Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Eucharist keeps us in the love of Christ (Sunday homily)

Inasmuch as I was traveling Thursday to Saturday, I never wrote down a homily. Instead I developed a mental outline and built on that. What follows is my reconstruction of things I said at Holy Mass at least once this weekend (i.e., I didn't always make all these points).

I began with the second reading from Saint Paul, who posed the question, what can separate us from the love of Christ? And I pointed out that there is one thing which Paul notably does not include in his list: you! (Me!) We can separate ourselves from the love of Christ!

Of course, being at Holy Mass, we don't want to be separated; we come because we seek to be in the love of Christ -- why else would we come to Mass? We are the people Isaiah was speaking to: "you who are thirsty"; we are thirsty for the Lord. Good news! We will have our thirst quenched! This prophecy is fulfilled at Holy Mass!

But to the question again: what will keep us in the love of Christ? That brings us to the Gospel.

Here I provided exegesis on the Gospel. I argued that this episode is primarily a lesson for the apostles. The Lord is preparing them for their role to come, after his ascension. At one Mass, I pointed out that our Lord never wrote anything; instead, he "wrote" his word in the Apostles; they would be the keepers of his treasure, like the baskets of bread they received.

And I pointed out something Father Tom Grilliot, of happy memory, used to say when I was with him in Piqua: notice in Scripture how the apostles' answer to people crowding in is, "send them away!" I cited a story I saw of a church that started a soup kitchen; but then so many people came, and it bothered them to have so many poor people around, that to solve the problem, the closed the soup kitchen!

But our Lord says, no, you give them something to eat. The Apostles will be the ones to give God's People the Eucharist and the word of the Lord.

The passage seems to suggest -- without saying it explicitly -- that the miracle of multiplication took place in the apostles' hands; since it says the Jesus gave the loaves and fish to them, and then they gave it to the people. If so, this is like what happens to me, as a priest, at the altar: in my hands ordinary bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of the Lord! Since this would happen in the apostles' hands, it makes sense if it happened this way. And then, of course, they would be able to witness the miracle, and learn from this as they saw their own hands!

And to make the point even stronger, they gathered up the fragments: 12 baskets; 12 apostles. Not an accident! Can you imagine them carrying these baskets with them the rest of the day; overnight; the next day? This would likely be their next several meals. Imagine what they thought about!

Something else occurred to me after last night's Mass: the words in this Gospel are repeated, almost verbatim, in the Eucharistic Prayer; I invited people to listen for them: "took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples..." Except there is one thing added, that Jesus did not say, until the Last Supper: "This is my body"! It's as if he wanted them to connect it all. This episode anticipates the Cross, and then the Mass; our Mass does the same, as it were, in reverse.

So back to Paul's question: this -- the Holy Mass -- is what keeps us in Christ.

Now, if we are here and we want to have a greater hunger for the Mass, then ask. I told the story of how, in considering whether to enter the seminary, I realized I needed to start attending daily Mass; but I'd always failed to follow through on that intention before. So I prayed for the desire, and it worked! We can do the same, regarding either daily Mass, or a holy hour, or some other way we want to thirst and hunger for the Eucharist even more.

And I talked about what we do if we do get separated by sin -- go to confession. Each Mass I think I added more on this, talking about how silly it is that we think, oh, I won't go to confession until I'm worthy; totally wrong, like saying, I won't take a shower till I'm clean again! And I talked about the value of frequent confession, even if we don't have mortal sins. Sure, we can wait to take a shower till we're really good and dirty, but folks will appreciate us more if we don't wait! And frequent showers don't take as long!

I also talked about what the priest thinks. Here's what I think, I told them: (1) I'm glad someone came today! I get to give absolution, one of the best things I get to do! Spiderman sometimes runs out of webs, but my hand never "runs out" of absolution! It's free! Come and get you some! (2) I think about how courageous and admirable people are, coming to confess their sins. (3) I am humbled to hear, often, my own sins confessed to me! I think about my own sins, and that I need to be on the other side, confessing. I am strengthened by your good example and reminded to go to confession frequently myself.

And I invited people to realize how blessed we are to have so many Masses: four for Sunday (including the vigil), and at least one every day. In many places in central and South America, people have Mass only every four to six weeks; in the Middle East, they are too preoccupied just with fleeing those trying to kill them. I recalled the "priest holes" of Elizabethan England, and the origin of the candle in the window on Christmas Eve, in Ireland, as a secret sign to persecuted priests, to come inside for safety -- and, perhaps, the family might have Holy Mass for Christmas!

Finally, I encouraged folks to think about those who need to hunger for the Eucharist, who need to be at Mass. That is our task, to bring them, beginning in our prayers and sacrifices. And I invited everyone to include the names of people we wish were here, when we made our communion (or spiritual communion).

I don't recall just how I ended, but that's the gist of it. I talked a bit too long at the last Mass. (Which is why I usually have a text!)

If you were at Mass, and I omitted something here, feel free to mention it in the comments. For that matter, offer any comments whatsoever, whether you were there, or not!

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Father Fox, I'm sure your blog helps keep many people closer to Christ. :)