The greatest miracle

Spending All Saints Day at home to avoid the mad rush at the cemetery caused me to reflect on how we could remember our dead more meaningfully. My reflection led me to recall my Catechism which says that taking part in a liturgical ceremony makes me united with the whole church which is what the "Communion of Saints" is all about. Hence I thought that hearing Mass was a better way to celebrate the occasion because to Catholics, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most powerful public, social and liturgical worship given by the Church of God, more powerful than the prayers of single individuals or associations.

Mass goers surely realize that the celebration of the Holy Mass requires the involvement of both the priest and the people. The involvement of the people however depends largely on the priest. The people of God pray with the lips and speak and act through the priest. But apart from being the "spokesman" of the people, the more important role of the priest is to inspire and arouse in them a strong and abiding faith so that they can absorb and understand more clearly the profound and sacred truths contained in the Holy Mass.

First of these sacred truths is that during the Mass, Christ actually speaks to His people through the priest as His Minister, the "Alter Christus". The priest becomes the medium of Christ in making His Gospel message known. This is a tremendous responsibility that calls for a serious and thorough preparation of the homily on the part of the priest. His homily must tell the people about the Word of God in a simple, easy to understand, straightforward and positive manner as to enable them to apply it to their daily lives and present situation. The people must see Christ in the priest as he delivers his homily because in the Mass, he becomes the other Christ. If the people do not form such an image of the priest, then their faith remains hollow and superficial; and to them, the Mass will just be another ordinary human ritual with fixed formulas.

Another more profound and crucial truth calling for intense and deep-rooted faith is the miracle that happens during the mass – the miracle we witness every time we attend Mass making it the most important event of any day in our life. This is the miracle of the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ during the consecration. Perhaps, we have been constantly looking for miracles without realizing that everyday, the greatest miracle happens in the churches all over the world during the mass – the miracle of Transubstantiation. Indeed this miracle has been described as a "work greater than the creation of the universe" and it is accomplished with the cooperation of the priest. Here the priest "no longer uses his own words but utters the word of Christ". He says during the consecration, "This is My body, This is My Blood" in reenactment of the Last Supper when Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist. He does not say "This is the Body of Christ, This is the Blood of Christ". So the priest undoubtedly has an awesome role to enkindle deep in the hearts of the people the true presence of Christ in the consecrated bread of life. He must have that spiritual credibility so that the Mass he celebrates with the people will have a deep impact on their faith in the sacred and profound truths contained therein.

To be sure, these truths dawned on me mainly because of the Holy Masses I have attended where some priests have truly created a deeper impact on my faith. My spiritual directors Monsignor Joseph Duran, The Regional Vicar of Opus Dei, and Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD, also provide lots of spiritual insights. In the UP Parish of the Holy Sacrifice another priest, Fr. Joel R. Eslabra, has similarly been inspiring a lot of church goers with the childlike simplicity and down-to-earth messages of his homilies. Remarkably, he uses stories of children to plumb the profundity of the sacred and mystical truths of the Church as to make them easily understood. He always connects the Gospel messages to present day experiences and to the world as seen through the eyes of children. Their spiritual effect on the people is so noticeable. Fr. Joel explains his approach, thus: "I was staring at a child one day and upon me dawned an honest question" Why can’t I find anything bad in them? Everything with children seems alright. With their candidness and innate artlessness, it is difficult to pass judgment on what they do or say. There is so much goodness that emanates from the core of their being that will lead us to transcend their peculiarities and discover a collective character that exudes warmth and love."

These stories of children used by Fr. Joel R. Eslabra in his homilies are now published in a book entitled The Child, The Wishes and The Wonder. If you want "to become like little children and enter the kingdom of God" and perhaps have a more meaningful Christmas, this is one book you should not miss reading. Copies are available at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice in UP.
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