|THE REAL PRESENCE||CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST|
Transcription of a taped sign-up Sunday homily given at St. Anthony Parish in Ohio
I guess you all know my name by now, but just in case you missed it my name is Father Robert Goedert and I am a Dominican. Perhaps some of you recognized the white Dominican habit before I put a chasuble over it, or did you think the Pope dropped in for a visit? Some people think that the Pope always wore white. Not true, for fifteen centuries the Pope dressed just like any other Bishop. Until a man named Pius V became Pope. He was a Dominican. He decided to keep his white habit. For the next four hundred some years now the Popes have always worn white. So the white Dominican habit has been around the church in the world almost eight hundred years. In fact, if you know your church history you probably know that the first Bishop of Ohio was a Dominican. Bishop Edward Dominick Fenwick was the first Bishop of Ohio. If you did not know it, now you do. In my years as a Dominican priest, I have served the church as a parish priest, a high school teacher, a hospital chaplain, a university chaplain, a religious superior and a military chaplain.
I am here in your parish this weekend at the invitation of your pastor to talk to you about a key Catholic belief. The belief that makes us Catholics different. Different from the great majority of other Christians and also frankly I am here to recruit you, to recruit you in a very special army. We Catholics are different because we take Jesus Christ at his word. We believe that Jesus gave us his own body and blood in the special sacrament we call the Holy Eucharist. We Catholics actually believe that Jesus is really present in this sacrament. For us Catholics, the Holy Eucharist is not just a symbol. It is not just a memory. It is not just a promise. It is really Jesus Christ. This is what we mean by the Catholic Doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is why we call the Holy Eucharist the Blessed Sacrament. All of the sacraments are blessed. All of the sacraments give us the grace of Jesus, but this sacrament gives us Jesus Himself. Now this is what we Catholics believe. Why do we believe this? Not because some theologian says so. Not even because the church says so. We believe this for only one reason, because Jesus Christ says so and we believe Him. Many who profess to follow Jesus do not believe this as we Catholics do, but this fact should not surprise us. Jesus had the same problem with some of his old disciples. When Jesus first told his followers that he would give them his body and blood as food and drink, as the spiritual nourishment for their souls, many of his followers including His disciples would not accept that. (John 6:35-70). They could not believe Him, so they left. Jesus did not try to call them back. He did not say, "Wait a minute, fellas, you misunderstood me. I was only talking symbolically." No, He let them go. If they could not believe Him, they could not be His disciples. It was that simple. Then Jesus asked His apostles if they wanted to leave Him too. If His words were too hard to accept, Jesus was ready to let his apostles go also. We know that Peter, speaking for the group said, "Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:68-69). The apostles took Jesus at His word and we do too.
This sacrament of the Holy Eucharist comes to us through the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist, the sacrifice of the Mass. This is evident because the Mass is the renewal of Jesus' death on the cross. It is sacrifice in which he gave up his human life, his physical body and blood for our salvation. It was at the Last Supper that Jesus instituted the sacrament and sacrifice. It was the night before he died. Jesus knew that he soon had to leave his friends, friends He loved so much. He wanted to leave them something to remember Him by but he did much better than that. He left Himself. At the Last Supper Jesus was looking ahead to the next day when He would die on the cross. This is why He said, This is my body which is given for you And likewise the cup after supper saying, This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Then He commanded, Do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19-20). And we fulfill that command every day. As Jesus at the Last Supper was looking ahead to Calvary, so we in the sacrifice of the Mass, we look back to Calvary. This is why St. Paul could say, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lords death until he comes. (I Corinthians 11:26). It is the same sacrifice on the cross and in the Mass. Jesus chose this very special way to remain here with us. It was not just an empty promise when Jesus said "I am with you always, even to the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20). He meant that. So Jesus remains here with us today, in the Mass as our Savior, in Holy Communion as our spiritual food and in our tabernacle as our friend. Jesus died on the cross to give us this sacrament of His presence among us. This is the sacrament of Jesus' love for us. Now, He asks us to love Him in return. We do return that love by offering our sacrifice of the Mass as we are doing right now, in obedience to His command.
Genuine love requires much more than minimum obedience. Real love requires sacrifice and I am sure that almost every one of you, especially you mothers, have learned that in your own lives. Real love requires sacrifice. This is what we are proposing to you here today. That you consider pledging the sacrifice of one hour of your time each week. One hour of returning Jesus' love for you. One hour of prayer and adoration with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I am sure you all know that your parish is almost ready to begin Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. The last several months you have been reading about it in your parish bulletins and hearing about it here in church. The new adoration chapel is rushing towards completion. The target date to begin adoration here at St. Anthony is Monday the 9th of June. On that day, Bishop Fellow will be here to bless and dedicate the chapel. The Blessed Sacrament will be placed in the Monstrance and then carried in procession to the adoration chapel. Adoration will then begin. Jesus will remain there in the chapel day and night, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, waiting, waiting, for you to visit Him.
