Sunday, August 18, 2019

Jesus in the Eucharist, in the migrant: it's a package deal (Sunday homily)

There were a couple of things in the news recently we can talk about.

First item: a study was conducted recently by Pew Research Center, 
that reached a shocking conclusion about us Catholics 
and the weakness of our faith – specifically, in the Holy Eucharist.

Their study found that most Catholics in this country – almost 70% – 
Are either ignorant of, or actually reject, 
What our Faith has always taught about the Eucharist!
And among those who attend Mass every week?
The figure is 37%: almost four out of ten do not believe!

The second item is the ongoing problems with immigration.
Archbishop Dennis Schnurr sent a letter out, 
which is included in today’s bulletin for you to read. 
He asked me at least to share a portion of that letter with you. 
Here’s an exerpt:

As our country devolves into an increasingly polarized culture,
migrants are God’s gift to remind us that we are one body in Christ….
Our own salvation…is steeped in our hearts’ desires
to unify humanity in God’s love.

And, among other tests in our daily lives,
this is being measured by our willingness to respond
to the extreme needs of those coming to our nation’s doorstep,
like Lazarus crawling to the rich man’s house
and like the Holy Family seeking shelter from Herod’s persecution.

In every migrant seeking freedom from persecution,
can we imagine ourselves in their footsteps?
Can we see in them the face of Christ?
For these reasons, I reaffirm our call to all Catholics
and people of goodwill to take action.

I encourage us again to tell the Administration and Congress
to prioritize the lives and dignities of migrants
and to restore order to our broken immigration system.

Now, to tie this together, let me quote a passage 
from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily
will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.
A person should examine himself,
and so eat the bread and drink the cup.
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body,
eats and drinks judgment on himself.
That is why many among you are ill and infirm,
and a considerable number are dying.

Notice in particular what Paul said: “without discerning the body.”
What does this mean?

For one, it means discerning the true Body and Blood 
of Jesus in the Eucharist.
What that survey found was that people think Holy Communion 
is only a symbol of Jesus.
Just a reminder. Kind of like a photograph of a loved one.

My reaction? I’m shocked – but I am not surprised.
For the last forty years or more, our Catholic Tradition 
has been treated very shabbily by too many bishops and priests. 

You know what I’m talking about: our churches were to be “renovated”;
A better term is “wreckovated”: altars and statues smashed.
Much of this has been slowly repaired, but you can still visit churches 
that look more like a spaceship out of Star Wars than a house of God.
And where’s the tabernacle, where Jesus dwells? Hidden away!

This madness came to our seminary. When I was there, 
someone spent thousands of dollars to build and place a wall, 
a beautiful, carved wooden wall, right in front of the tabernacle.
Of course you ask, why did they do that? 
The folks at the seminary claimed seminarians would be “distracted” 
by the tabernacle; it would confuse them!

Now, good news – that barrier is gone. Sanity has returned,
As it has in many parishes. But the damage was done.

And it wasn’t just damage to churches;
The Mass itself has been treated with such grave disrespect, and frequently still is.

Father Amberger before me sought to restore reverence, 
and I have tried to carry that further. 
So many parishioners appreciate it;
Yet there are those who wonder why the “St. Remy way” 
is notably different from many other places;
and sometimes people will wonder, 
if the things we emphasize here are going too far?

Just so you know: Father Amberger and I haven’t done anything contrary 
to the norms or to our Tradition.
Rather, here’s what he – and I – have been doing.

As much as possible, we are celebrating the Holy Mass 
in continuity with our ancient tradition, rather than reinventing it.
And, that also means not settling for the minimum, week after week.

Here’s what happens in so many places, still.
The parish priest will meet with staff members, maybe some parishioners, 
and they’ll say, Oh, Lent is coming, or it’s Pentecost; 
what can we do to freshen up Sunday Mass – if they even call it “Mass.”
There’s a well known “expert” who calls it, “the Sunday Experience.”

Week in and week out, these good folks aim to reinvent Mass, 
so it’s “relevant” and “meaningful.” 
This week, they’ll have balloons tied to all the pews;
Another week, it will be children standing around the altar.

In one parish, I had a good soul – she truly meant well – 
who suggested we have young people holding up cards 
with the words of the responsorial psalm, 
sort of the way cheerleaders do at a basketball game.

Because this has gone on so long, this is “normal” for lots of people,
And when a priest tries to straighten things out, he faces a buzz-saw.
Then someone will say, what’s the big deal? At least folks are coming?

Well, the big deal is that over time, drip-drip-drip,
we have destroyed the faith of so many Catholics! 
As cited above: most Catholics in this country think Holy Communion 
is only a symbol – not truly and really Jesus’ Body and Blood.

Let me take this moment to say: 
I cannot make anyone receive the Holy Eucharist on your tongue. 
I cannot make you; but I strongly want to encourage you.

People mean well; no one really intends to be irreverent;
But time won’t allow me to describe for you 
how very often I see someone receiving in the hand – 
here at St. Remy – with tremendous casualness, 
as if I were handing you change for a dollar.

Communion on the tongue fosters reverence; 
of course, as St. Paul said, the primary reverence is to examine our conscience,
And only receive the Body and Blood of Jesus
if we are in a state of grace; and that means,
we aren’t conscious of a mortal sin we need to bring to confession.

Now, someone might say all this is over-the-top, 
and what we really need to focus on is justice and compassion 
and how we treat those who have less than us.

And now I’m going to go back to what St. Paul said, 
and what the Archbishop said:
Do we recognize Christ? In the Eucharist? Or in the migrant?

Do you realize what the whole point of Jesus’ 
being truly, really and substantially present in the Eucharist is?
Why this is SO important – in fact, central – to our Faith?

Because it means Jesus is REALLY here; REALLY with us.
Not a symbol. Not a photograph or a memory. HE’S REALLY HERE!
That’s why we genuflect, if we can;
Because our King, our Lord, mighty God, in human flesh,
Comes among us in the Holy Mass, in the Most Holy Eucharist!

Also, the Eucharist is also about what you and I become.
St. Augustine said: “Become what you receive.”
Are you and I going to become bread or wine? Ridiculous!
A “symbol” or reminder of Jesus? NO!

You and I are becoming Jesus – his Body and Blood.

This is the “fire” that Jesus has set that will transform everything.
And the thing is, if we lose this, then don’t think for a moment 
that we’ll still hold on to justice and compassion.
If we lose sight of Jesus in the Eucharist,
I guarantee we’ll lose sight of him everywhere else, too.
It’s all a package deal.