Holy Thursday Sermon

Holy Thursday – Tucson – 2020
Desire: the Key to fruitful Holy Communions and Holiness

“As the hart desire th after the fountains of water; so my soul panteth after thee, O God.”  
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My Dear Faithful,
Physical health is sometimes judged by hunger.  The “Loss of appetite” can sometimes be an indication of sickness as the body is too concerned with fighting off the disease that it’s not as focused on consuming food.  Yet, of course, they must still eat.  
Many times we never realize how good we had it, until something is taken away.  For example, we take for granted our health until we’re sick. Or, we take for granted the car, until we have to walk.  
Our spiritual life is much the same way – if we’re not hungering for God, it is an indication that we have contracted a spiritual disease and unless our desire for God is restored, we will not be able to regain spiritual health.
In this current lock down, many souls have realized that they may have taken for granted the ease of the possibility of coming to daily Mass, the ease of the possibility of coming to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion and the other Sacraments.  Many times we fail to appreciate proper value of an object until it is no longer there.  This lack of appreciation is related to a lack of gratitude – we fail to truly see how indebted we are to the numerous gifts of God’s Heavenly blessings.  Today, I want to help you restore gratitude to God by helping you increase in your desire for the Holy Eucharist.  The word “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving” and today we are celebrating the feast of the institution of the Eucharist, and the institution of the priesthood which brings us the Sacraments.  
“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you.  He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.”  St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that there are 2 things to be considered in the Holy Eucharist: the first, the Sacrament itself – the Body and Blood of Our Lord, and secondly – the fruits of the Sacrament, which is union with Christ through Grace.  Further, there are two ways of receiving the Eucharist: one, Sacramentally – in which we receive both the Sacrament itself and the effect of the Sacrament (the fruit the Sacrament which is God’s Grace).  The second way to receive the Holy Eucharist is spiritually – in which we cannot receive the Sacrament Itself, but we receive “the effect of this sacrament, whereby a man is spiritually united with Christ through faith and charity.”  In this second way of reception of the Eucharist that we call a Spiritual Communion, we do receive the effect of the Eucharist which is grace because of our “desire or yearning for receiving this sacrament.” Thus, the Spiritual Communion has us make an act of Faith and an act of Charity.
Sometimes, we become more aware of a thing’s true importance once it is removed from us.  Thus, may this current shelter-in-place is a means for us to be aroused from not appreciating fully the Holy Eucharist.  And we should have the greatest appreciation for this Sacrament because it is necessary for our salvation.  1) It is with much reason that you are frequently hearing about Spiritual Communions, especially recently during this pandemic, because St. Thomas Aquinas says that unless we have this desire to receive the Eucharist, we cannot be saved.  That we cannot be saved without the desire to receive the Eucharist is clear from these words of Our Lord: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you.”  The Angelic Doctor comments that we can receive the grace of the sacrament “through the very desire of receiving the sacrament.”  Look at infant baptism - Children are baptized “through the Church’s faith” and so they desire the Eucharist “through the Church’s intention, and as a result receive” the spiritual effect of the Eucharist.  But we adults, must make our own desire of intention to receive the Sacrament and thus we must nourish this desire of the Sacraments so that we receive the spiritual reality of the Sacrament which is God’s Grace.  
Neither I, nor St. Thomas Aquinas have any intention of belittling the sacramental reception of the Sacraments: the sacramental reception is of greater avail because the “actual receiving of the sacrament produces more fully the effect of the sacrament than does [just] the desire” of the Sacrament.  When doubting the value of her spiritual communions, St. Catharine of Siena had a vision in which Our Lord was holding a golden chalice and a silver chalice.  He said: “In this golden chalice I put your sacramental communions. In this silver chalice I put your spiritual communions. Both chalices are quite pleasing to me.”
2) Secondly, reception of the Eucharist is necessary because Our Lord said: “Do this in memory of Me.” “Out of sight, out of mind” – if God is to be our supreme love, we have to make an effort daily, hourly, continuously to put Him at the center of our thoughts and desires, at the center of our heart.  Thus, we also want to keep the desire of Communion burning in us as the Eucharist is the memorial of the greatest act of love, Our Lord delivering Himself on the cross to redeem us.  As the cross was the throne of God’s Love, so we ardently desire to receive the fruit of the Cross, which is the Eucharist.  
