood, soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. Can God work outside of that? Yes, of course, just like He worked with the prodigal son and stirred in him to come back to the Father.
I went to see Jimmy Buffett last night. I looked to see if any people were there I knew? There were a lot of Holy Family people there. I kept running into them. One of them apologized to me for being at a Jimmy Buffett concert. I said, “Well, I’m here.” I experienced something wonderful at a Jimmy Buffett concert. God was there. I was with another priest. People were together, they were singing. They were joyful people. God was present there. But is Jimmy Buffett the soul, body blood, and Divinity of Jesus? No. He is a Catholic, by the way, but he’s pretty fallen away. I want to meet him, and I want to take him on retreat. I am not kidding. That is going to happen one day! I am going to tell him to bring his guitar, your Bible, and a journal! You’ll have a great album! It’s so essential for us to realize the truths of our faith. It’s so important for us to realize scripture comes out of tradition, and the only true authentic understanding of scripture is within our practice. What the protestants teach is Sola scripture. Is it only in the Bible, When I said that verse, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life within it,” My friend said, “Well that’s not what that means?” They do not have a proper understanding of what it means. We’re given that through the gift of Revelation to believe, this is my body, this is my blood.
So, it’s within this tradition that we are gifted with this wonderful tradition of our faith. We receive the true and authentic teachings of Jesus. So, I invite you to take every opportunity you can to learn about the faith. Everything that Holy Family Parish presents tries to attend it. To learn as much as you can. Read your scriptures. If you have a catechism, read your Catechism. If you don’t have a catechism, please get a copy because the cool thing is, you can look in the back, and every single question asked will show you where it is in scripture. And why our church believes that. Because to sin means to be off the mark. It came from an old tradition when they used to shoot bows and arrows at a target. If they miss the mark, they would yell out sin back to them. So, they knew they missed the mark, and they must move closer. Often, these are Catholics who have fallen away and are missing the mark; they’re off. So, we do need to know our faith. So much so, we can bring them back ultimately to the fullness of our church.
As we receive the Eucharist, we pray through these same gifts we might receive the holy spirit. So much so, we become prophets. So, we prophesy through our words and our lives. So people can be brought into the fullness, the truth, the ultimate love, and the sacrifice God wants to give us. So, we celebrate at every Mass you hear the word of God. You receive his sacrament, and in this, we experience ultimately what Christ wants to hand on to us.