The covid pandemic and the lock down of last year---- was an introvert’s dream!
For me, I still got to do what I really enjoy doing – celebrating Mass every Sunday --- but without a lot of the other things that often fill my life and can drain my energy: like meetings, phone calls, trips to the hospital and to nursing homes --- the greetings and goodbyes at the beginning and the end of the school day to our students. . . to name a few. All things that need to get done – but slowed down – or stopped completely – during the lock down.
But celebrating Mass with just a few people present when we were taping every week – was not an easy thing to sustain. There was no energy in it –
because a very important part of the celebration was constantly missing – and that was all of you. . .
When I ask people what THEY missed in their faith lives during the pandemic – it was consistently two things: it was receiving the Eucharist – somehow just seeing Mass was not quite enough – AND --people missed being in the midst of a community – just being with one’s family didn’t quite cut it.
Yes, most of you continued to ‘GO’ to Mass – you just needed to bring it up on our website or on You-Tube ---
and even though watching Mass in one’s pajamas may have been convenient – it just wasn’t the same as being here.
Everyone, it seems, missed actually receiving the Body of Christ – and missed being a part ---of the Body of Christ in the midst of this faith community.
These two go together – they are intimately connected – receiving the Body of Christ and being the Body of Christ. These two go together so much – that the laws of the Church prevent a priest from celebrating Mass all by himself – there needs to be at least one other person present ----- the Mass is a communal prayer – not a personal or individual prayer ----
We may come up as individuals to receive the Body of Christ in our hands – consume the Body of Christ as individuals ----------- but it is done in the midst of a community ---so that we can become the Body of Christ for others.
That’s what Catholic writer Fr. J. Glenn Murray means when he says: “What difference does it make if the bread and wine ON the altar are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ ----- IF THOSE AT THE ALTAR remain the same?
As I often tell our students at school Masses – WE BECOME WHAT WE EAT: and if we eat the Body of Christ in the Eucharist week after week at Sunday Mass – then little by little, week by week – we become more like Christ: we become what we eat.
When I am asked what I hope we learned because of the pandemic – what are the things I hope people take away from it – I hope for two things.
First, my hope is that we all come away with a greater appreciation for what we do here in this sacred place, at this sacred time every week: that we have the opportunity to receive the Lord of heaven and the King of the Universe – in our very hands. >>
We have the opportunity to receive that very presence within ourselves – and the Eucharist is the means, the strength, the motivation we have every week to become more like the one we are to follow with all our minds and hearts. That we no longer take this opportunity for-granted – because we never know when that opportunity may be taken from us.
And so the second thing I hope we can all take away from the pandemic – is that we don’t have to go back and live the way we did before March of 2020. That we remember how much extra time we had to spend with our families – or spent as individuals in quiet and relaxation ------- because we weren’t running around here and there and everywhere
Because of the commitments and responsibilities that we so easily stack higher and higher on our plates. That it is possible to live life a little slower, and with our hearts set on the things that really matter the most to us --
like attending Mass. . .
spending time with our families
refreshing and renewing ourselves with a day of rest on Sunday.
Like writer Liz Kelly says – “I hope Mass becomes THE excuse for missing all those other things in our lives -------rather than those things --- becoming an excuse for NOT coming to Mass.”
And that is basically what Bishop Johnston is writing about in his pastoral letter: Keeping the Lord’s Day: intentionally not making Sunday just like any other day of the week. Copies of that letter are available for you in the gathering space as you leave.
“While they were eating, Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them and said, ‘take it, this is my body.’”
So Sunday after Sunday, week after week, we do important stuff in this sacred place at this sacred time --- we do what Jesus told us to do in order to remember him. It is what we come together to celebrate on this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ:
our NEED for the real presence of Christ to come into our lives and hearts --- to take up a dwelling there – to change us more and more into the image and likeness of Christ --- so that we can become the Body of Christ for others. . .
Moments in time...