07 September 2018
06 September 2018
Steven Wright and the Eucharist (A misleading title for the first of seven articles on the Sacraments)
Fondly I tell of how I met Steven Wright. I flew to Boston to compete in the Marathon in 2017. While hanging out at Logan International Airport before my return flight, I saw a bearded man with a Red Sox cap wheeling his luggage in my direction while I was approaching (where else?) Dunkin' Donuts. From several dozen yards the man's identity seemed clear, although he was either trying to conceal it or just be a regular citizen. He seemed somewhat surprised I could spot him. I identified myself as a Catholic priest and a big fan. Wright, himself raised Catholic, seemed genuinely humbled by a priest's respect. I told him I feature diverse quotations in my weekly bulletin. "You mean that paper you get in church? Wow! That's neat." We gave a fist bump (WHY DIDN'T I REQUEST A SELFIE, COUTH BE DAMNED?) and he went on his way. I got in line for coffee, feeling a bit better for having competed earlier that week, even though my time was far slower than I'd desired.
IIE has featured series on the Spirituality of the Twelve Steps, Indulgenced Prayers (in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation--"just to show 'em," God forgive me), and, more recently, the Seven Sacraments. For your penance, here is the first of the seven columns, largely unedited. You are always free to read past bulletins--nothing like "yesterday's news!"--archived under the relevant tab on our parish website.
I was thinking about doing some sort of series on the Sacraments for the next seven weeks, because 1) there are seven of them; and b) for the next five weeks, the Gospel reading will be taken from the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. Permit me to do something unconventional by starting with the Eucharist. Think of Baptism as the egg and Eucharist as the chicken. In this series I declare that the chicken comes before the egg, in terms of both time and significance.
For about a decade, several dedicated folks have organized an annual Mass on Labor Day. About 100 citizens attend, many of them former St. Kieran parishioners. The local Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies' AOH form an honor guard. Several area clergy have been the celebrants of the Mass over the years. As the local pastor, it has been my honor to join them. This year I was privileged to preach the occasion. Storied reporter John E. Usalis of the Pottsville Republican-Herald aptly summarized my words, which, lacking a written text, I certainly could not have done:
"We’re grateful to God and so the greatest act of gratitude to almighty God that we can offer is this sacrifice of the Mass. We do it specifically on Labor Day mindful of how God has labored on our behalf and how we labor for God. [...]
"So this day is dedicated to the honor of working. And not just the burden of it, but the honor and privilege of expending ourselves for the glory of God and for the betterment of man,” Zelonis said. “What a day to be able to do that with the liturgy, which is Greek and means ‘our work for God’ or ‘God’s work for us.’ It actually can be translated either way. The sacred liturgy is God’s work on our behalf, which I would say primarily because God is always the first agent, but then it is our work for God, our return to him as we hear in the Psalms. "What can I do for the Lord for all that he has done for me. I will take up the cup of salvation" (Ps 116:12-13). The bread of life and the cup of salvation will be offered, the bread and wine will become the body and blood of Christ, and we join to the bread and wine our prayers, our works, our joys and our sufferings.
25 August 2018
Church, we’re hurting right now. There are the varied crosses that each of us has, things we join to the bread and wine that will become the Body and Blood of the Incarnate Son. But we don’t expect the Church herself—especially her ordained leadership—to be building crosses of suffering, confusion, and anger for her people.
It threatens to sap the credibility and potency of our preaching. But always recall that the best space in which we speak is not merely human, not just our choice of words or opinion.
For example, it’s definitely not my opinion but the sound word of Saint Paul that we be “subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The subjection of wife to husband may sound objectionable nowadays, except alongside the command that husbands “love [their] wives as Christ loved the Church [by handing] Himself over to sanctify her.”
That seems the trouble: our failure as bishops and priests to love you sacrificially. St. Michael’s, the People of God everywhere, are my flesh and I am called to nourish and cherish you as my own, to present you to Christ in splendor, for holiness. That’s hard to do from an indifferent distance.
These failures to love make it harder for Christ’s Bride, the Church, to recognize Him as the Divine Bridegroom and to subject themselves to Him, just as inattentive, adulterous, addicted spouses devoid of sacrificial love might discourage loving subjection to them.
Like any other climate, the current one challenges everyone who wants to be their best. This applies to the Church as well as the “outside world,” especially since it’s become harder to tell a Catholic from anyone else.
Today’s Gospel opened with people walking away when Jesus said something difficult. What was the problem? Over the past few weeks Jesus was rolling out Eucharistic doctrine. To paraphrase: “Physical miracles won’t be enough to nourish your discipleship and lead you to eternal life. Instead, My heavenly Father gives you Me as the Bread that satisfies. Not just “Me” in some vague sense, but My flesh and blood. You will share in the eternal life I share with the Father if you gnaw on My flesh and slurp My blood.”
Pair that with St. Paul’s hard saying about mutual submission out of reverence. Consumption of the Eucharist corrects our consumption of each other as playthings, means to selfish ends. Membership in Christ’s Body, the Church, must change the way we think about and act towards each other. Decide, then, whom you will serve, and how you will sustain that service.