Masses That “Do More Harm than Good,” 24th Monday (II), September 12, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of the Holy Name of Mary
September 12, 2016
1 Cor 11:17-26.33, Ps 40, Lk 7:1-10


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today the Church celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, a name we invoke every day when we cry out, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners!” The feast originated in Spain in 1513, but it was extended to the whole Church in 1683 by Pope Innocent XI to mark the great victory of King Jan Sobieski of Poland in the Battle of Vienna on September 12 of that year, a victory that most historians believed kept Europe Christian against the invading Muslim Turks. When we turn to Mary and evoke her holy name in the battles we’re fighting, we think of her virtues and based on today’s Gospel, we can think of two, her humility and her faith, both of which are reflected in the humility and faith of the centurion.
  • The centurion who loves his slave was desperate for help. There was no doctor who could help him. But he heard of Jesus the miracle worker and knew he needed his help. Even though he was a powerful centurion, he didn’t think he was worthy to approach Jesus himself, and so he sent the powerful local Jewish leaders. They were not as humble as he. They approached Jesus said, “He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.” When Jesus was not his way, the Centurion humbly sent word that he didn’t think he was worthy to have Jesus do this for him or even visit his house, but nevertheless asked that Jesus command from where he was the life-threatening illness of his servant to depart and that would be all that was necessary. He knew that even at a distance Jesus could command and even sicknesses would obey, in a way similar to how he commanded soldiers. Jesus was amazed at the man’s faith. He turned to the crowd and said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Not among the disciples, not among the apostles, not even it seems in his Mother had he found faith like that in his power to command at a distance. What an extraordinary witness of trust in the reach of God’s power! Jesus normally worked physical miracles as preludes to the greater miracle of faith he desired to give those healed, but in this case, Jesus didn’t need to meet the man to help him grow in faith because his faith was already remarkable.
  • The Church wants to help us to grow to have the humility and faith of the Centurion in today’s Gospel. Every Mass we repeat his words, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my [soul] shall be healed.” But we’re supposed to do so meaning those words. We’re supposed to say them with faith are humility. Do we humbly grasp that we’re not worthy of Jesus, but he desires to make us worthy? Do we have faith in his power to work great miracles and his desire to do so in us?
  • In today’s first reading, St. Paul takes the Corinthians to the woodshed for their lack of humility, reverence and faith for Jesus in the Eucharist and for the miracle he wishes to accomplish. He says something astonishing: “Your meetings,” meaning the way they were going about their Sundays, “are doing more harm than good.” The Sunday was structured with a Mass and then an agape meal in which they would share as a family. But rather than sharing, Paul says, “when you meet as a Church there are divisions among you.” Therefore, he said, “When you meet in one place, then, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper,” and then gives the reason: “for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.” He ups the ante and says the were showing “contempt for the Church of God and make those who have nothing feel ashamed.” After describing that Jesus gave his Body and Blood for us in the Lord’s supper, and that we were to celebrate it “in remembrance of him,” they weren’t remembering him at all, because their Masses were dividing rather than uniting, leading to factions rather than love.
  • That’s why St. Paul went on to say, in a passage unfortunately excised from today’s reading, that they needed to examine themselves to make sure they were not eating and drinking condemnation on themselves. “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.” Notice that he was saying in context that we needed to examine not, for example, on sexual sins, or on murder, or gossip or on missing Mass; rather he was saying that we needed to examine ourselves on unity. If we, like the Corinthians, come to Mass not wanting unity with our brothers and sisters, we would be eating and drinking condemnation rather than salvation, the “Bread of Life,” as St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in his Lauda Sion Salvatorem, would become for us the “bread of death.” We need to “discern the body,” and this means not only humbly to reverence Christ’s Body in the Eucharist, but at the same time how Christ wants to make us through communion with Him one Body, one Spirit in him. St. Thomas wrote that the res (ultimate result) of the Sacrament of the Eucharist is not the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, but the transformation of us, by the power of the same Holy Spirit through Holy Communion, into one Body, one Spirit. If we come to Mass not seeking union with each other, if we’re not saying “Amen!” to the reality of Christ’s real presence and to what he wants to do in us, then we’re not receiving worthily. That’s why Jesus, for example, says that if we come to the altar and recognizing our brother has something against us first to reconcile and then to come, because if we harboring the lack of reconciliation, we’re not really open to what Jesus wants to do. And if he can heal a servant at a distance of a life-threatening illness, then he can heal us, too, of the grudges we may hold. That’s the means by which Jesus’ prayer during the Last Supper that we may be one as the Persons of the Blessed Trinity are one, can come to fruition.
  • As we turn to Mary today, the Mother of the Church, we recognize that she wants us to become the loving family Jesus died to form. She’s praying for us that we might respond to these graces so that our Masses may not do harm, but bring about the greatest good in the world, as we, becoming one with Christ, learn truly how to live in loving union with each other.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 1 COR 11:17-26, 33

Brothers and sisters:
In giving this instruction, I do not praise the fact
that your meetings are doing more harm than good.
First of all, I hear that when you meet as a Church
there are divisions among you,
and to a degree I believe it;
there have to be factions among you
in order that also those who are approved among you
may become known.
When you meet in one place, then,
it is not to eat the Lord’s supper,
for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper,
and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.
Do you not have houses in which you can eat and drink?
Or do you show contempt for the Church of God
and make those who have nothing feel ashamed?
What can I say to you? Shall I praise you?
In this matter I do not praise you.
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my Body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my Blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
when you come together to eat, wait for one another.

Responsorial Psalm PS 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 17

R. (1 Cor 11:26b) Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.
May all who seek you
exult and be glad in you
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, “The LORD be glorified.”
R. Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.

Alleluia JN 3:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 7:1-10

When Jesus had finished all his words to the people,
he entered Capernaum.
A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die,
and he was valuable to him.
When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him,
asking him to come and save the life of his slave.
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying,
“He deserves to have you do this for him,
for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”
And Jesus went with them,
but when he was only a short distance from the house,
the centurion sent friends to tell him,
“Lord, do not trouble yourself,
for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you;
but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him
and, turning, said to the crowd following him,
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
When the messengers returned to the house,
they found the slave in good health.