daily biblical sermons


THE EUCHARIST MAKES PRESENT CHRIST'S ONE UNREPEATABLE SACRIFICE THAT ATONES FOR OUR SINS
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, 24th Week of the Year, September 17, 2018
1 Corinthians 11:17-26, 33, Psalm 39, Luke 7:1-10


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which 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'" (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).


This is St. Paul's account of the institution of the Eucharist. It seems that in Corinth, at least in St. Paul's day, the Eucharist was joined together with a community meal in a private home. St. Paul does not seem to be in favor of this practice. He criticizes them for the disorder of this community meal. Some bring much fine food and wine and eat well and some even get drunk, while the poorer members have little quality food and go hungry.


"In eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not" (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).


This community meal was soon done away with, and people simply came together to celebrate the Eucharist. At some point, early on, even the hour was changed from the hour of the evening meal to the morning, and all that was eaten and drunk was a small piece of bread and a sip of wine, transformed into Christ's body and blood. In this way the Eucharist could be offered in a dignified manner with great solemnity as a religious sacrifice, a memorial and proclamation of Jesus Christ's sacrifice of himself on the cross for the salvation of the world.


In celebrating the Eucharist we remember Christ, and we especially remember and proclaim his saving death, as St. Paul says:


"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26).


In celebrating the Eucharist, we do what Christ did at the Last Supper. The priest takes bread and says over it, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 11:24). Then he takes a cup of wine and says over it, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 11:25). We do this to remember Jesus and to proclaim his saving death.


At the Last Supper Jesus says:


"‘This is my body which is given for you (hyper hymon). Do this in remembrance of me.' And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you (hyper hymon) is the new covenant in my blood'" (Luke 22:19-20).


The consecrated bread and wine is not given "to you," but "for you" (hyper hymon), that is, his body and blood is offered to the Father in sacrifice "for you." This "for you" is sacrificial language. A sacrifice is being offered to God for us, for our sake.


This is even clearer in St. Matthew's gospel. Over the cup of wine Jesus says:


"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28).


Christ is offering his blood in sacrifice to the Father for the sake of the forgiveness of our sins.


In other words, Christ death is a sin offering, a sacrifice offered to God to obtain the forgiveness of our sins, just as the Jews killed an animal for the forgiveness of their sins. The animal is their representative and substitute before God and is being punished in place of the sinner for his sins; and since the sinner's punishment has been suffered for his sins for him in this vicarious way by the animal, atonement is made, and God forgives his sins.


It is not that an animal has the power to make reparation for our sins, but the animal was a type or symbol of Christ's future sacrifice that will have the power to make just reparation for our sins.


So God forgave Old Testament sins in an anticipatory way, because of the future sacrifice of the Son of God, when they offered their animal sacrifices that symbolized Christ's future sacrifice. But only Christ's sacrifice has the power to actually atone for our sins by making just reparation for them.


The amazing thing is that Christ's sacrifice on Calvary is represented or re-presented, or actually made present in the celebration of the Eucharist. At the Last Supper Christ actually transformed bread and wine into his body and blood and then and there at that very supper he offered them in sacrifice to his heavenly Father to pay our debt of punishment that we have with God for our sins, even though the sacrifice that wins our redemption won't actually be offered until the following day.


Then, after his Resurrection, every time his disciples offer the Eucharistic sacrifice, they offer to the Father, with Christ, in the Holy Spirit, Christ's sacrifice of himself to atone for our sins by making reparation for them. Thus the one unrepeatable and finished sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is made present for our salvation every time we offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass or Eucharist is a sacrifice precisely because it makes present the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for our salvation.


After offering this sacrifice, we do what the Jews often did at some of their sacrifices. We have a communion banquet by eating the flesh of the victim that was offered. In this case, we eat Christ's sacrificed flesh and blood in the form of bread and wine for the life of our spirit.


Then St. Paul tells us:


"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. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).


If we are living in a constant state of publicly proclaimed grave sin, such as adultery, fornication, or a homosexual sexual relationship, we are public sinners and are unworthy to receive Holy Communion. To be allowed to receive Holy Communion, we must genuinely repent of our gravely sinful way of life, stop sinning, and have a firm purpose of immediately amending our life. Then we can be forgiven by the merits of Christ's death on the cross, which make full reparation for all who believe in him and genuinely repent of and abandon their sin.


This forgiveness takes place within the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:22-23), where we confess our sin and where the priest then administers to us Christ's forgiveness, won for us on the cross, where he suffered our just punishment for our sins for all who genuinely repent and believe in him.


False moral theories that teach that God in his mercy calls some people to live in a constant state of grave sin, because he sees that it would be too difficult for them to keep his biblically revealed moral law in their complex life situation, must be rejected as contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture. If one receives Holy Communion when living in an adulterous relationship or in a publicly proclaimed homosexual sexual relationship (a same-sex "marriage"), he profanes the body and blood of the Lord and "drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Corinthians 11:29).


"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. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).


No amount of accompaniment or discernment will change this fact. The true purpose of accompaniment and discernment is to help a person decide to rectify his life by genuinely repenting of his sin (stop sinning) and by bringing his life into accord with God's biblically revealed moral law that forbids adulterous (Mark 10:11-12) and homosexual (Romans 1:22-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) sexual relationships and cohabitation without marriage.


Accompaniment and discernment is not to help a person rationalize his sin away and convince him that he can keep on living in a state of constant grave sin and still be a Christian in good standing, welcome to regularly receive Holy Communion. Such a use of accompaniment and discernment is clearly contrary to biblical revelation and should be rejected by faithful Christians and Catholics everywhere.

 

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