June 19, 2013
Bishop LaValley’s homily for the Corpus Christi Exposition at St. Mary’s Cathedral June 2
Having just about completed the Confirmation “circuit” for this year, I am reminded today of one of the most common hymns that is sung in our parishes on the occasion of Confirmations: Come Holy Ghost. In one of the popular versions of that hymn, we proclaim that we are a pilgrim people. We are the Church of God, a family of believers, united and ignited by the fire of God’s loving Spirit. If Mother Nature would have cooperated, and we were able to participate in the Eucharistic procession as we walked the streets of Ogdensburg, we would have given physical expression to such a people on the move, a faith family seeking to follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Today’s Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi is a renewal of the mystery of Holy Thursday, in obedience to Jesus’ invitation to proclaim from “the housetops” what He told us in secret (Mt.10:27). As Benedict XVI reminded us, it was the Apostles who received the gift of the Eucharist from the Lord in the intimacy of the Last Supper, but it was destined not just for them, but for all, for the whole world. This is why the Eucharistic Christ should be proclaimed and exposed to view: so that all those in sight might encounter “Jesus who passes” as happened on the roads of Galilee, Samaria and Judea; in order that each person, in receiving it, may be healed and renewed by the power of His love.
Eucharistic processions through city streets are celebrations of the pilgrim Church and a shining example of what the Eucharist is meant to accomplish outside these sacred walls. Yes, this is a reminder that we are a pilgrim Church, a people always on the move, never content with where we are standing in the present time. We are disciples in mission, responding to Jesus’ call: Follow Me in the hustle and bustle of daily living. Hasn’t Pope Francis given us a tremendous example of following Jesus into the streets and finding Him there in the persons encountered?
We have gathered in this holy place to be still and adore Christ’s Eucharistic Presence. Eucharistic visits paid by the faithful to their churches where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved are the proof of a soul filled with gratitude and a pledge of love. (Hidden Manna, 266) Perhaps that’s a reason why so few today participate in Eucharistic adoration: our souls are not filled with gratitude to Almighty God and the only promise to love that we make is to a fleeting feeling that avoids commitment and sacrifice. Today, too many believe that we are self-made and love shouldn’t take effort.
Today, it’s hard for us to sit still for a while, particularly if we don’t sense anything is happening. But, there is in daily life a type of activity that transcends mere actions, and every Christian is aware of how often the passive approach of prayer has been instrumental in solving a problem or providing for a need that no amount of frenetic activity had been able to achieve. The very Presence of Christ is always dynamic, indeed the very font of endless, though invisible activity. “Lifted up, He draws all things to Himself.” (Jn.12:32) Even if it seems we are just sitting or kneeling or prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament and we don’t sense that any real dialogue with God is occurring, even if we don’t think that anything is happening, God draws us into His very Being, lifting us up, if we let go and let Him.
As you know, the tabernacle was first intended for the reservation of the Eucharist in a worthy place so that it could be brought to the sick and those absent, outside of Mass. As faith in the Real Presence of Christ in His Eucharist deepened, the Church became conscious of the meaning of silent adoration of the Lord present under the Eucharistic species. (CCC #1379) We remember that the first commandment obliges us to adore God alone. So, we acknowledge God as God, Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists. Through worship and prayer, the Church and individual persons adore God. The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. As Blessed John Paul II proclaimed, “Let us not refuse the time to go to meet Him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.” (JP II, CCC#1380)
Precisely because this is a mysterious reality that surpasses our understanding, we must not be surprised if today too many find it hard to accept the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It cannot be otherwise. This is how it has been since the day when, in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus openly declared that He had come to give us His flesh and His blood as food (Jn.6:26-58).
This seems a hard saying and many of His disciples withdrew when they heard it. Then, as now, the Eucharist remains a sign of absurdity and can only be so because, it would seem, a God who makes Himself flesh and sacrifices Himself for the life of the world throws common sense out the window. However, with humble trust, the Church makes the faith of Peter and the other Apostles her own and proclaims with them, and we proclaim, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn.6:68).
I pray and urge that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament be a habitual practice in all our parishes in the Diocese of Ogdensburg. Priestly vocations, vocations to the diaconate and consecrated life will stem from this meeting with Christ in the tabernacle. Here the apostolic spirit of lay Catholics, witnesses to Christ amid the struggles of daily living, is nurtured and energized.
Like the manna for the people of Israel, for every Christian generation the Eucharist is the indispensable nourishment that sustains us as we cross the desert of this world, parched by the poverty, injustice and death-dealing ideologies that do not promote life but rather denigrate and humiliate it. It is a world where the logic of power and material possessions prevails rather than that of service and self-giving love; a world where the culture of violence and death is frequently triumphant.
Still, Jesus comes to meet us and imbues us with certainty: He Himself is the “Bread of Life” (Jn.6:35, 48). Today’s Gospel of the multiplication of the loaves is an invitation to each of us to add our own gift of self. The two fish and five loaves signify our contribution, poor but necessary, which He transforms into a gift of love for all. Particularly during this Year of Faith we must recall, ever anew, that the Eucharist is a call to holiness, an invitation to give of oneself to others, to be bread broken for the life of the world.
So, let us travel on the highways of the world knowing that He is beside us, fueled by the hope of being able to see Him one day face to face, in the encounter of eternity. May God be praised…forever may God be praised!
Photo by Jesse Sovie
Bishop Terry R. LaValley opened a day long celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi June 2 with Mass at Notre Dame Church in Ogdensburg. He is shown above during the consecration with Deacon David J. Sandburg. The Mass was followed by a period of Eucharistic Adoration at Notre Dame before the participants moved to St. Mary's Cathedral for choral praise, adoration, a homily by Bishop LaValley, Benediction and evening prayer.