Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homily for the Closing of Forty Hours on Tuesday 11/15/2011 at St. Andrews in Waynesboro

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! My brothers and sister before I begin, once again I would like to thank you pastor Father Bateman for giving this opportunity to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. It is always a great joy for me to be with all of you who played an integral part of my formation as a priest. For that I will always be grateful! Thank you for your prayers and support and be assured of mine in return.

On Sunday night we mediated on the mystery of the Sacrifice of the Cross and on the mystery of the Sacrifice of the Eucharist. Every time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we should see the intimate connection between the two sacrifices as we look at the image of Christ crucified and the image of our Eucharistic Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist. We were also reminded that as we gather for these Eucharistic devotions we gaze upon our Eucharistic Lord we are gazing upon the one because He loves us so much who continues to offer Himself for our sake.

Then last night we talked about the Blessed Mother and her connection to the Most Holy Eucharist. Every time we celebrate the Most Holy Eucharist we are recalling His passion and death. We briefly mentioned the devotion of the way of the cross in which we are given the powerful encounter of the Blessed Mother and her Son Jesus as He was carrying the heavy wooden cross. Some of the most powerful encounters of the events of the Lord’s passion are characterized not by words but with silence. Quoting from Bishop Connelly as wrote in His column on the new translation, “Because silence amplifies the magnitude of what we are watching.” The Blessed Mother entered into the mystery of the Lord’s passion something you and I should do every time we come to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and here for Eucharistic adoration. One of the ways we do this is my learning the importance and meaning behind being silent, something we often tend to forget.

Finally tonight as we come to a close of our special time basking in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, I want to focus on the theme, “Receiving our Eucharistic Lord into our Hearts.” Yesterday I mentioned that as a Church not only do we have a crises in the understanding of what it means to be still in the presence of the Lord but more recently we are faced with a crises of belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. Most of us gathered here already has a belief that this is Jesus on our altar for that is what has been drawling us here each evening but that doesn’t mean we all have room to grow in our appreciation and understanding of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Tonight I want to talk about our physical reception of the Most Holy Eucharist. There is a normative way of receiving Holy Communion in the Church and that is reception of the tongue. Before I talk about the indult that allows for communion to be received in the hand, I want to focus on the great spiritual benefit of the traditional way of receiving communion in this manner. Again a year or two after being elected to lead the Catholic Church, His holiness Pope Benedict XVI invited people who received from him at papal Masses, to kneel and receive communion on the tongue. Primarily this was done to protect the Lord from ending up in places where He shouldn’t be such as eBay. While standing for communion is the norm here there is something to be said about the posture of kneeling. What does the posture signify? Kneeling signifies humility and let’s face it sometimes we all need to learn how to be more humble especially in today’s world.

The second action is the symbolism of receiving on the tongue. To illustrate what receiving on tongue signifies I want to ask how many of you have ever had the privilege of feeding a baby a bottle. If you have ever had that awesome experience, take a moment and think back to it. Then imagine yourself as the baby. A baby relies on us to feed him or her much like we relied on our parents to feed us. It’s a matter of trust. When individuals receive on the tongue it represents a willingness on the part of the communicant to trust the Lord to feed them. Combing the two postures they represent together an act of humility before the Lord and a willingness to trust Him to feed and nourish us.

Now I would like to say something about receiving communion in the hand. The posture of receiving communion in the hand is approved here in the United States and in various places throughout the world where conferences of bishops have asked for it. Memoriale Domine a document released in regards to the proper reception of Holy Communion had some concerns about allowing communion in the hand. The concern was about a loss of respect towards the Most Holy Eucharist and the loss of a belief in the real presence. Sadly in places around the world and even here at home this is what we are faced with today. The truth be told, there was a well-founded hope that allowing communion in the hand would help the faithful grow in their relationship with Christ. Unfortunately, in many places this never occurred. True story I once witnessed someone receive communion, step to the side where they preceded to throw the host in the air in order to catch it with their mouths. I have also seen many variations of receiving communion in the hand, I have seen some place the host in their mouth as if they were taking a pill, and then on other times I have had individuals take communion out of my hand. There is only one way we should receive communion in the hand and that is my placing one hand over the other making a throne for the Lord who is our true king and then proceed to place Him in our mouths reverently in front of the minister of communion.

I do not want to continue without saying that many people receive communion in the hand very reverently, however unfortunately we cannot deny at the same time that there are abuses that are taking place in our midst. Now Jesus did say, “take and eat,” and “take and drink” but this means so much more than a physical reception of communion. A deeper understanding of the Lord’s words should be understood as taking what we have received into our hearts into the world. God has given us a gift in the Most Holy Eucharist and it’s a gift that He wishes would be shared.

This evening we have been focusing more on externals. We must understand that externals are extremely important. Externals help convey an interior reality. In some cases where we have lost the external actions we have also seen the loss of interior belief. Take away the exterior posture slowly the interior reality begins to erode. What we say and do conveys what we truly believe. As a Church we have many externals. Take a close look at the Lord present in the monstrance. Many monstrances are very decorative. Also many of the vessels we use Mass are very elaborate and they should be for again what we say and do conveys what we as Catholics believe. Our Lord Jesus Christ using the common elements of bread and wine chose these common items to become the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation. Jesus chose a humble piece of bread to become the bread of life and what we see in the monstrance is that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is glorified in His humility.

Tonight I want to conclude by returning our focus to tonight’s theme “Receiving our Eucharistic Lord into our Hearts.” While we have focused a lot on the physical reception of Holy Communion we must always remember that receiving our Eucharistic Lord is much more than a physical reception but that it’s a true spiritual reception. We must ask ourselves are we receiving our Lord worthily into our hearts. Today we were given some food for thought in looking at the reasons and meaning behind what we do. Now as we come to the end of our time in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord for this evening may we humbly place ourselves at His feet and seek His help to help us grow in a deeper appreciation of the gift of His body, blood, soul and divinity contained in the Eucharist. Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!