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The eucharist will transform you and me

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

April 7, 2021

Editor’s note: the following is Bishop’s homily at the Chrism Mass that was celebrated on March 30, 2021.

You will soon hear me say: “Let us pray that God our almighty Father will bless this oil so that all who are anointed with it may be inwardly transformed and come to share in eternal salvation.” We must all be inwardly transformed, converted anew daily. We have the sacred duty of helping others to be converted. To do that, we must tend to our own lives. Being converted means returning to the very grace of our vocation. It means meditating upon the infinite goodness and love of Christ, who has addressed each of us and calling us by name, has said: “Follow me.”

Being converted means giving an account before the Lord of our service, our zeal and our fidelity, for we are Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God. Being converted also means giving an account of our negligence and sins, of our timidity, of our lack of faith and hope. Transformation happens as I pray continually, never losing heart. Prayer helps us to believe, to hope. Conversion is not for the lazy or faint-hearted.

Conversion is about movement. I thought that I might speak about this at this Chrism Mass, the Mass of the Holy Oils because oil facilitates ease in movement. Oil also is a great source of energy, fuel. We do not want to get stuck in our relationship with Jesus, possessing a “running in place” prayer life, parish ministry on autopilot where I am comfortable in my relationship with Jesus and see no need for growth or any spiritual movement. I might think, “I have no need to be creative with my prayer. I’ve done all the stretching I’m going to do with my prayer life.” No matter my age, an attitude of self-satisfaction, of being set in my ways, stifles my spiritual growth and, consequently, hinders the spiritual growth of my parishioners. As you know, St. Paul used the image of an athlete when it comes to the spiritual life. We are to run the race and I cannot participate in the contest with a sedentary spirituality. Run so as to win! Personally speaking I know, it’s so easy to get stuck in our comfort zones. We cannot let that happen. No—we must re-claim the spiritual energy gifted through our anointing.

Take our liturgies--The way we celebrate the sacraments can become so routine that the beauty of the divine encounter is jeopardized. We can be so regimented, in robotic form, or so casual, that the richness of the words and the symbolism of the ritual are compromised. Does my celebration of the sacraments reflect a zeal for every soul or am I stuck in the rut of routine? Do I thoughtlessly go through the motions and expect the Spirit to pick up the slack?

We don’t want to get stuck in our relationships with others. Sometimes we have a bad experience with a parishioner, a fellow priest or a friend. We come away with a bad taste in our mouths and the relationship is never the same again. On the day of our priestly ordinations, our hands were anointed with Sacred Chrism. The oil symbolizes strength; the balm heals, soothes, energizes. It is good to remember as a parish leader that the oil that was poured on my hands at ordination was a lubricant that softens hearts not an irritant that chafes the weak.

Because the Eucharist has the power to continually form and transform you and me, I thought it important that, at this particular time in our local Church, we re-focus our attention on the Holy Eucharist as a Mystery to be believed, a Mystery to be celebrated, a Mystery to be lived. Given the COVID-19 crisis, we must retrieve a robust Eucharistic mindset in the faithful. You know that there is a strong need for catechesis, renewed devotion, increase of missionary spirit and a rejuvenated understanding of ecclesial communion that can only occur through a deepened understanding and a reinvigorated belief in the Eucharist.

It is my hope that the introductory stage of this diocesan project, the presentations offered by Christopher Carsten to all our clergy, gets this diocesan effort of Eucharistic renewal off to a good start. The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate any indifference or absence. This pandemic provides the launching pad from which we set out to revive our Eucharistic faith.

Wherever apostolic zeal is expended, the results are impressive. Mountains can be moved. God’s Spirit has that kind of power. Conversions in faith can be experienced. To the degree that we continue with business as usual, we can expect to watch an ever-increasing number of Catholics go elsewhere or nowhere. We need to renew the Church by becoming intensely Eucharist-centered, recalling the necessity of worship, and reconnecting to the fact that the Eucharist is who we are and what we do as Catholics. This requires a strong revival of how the sacrament of the Eucharist is celebrated, prayed, understood, reverenced, and how we are transformed by it.

You know that there are many Catholics currently in the Church who have sentimental ties to the way in which they were raised. But sentimentality will not sustain a way of discipleship that will challenge us at every level of our being, nor will it sustain our faith when it brings us into conflict. The Church moves forward one soul at a time, as each person catches the fire of belief from another and is grafted into the body of Christ. The apostles understood that the importance is not found in numbers but in the intensity of the flame.

The great task of our time is to gain a genuine conversion of mind and vision. The Holy Oils with which we have been anointed brings us the Spirit’s powerful love to transform us when we allow it to flow. Next year this local Church will celebrate the 150th anniversary of our founding. Is there a better way for us to celebrate than by re-capturing what it is that identifies who we are? In the humble signs of bread and wine, changed into His Body and Blood, Christ walks beside us as our strength and our food for the journey, and He enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope. We need to be heralds of hope today. With the prophet Isaiah, all in the North Country and beyond will look to our family of faith and declare: “All who see them shall acknowledge them as a race the Lord has blessed.” May God be praised…forever may God be praised!

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