Sunday, July 29, 2018

You either point to Christ, or away from him (Sunday homily)

A few years ago, I made a trip in Germany; 
and I remember driving on the highways there.
I don’t speak German, but I did know the names of the places 
I was going; and I could tell the speed limit. 
The signs in Germany did their job very well – 
they got me where I was going.

I’m talking about signs because the readings today talk about signs.
Elisha performs a sign, which points to what Jesus himself did later.
And in the second reading, 
Saint Paul tells the Ephesians, in effect, they are a sign, 
by how they live their lives.

All that was clear enough, 
but here’s something you may not have realized.
For the next five Sundays we will hear Jesus himself teach 
about the Eucharist, from Chapter six of the Gospel of John. 

That decision by the Church, to give so many Sundays to this, 
is also a sign: of how very important the Holy Eucharist is.

Vatican II called the Eucharist 
the “source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium 11).
Well, when I say that, who disagrees? No one, right?

Now, let me back up to my trip to Germany. 
There were a couple of times when I was looking for a particular city, 
but I didn’t see the name on the highway signs.
That’s because the signs point you to the next place;
And then after you reach there, the next place.
But where I was going was a ways down the highway.
And because I am not familiar with the territory,
that threw me off a few times.
I-75 is exactly the same. As you go south from here, it’s all “Dayton”; 
then it’s all “Cincinnati,” 
and only south of there will you see “Lexington.”

So we have the signs in the Scripture, 
but they don’t take us the whole journey. 
How can that be? Because Jesus wants us to receive the Eucharist!
That requires the Holy Mass and that requires the Church.
Christ founded the Church in order to give us the Eucharist.

The Eucharist – Jesus’ Body and Blood, his own self –
Is not, of course, a sign; but the destination!
It is to Jesus himself, to union with him, 
that all the signs should point.

Now, here’s where you and I come in.
Up to this point, you could sit there and say, that’s all good stuff!

But here’s the punchline:
You and I are signs. Let me say that again: You and I are signs.
And we can either be good signs – 
that point the right way – or bad signs, that warn people off.
Last week I talked about bad shepherds, including bad bishops.
We might as easily have talked about prominent Catholics 
in Hollywood or business or politics who give bad example.

As we know, people will say: I’m not going to be Catholic, 
Look at the bishops, look at those phony politicians!

But the answer is to give them another sign to look at.
A convincing sign. A sign that is bright with the Holy Spirit.
That sign is your life. Your family life.
People aren’t stupid. We all know there are fakes everywhere.
But that just makes us want something real all the more!

Now, if you are still with me, then let me give you two ways 
to be credible, powerful signs that point people the right way.

The first is to be a penitent. A repentant person.
One thing we don’t need to convince anyone of, 
is that there is corruption in the world, even in the Church.

But what we can do is show – not just tell – others that, for our part, 
we are not full of pride, but we are sinners trying to grow in holiness.
In short: go to confession. Make a habit of confession.

We all have excuses. They are all bogus.
If Catholic churches started filling up with people going to confession, 
do you think that would be a powerful sign?

And, I might just remind you that if we are aware of a mortal sin, 
we must go to confession before receiving Holy Communion.
The second way you and I can be a powerful sign is by our reverence, 
at Holy Mass and specifically, in receiving Holy Communion.

Now, I want to be very clear: many here are doing that.
Many who visit St. Remy will comment on the reverence.
Many of you are an inspiration to me by your love for the Eucharist.

“But”: you knew that was coming.
Some of us I do want to challenge. 
Some folks come to communion like it’s a concession stand.
Or a drive-through: grab-and-go.
Stop and realize: 
You are approaching your God, who made you, 
and who became human precisely so he could die on the Cross for you.
And God is giving himself to you.

The bishops decided some years ago 
that we would approach standing, rather than kneel. 
Honestly, I wish they hadn’t done that.
But we do what they directed us to do.

At the same time, they also said something most people forget:
That everyone should show a sign of reverence.
Kneeling itself is perfect; and some of you do kneel.
Others genuflect. Awesome.
Not everyone can do that, so can you bow?
Can you make the sign of the cross?

And in that context, doesn’t receiving on the tongue make sense?
It is an act of great humility and submission – to Christ.
I know I will hear from folks who will say, for this or that reason, 
they don’t receive on the tongue. I understand.
But those exceptions don’t apply to most of us.

I’ll say it again: you are receiving the Lord, your God!

Jesus’ plan was for the Church – for each of us –
To be signs pointing to him.
Never more needed than today.
What others fail to do we cannot control.
But you and I can decide how powerful a sign we will be. 


Anonymous said...

Perfect. I’ve already sent this spot-on homily to two people... thanks Father. You’re the best!

Ranger01 said...

At our parish in spiritually dead New Hampshire none of this is ever spoken of much less demanded.
The only way to properly receive the Holy Eucharist is on one’s knees and on the tongue.
It is the only way to show the proper level of respect, if indeed you believe the Body and Blood of Christ the Redeemer is being given to you.
Long ago, I came to the conclusion many priests do not believe this. Their actions in the Sanctuary betray this unbelief.