The Host

(Homily for Good Friday)

In English we use the word “host” in two different senses. Most commonly it refers to a man who entertains guests in his own home or at his own expense. And, though the etymology is different, we use the same word for a sacrificial victim. These two meanings come together on Good Friday. C.S. Lewis wrote:

"God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly, superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing--or should we say 'seeing'? there are no tenses in God--the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath's sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a 'host' who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and 'take advantage of' Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves."

C.S. Lewis’ comparison of us to parasites is hardly flattering – but it communicates an inescapable truth. We depend on Jesus so totally that apart from him we can only shrivel up. Some do.

Jesus is the host. You and I are the guest. The guest-host relationship pervades nature. In many cases, the host benefits. Consider those little birds who remove bugs from a hippo’s back – or the millions of tiny creatures who help keep our digestion in proper balance. In other instances the guest weakens or evens devours his host. Regarding Jesus, we can neither harm nor benefit his divinity* – yet, by a marvelous grace, he allows us to become part of his very body.

As host Jesus offers himself - the perfect sacrificial victim. That is what we commemorate in the Good Friday liturgy. After completing the ten great intercessory prayers, I will lift up the cross for you to venerate. Then we will conclude by saying the Our Father and receiving Communion.

I am not enough of an etymologist to know if it is yet another linguistic coincidence that we call Communion the host. But the fact is that we not so much receive him as he receives us. He is the perfect Host.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee tells about taking Communion each Friday to a man in his fifties who was completely paralyzed. On one visit, he noticed that the man always had his bed raised to a precise point. After giving Communion, he saw that the man's eyes were focused directly on the crucifix. What an example for us - to keep our vision fixed on Jesus crucified!

*Creation does not add to God but rather subtracts from God.

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This year on Oct 19, Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be beatified. In her case the Holy Father waived the customary five year waiting period. However, even in these three and half years we have learned surprising things about her. We know her as a woman of great hope and joy – and so she was – but in the final decades of her life she experienced feelings of doubt, loneliness and abandonment. God seemed absent, heaven empty and worst of all her own suffering seemed to count for nothing. In a letter to her spiritual director, she confided, “just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.”

I have not experience suffering like that – and I pray I never do. But great saints often did. They refer to it as the “Dark Night.” Of all men, Jesus experienced it most profoundly, crying out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me.” In that moment Jesus took upon himself the anguish of all.

Jesus alone saw sin for what it really is. You and I only get occasional glimpses. Fr. Groeschel who is a Capuchin friar in New York tells about 36 of his Capuchin brothers in Spain. They had their wrists manacled and were led to the fifth story of a building. One by one there were thrown from the window. It is hard to imagine such cruelty – yet you and I have committed small acts and are capable of larger ones. Our sins have put Jesus on the cross.

C.S. Lewis gives a realistic description of the crucifixion...

The comparison of us to parasites is hardly flattering. Once my mom, my brother and I watched one of those nature programs which featured eyebrow mites. Evidently all of us have them and there isn't much you can do about them. (Still, we scratched our eyebrows whenever we thought about them.) They do no great harm, but are horrible looking under a microscope. You and I - in relationship to Christ - are like those tiny creatures. On him we depend for our existence and sustenance.

By his sacrificial death, Jesus gives us our sustenance - forgiveness, healing, hope, humility. Out of suffering comes transformation, renewal. Catholic in Spain suffered greatly, but it resulted in one of the world’s most vibrant churches. When I was a missionary in Peru, I got to know missionaries from Spain – and was often amazed by their self-sacrifice.

Unfortunately Spain, like our own society, has grown soft, self-indulgent. Nevertheless, God does send us great saints, like Mother Teresa, to show us that even today heroism is possible. If, like her, we bear whatever suffering God sends us, it has a transforming power.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan tells about...

Shortly - after completing the ten solemn intercessory prayers - we will be invited to venerate the cross on which hung the Savior of the world.

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Versión Castellana

From Archives:

2011 Good Friday Homily: Suffering Is Everything
2010: Do Not Waste Your Suffering
2009: He Learned Obedience
2008: According to Your Word
2007: He Took Our Suffering to Himself
2006: The Hour of Divine Mercy
2005: The Conversion of Barabbas
2004: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
2003: The Host
2002: Testimony of Bishop Dolli
2001: Blood From His Side
2000: Vicarious Suffering
1999: Old Testament Fulfilled
1998: He took our place

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Divine Mercy Novena (print ready in English & Spanish) Bulletin (Fall of Saddam, Parish Budget, Holy Week)

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New Encyclical on the Eucharist

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Reasons Young People Leave Their Faith - Presentation for Monroe Christian Pastors. (For pdf format click here)

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