3) The reception of the Eucharist is also of necessity because by Church precept, we must Sacramentally receive the Eucharist in the Easter season.  This Church precept is to stimulate the strict minimum that we need to do for the love of God.   
I would really like to drive home the point of “desire” because in a very direct way, our salvation and the degree of our holiness are dependent on how strong our desire is.
Desire as “foundation”: The desire of receiving Our Lord and to be united to Him is the foundation of every good reception of Holy Communion, either spiritually or sacramentally.  If we do not desire to receive Our Lord, it is impossible to make a Spiritual Communion.  If we do not desire to receive Our Lord in receiving a Sacramental Communion, then our reception could contain contempt of the Blessed Sacrament or worse. The desire of receiving the grace of the Sacrament is the foundation of each Sacrament.  Before receiving the Sacraments, we take due diligence to prepare our minds, our hearts, our will, our thoughts and attention so that we are well instructed, prepared, and ready to receive the grace that the Sacrament can bring.  The better prepared we are, the more attentive we are, the greater our desire, the greater the Grace that we receive.  
Mortal Sin 2) One point often overlooked, is that to be united to Our Lord, which is the effect of Holy Communion, we must also be free from mortal sin.  Mortal sin is the obstacle that prevents us from partaking of the fruit of the Eucharist which is Grace.  Thus, someone in mortal sin cannot even make a Spiritual Communion without first making at least an Act of Perfect Contrition with the implicit desire to confess as soon as possible.  
-Another point to make – often we begin a festive meal with an appetizer.  It gets our appetite going.  As a spiritual appetizer, begin by praying to Our Blessed Mother, who was the first to receive the Body of Christ in her Immaculate Heart and in her Immaculate Body.  Another spiritual appetizer is to think of the vices and sins that we need to overcome and the spiritual nourishment that we need for our spiritual exercises.  Read the prayers of the Saints composed to prepare ourselves for Communion.  Make an act of Faith, Hope, Charity, and Contrition.  Also, we can increase our “desire” of the Eucharist by actually receiving the Eucharist or making Spiritual Communions.  St. Augustine says of the Eucharist when commenting on the Our Father: “This is our daily bread; take it daily, that it may profit thee daily.”  To grow in our spiritual life, which means to grow closer to Our Lord in our degree of charity, we need spiritual nourishment.  Thus, every day, we must nourish our souls with the Sacramental reception of the Holy Eucharist or by making a Spiritual Communion.  The Eucharist is our daily spiritual bread.
This desire for the Eucharist is the key for our spiritual life. We can define desire as the longing of the will toward the good that is not yet possessed inorder to attain happiness.  God, our final end, has provided His Church with all that is necessary for our salvation. Only the Beatific Vision will bring us perfect happiness and thus we should have the greatest desire for the means of salvation which the Church provides.  The Sacraments are the ordinary means of Salvation, and the Eucharist is not only a Sacrament and a Divine Sacrifice but a Divine Person, which we call the Most Blessed Sacrament.  Thus we should have the greatest desire for this Sacrament, to both receive and be united to Christ our final end, to help strengthen us in His Divine Love, to help us overcome sin and imperfections, and to nourish us on our path to our final end.  The greater the faith and hope we have, the greater our desire for God should be, and thus the greater the charity.  
And lastly, after having made a good Spiritual Communion with an ardent desire of love for God, do not forget to show Him deep gratitude in making a good thanksgiving, in frequently conversing with Him in prayer, and by living your life with the desire to keep Him always with you.
My Dear Faithful, today Our Lord told His Apostles: “With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer.” Seeing the great love of Our Lord to institute the Sacrament of Divine Love today, may our desire for Christ and His grace grew deeply in us as we are nourished on our spiritual daily bread by both our Sacramental and Spiritual Communions.  “As the hart desireth after the fountains of water” may our sous thirst with great desire for our Lord as the “Living Water” for Eternal Life.  Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.