Now there is just one more thing that has to be done. To accomplish this apostolate we have to have at least two people pledged to be present with Jesus each hour of the day and the night. I know this is not a large parish, but with support from people of other parishes I think you can do it. So, to get this devotion started right now, we have to recruit. We have to recruit an army. An army of friends of Jesus, of adorers of the Blessed Sacrament and I am the recruiting sergeant. The Lord wants you and you and everyone else. The good Lord gives you 168 hours in each week. Will you give one hour back to Him? If for any reason you think that adoration of our Lord in the Eucharist is out of date in today's modern church, just look to the words and example of our very modern Pope. In 1981, Pope John Paul II began perpetual adoration of the Eucharist in St. Peters Basilica in Rome. In 1991, the Holy Father gave canonical approval to the lay association for Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, to promote adoration in every Catholic parish throughout the world. This is the lay association for whom I work. Shortly after the Air Force retired me, this lay group recruited me. For the past eight years, they have been sending me to parishes like yours all over the country and beyond promoting Eucharistic adoration. Listen to what our Holy Father says. Pope John Paul II says this, "The church and the world have a great need of Eucharistic worship. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration." Notice how the Holy Father asked you to be generous with your time. He is not asking for your money but something much more precious, your time.
So right now, I ask you to turn your attention to the forms you will find in the pews. There is a supply of them, along with pencils at the end of every pew. It is a white form. If we run out of white ones there are small yellow ones too, but this is the main one, it has your name on it, St. Anthony Parish. Please pass them in from the aisle so that everyone in the church has a form and a pencil. I am pretty sure there is enough there for everybody. The church isn't anywhere near filled, so everyone should have a form and a pencil. You will see that very simply this form is your opportunity to respond to the invitation of Jesus to come and visit with Him. This is your chance to pledge to spend one hour each week with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. You will see that the first thing we want you to do is to check off what time frame is best for you, the morning hours, the afternoon, the evening or those most difficult midnight hours. We save those for the tough guys. I want you to know that your pastor has already signed up for a midnight hour. If you want to join him, he is your leader. You can put down a specific hour if you like and then a specific day of the week. The space is there. You know the seven days a week, take your choice, they're all there. If you can't decide right now what day or hour is best for you that's okay or perhaps you are flexible. Maybe you are retired and you want to serve when you are needed the most. That is even better. But we do need to know that you want to participate. So at least give us your name and your phone number. That is really all we need right now. Give us that and then sometime in the next few days someone will call you to help to determine what day or hour is best for you and to let you know when you are most needed. Now that is going to require quite a bit of telephoning and organizing. We are going to need some help. If you are available to help with the telephoning, there is a line near the bottom. Just check that and we will get back to you. What we really want you to do is decide right now that you are not going to be left out. That you are going to be part of this parish's pledge, so that you can gain for yourself and your family the many graces and blessings that come with Eucharistic adoration. Decide right now that you are going to be part of this. Just fill out the form, at least your name and your phone number. Drop it in the collection basket at the offertory time of the Mass. That eliminates any extra running around the church to sign-up. It will help to symbolize your offering of yourself with Jesus in this sacrifice of the Mass. Now, everyone is invited to participate, men, women, children, teenagers, young adults and whole families. I cannot imagine anything more beautiful than to see a whole family at prayer with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. You can invite your friends from other parishes too. This is not exclusive. If your friends live in parishes where the church is locked all day, they might be pleasantly surprised to find out they would be able to come here in your adoration chapel anytime of the day or night. If you want to take an extra copy or two along with you to give some friends, you are perfectly free to do that. Those of you who may have already signed up sometime in the last couple of weeks, that is good, but we want you to fill out the forms today too. This makes it official. You do not have to feel that you are signing your life away. Nothing is being set in concrete. If your life circumstances change and you cannot keep your commitment, the Lord will understand. If there are only occasional obstacles like a vacation or a doctor's appointment, something of that sort, you will know who might be able to switch days or hours with you. We will also try to have a list of substitutes available to call. In that regard, if you are willing to be one of those substitutes, and again, there is a line at the bottom, just check that and we will keep track of that too. One of the best aspects of this program is there are no meetings. In the beginning we have to get together to get organized but outside of that, you commit yourself to spend an hour with Jesus and you do not take on any meetings. The only meeting is between you and the Lord at the time of your choice.
Another great benefit is this: how you spend your time with Jesus is entirely up to you. There will not be anybody preaching to you, nobody reading at you, nobody telling you what to do, to stand, sit, kneel, sing this or whatever. You are on your own. There will be Holy Hour books available in the chapel to help you get started if you need them. Most of us do at times. We need a little structure to build on, but you can spend your time with Jesus any way you want. You can pray your rosary, you can read your Bible or you can do some other spiritual reading, but remember you are there to visit with your friend, Jesus. Talk with Him. Tell Him your problems, your needs and concerns. Tell Him about your joys too. He probably does not hear about those very often. Sometimes I think that all Jesus hears from most of us are the complaints and gimmes. Lord, gimme this and Lord, gimme that. Most important, stop and listen. Let Jesus do some of the talking. He has just been waiting for a chance to visit with you but your life is so busy with home, family, work and school. Your life is always busy. Jesus cannot get through to you. It is time to give yourself a break. Take a little time out for a private visit with your best friend, Jesus. One thing I can promise you, and I can guarantee this because I have heard it from thousands of people all across our country. That one hour each week with Jesus can become the most peaceful, the most satisfying hour of your whole week. Decide right now that you are going to cash in on this. Put at least your name and phone number on the form; drop it in the basket. If you do not get it finished in time that is all right, give it to me after Mass. Remember, Jesus gave you His presence in this sacrament. Now Jesus asks for your presence with Him. As you make your decision, think back again to the night before Jesus died, right after the Last Supper. Jesus went out to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, to strengthen Himself for the ordeal He faced. He asked his closest friends to join Him, to pray with Him but they failed Him. They fell asleep. Jesus sadly asked "Could you not watch one hour with me? I think your friend Jesus is asking you that same question right now. What is your answer?
Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association
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