One value of today’s feast is to help us
avoid taking the gift of Jesus’ Body and Blood for granted.
When someone grows up in a family with lots of advantages –
when you and I grow up in a country with so many advantages –
there’s a danger of not realizing how different life
is without all those blessings.
We Catholics have such riches in our Faith, in the saints,
in our many ways to pray,
in the teaching office held by the pope and the bishops,
in the sacraments, and above all,
in the real, true presence of Jesus in the Mass and the Eucharist.
And here in Saint Remy, we have the blessing of a beautiful church,
and a tradition of reverence.
This is a good time to talk about these blessings
and how we maintain and cultivate them.
Let me start with our church.
It is well designed and beautifully adorned.
That doesn’t just happen.
We’ve all been in places where folks made bad decisions.
Happily, people before us here made good decisions.
But what makes the most difference is you.
Your silence, your desire for reverence, is huge!
I can tell you, I’ve been in churches where this has been lost;
Where people are visiting and talking as they would anywhere else.
Nothing wrong with visiting – but it destroys prayerfulness.
Again, I admire how folks pay attention to how you dress in church.
It’s not a matter of wearing fancy clothes,
but of mindfulness and modesty.
This is a good time to talk about how we receive Holy Communion.
You know that there are two options:
receiving on the tongue, or in the hand.
What you may not know is that receiving on the tongue
is the norm in the whole world, outside the U.S.
And when permission was given to receive in the hand,
It was given with some expectations.
First, that someone has both hands free.
So, for example, sometimes someone will come for communion,
and will be using one hand to hold a child, or to lean on a cane.
In those cases, if he or she puts out one hand, I’ll whisper,
“I’ll put it on your tongue.”
The other expectation was that in receiving communion with our hands,
we wouldn’t lessen our reverence for the Body of Christ.
Receiving on the tongue naturally invites reverence.
When we receive in the hand, it is easier to slip into a casual approach.
So to those who wish to receive the Eucharist in the hand,
how about lifting your hands up high? Make your hand a throne.
If I gave you a fragile crystal bowl, worth thousands of dollars,
How would you carry it?
How precious do we consider the Sacred Body of Jesus to be?
Also, lifting up your hands makes it easier
for those who are distributing Holy Communion.
Now, let me say something to those who follow
the traditional practice of receiving on the tongue –
which, as I said, I believe in very strongly,
and I warmly encourage everyone to embrace.
I don’t know how to say this without making you laugh, but—
you really have to do two things to make this work:
first, you really have to open your mouth.
And you have to stick out your tongue.
This is the only time that’s not rude to do.
This next item applies to many of our younger parishioners:
when you come to communion, however you receive it, you have to stop. Be stationary.
Parents, you know what I mean.
And I know, parents, you have a lot to manage,
but I’d be very grateful if you can help your children
remember these things,
especially in lifting up their hands and standing still.
Earlier I described someone who grows up with great advantages.
That really is us.
After every Mass, we pray the St. Michael Prayer.
We are praying it for our fellow Christians who are persecuted.
The other day I saw an item about a priest,
Father Randall Roberts, who described “his experiences
as an Air Force chaplain in Saudi Arabia
where any public Christian activity is punishable by imprisonment.”
The soldiers would spread the word that the priest
was to celebrate Mass “in a remote area –
an abandoned recreation shack encircled by a chain-link fence.”
Somehow, a foreign worker, one of millions in the country,
Came by, and “pressed himself against the other side of the fence.”
Here’s what Father Randall saw:
He appeared to be straining his whole body – or at least his heart –
through the chain-link fence, like water through a filter…
The sheer ecstasy in his face from being present
at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – though not able to move closer –
is an image that will be indelibly etched in my heart until I die.
I wasn’t there, but now, I will never forget that image.
And I hope you won’t, either.
Pray for that man, and the many millions like him,
who are starving for what is so easy and available for us.
What a Gift you and I have been given!