Holy Communion and the Living Flame of Love

3.27.18  Tues.  Holy Week  (II)
Isaiah  49:  1 – 6
Gospel  of  John  13: 21 – 33, 36 – 38

When he had said this, †Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.  One of his disciples, the one whom †Jesus loved, was reclining at †Jesus’ side.  So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.  He leaned back against †Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?”  †Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel* after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot.  After he took the morsel, Satan entered him. So †Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.  Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, †Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor.  So he took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.        

     When he had left, †Jesus said,  “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once.  My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.  You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” †Jesus answered him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.”  Peter said to him, “Master, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”  †Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”         The Gospel of the Lord.


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy           Holy Communion and the Living Flame of Love

The day after tomorrow, we celebrate Holy Thursday.  As we heard in the Gospel, we remember the Last Supper.  We remember the other events of that night: the agony of †Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal, the arrest and trial of †Jesus, Peter’s denial of †Jesus in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house.  But there is also an important event that took place that night that we often overlook.

Holy Thursday is the day of the First Communion.  It was the First Communion of the apostles; after all it was the first Eucharist.  And even though †Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, and that Peter would deny Him, they both received His precious Body and Blood that night.  They received their First Communion.

Well, I don’t know how you felt on your First Communion, but I was feeling pretty good that day.   I remember that, I felt very, very special.  My parents made it very special for me that day.  (speaking to the students) Those of you who have received your First Communion in the last few years – did you feel special that day?  Yes, with your family and, maybe a party.  Yes, all of us felt special.

The Gospel according to John tells us: “After Judas took the morsel (after Judas received his First Holy Communion) Satan entered into him.” (Jn.13:27)  Judas left and †Jesus was the only one who knew where he was going – to the high priest’s house to set up the arrest of †Jesus later that night.  The heart of Judas was already being directed by the evildoer.  Now, wait a minute – he had just received his First Holy Communion.  Didn’t that change him?  You would think it would.  But what happened to Judas over the next few hours can happen to us.

Peter also received his First Holy Communion, and Peter boldly and confidently declared his loyalty to †Jesus, boasting how he would lay down his life for †Jesus.   Peter received the Lord in Holy Communion.  He was feeling spiritual consolation; he was feeling pretty good that night.  So how could he fall so easily just a few hours later?

It is something that St. John of the Cross described in “The Living Flame of Love”.   He writes that, when we are spiritually rich, and in the midst of consolation, we can feel grandiose and puffed up.  And depending on the degree of our spiritual maturity, the effects of this can vary greatly.  When we lack a deep spiritual maturity – the effect of this excited spirit of receiving grace from the Lord – it can lead us toward sin.  We become self-centered, conceited, and blind to temptation and


Satan can enter into our hearts.  The night of the Last Supper it wasn’t just Judas that Satan entered into; later that evening he entered into Peter – which caused Peter to deny †Jesus.  So – Satan was at work.

What happens reveals a faith that is not pure, a faith that wants to preserve a false consolation, and even self-protection.  We are feeling so good – we want to keep that feeling and so we do what we have to – and sometimes that leads us into sin.  We wouldn’t commit sin unless it was fun – unless we felt good; so we want to continue that feeling, so many times, when we feel spiritual consolation – that’s the time we are led into temptation.

At the Last Supper after receiving Communion, Peter felt himself to be invincible and he boasted of his loyalty to †Jesus – that he would protect †Jesus.  But later, the danger of being revealed as a disciple of †Jesus and possibly being arrested himself, Peter chose ‘self-preservation’ and he denied knowing †Jesus.  When we are still spiritually immature – our intentions to follow †Jesus unreservedly – are less than pure.  When a person has achieved a deeper level of maturity – what St. John of the Cross calls: “The living flame experience” – the inflow of the Spirit will purify us, and it will not trigger habitual temptations that will lead us into sin.  If we are spiritually mature, if we are praying every day, if we are close to the Lord, if we are alert to those triggers they will not lead us into into sin.  Most of us, if not all of us here – have experienced what Peter did.  I have experienced that.  We receive the sacraments, felt the Holy Spirit within us, but then we turned in on our self – we felt grandiose, we felt pride rather than humility.

The sacramental grace of Holy Communion often does not last long for the spiritually immature.  For some it seems to disappear just a few blocks from the Church.  You see – Peter’s story really is our story.  We can be more immature spiritually, than mature – at times.  The evildoer can twist virtue and turn it into vice – turn affection for †Jesus into complacency, turn a desire for martyrdom into self-preservation – as it did for Peter.  †Jesus had the same temptations that we have.  He was fully human.  In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed to have the Chalice of Suffering taken away from Him.  But †Jesus held fast to His mission because spiritually – He was mature.  He remained focused on the Father and on His trust in the Father’s will for Him.  He was firmly convicted in His obedience to the Father.

Like †Jesus, we must not be afraid to hold on to the cross; we must not fear the inconveniences or suffering that can sometimes come from being kind, generous, compassionate and loving.  Driving home from Church today – you might say a prayer for that person who cuts you off or drives far too slowly and don’t call them a name.  When someone hurts you, pray for God’s grace to heal their heart.  That’s what the spiritually mature do – you see.  They pray for those who hurt them or who inconvenience them.  How blessed are we today to receive the Body and Blood of †Jesus, to receive †Jesus – soul and divinity – into our unworthy dwelling place.  So what we’re called to do is to hold on to that ‘Living Flame of †Jesus’ and not allow it to be extinguished by sin, by becoming over confident.  We need it to preserve the consolation.

St. Augustine gives us some advice on how to preserve the Eucharistic presence of †Jesus that we receive.  He writes: “Your first task is to be dissatisfied with yourself, fight sin, and transform yourself into something better.  Your second task is to put up with the trials and temptations of this world that will be brought on by the change in your life and to persevere to the very end in the midst of these things”. (St. Augustine of Hippo; excerpt from Commentary on Psalm 95.5)

    In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.