September 30, 2005

Letters to the Editor

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A homily to remember

As the end of the Year of the Eucharist draws near, I want to share the highlights of a great homily about this blessed sacrament and a prayer of thanksgiving that can be used after (or before) receiving Communion.

I heard the homily about four years ago from a visiting priest, who had been a priest for 61 years. He started his homily by banging his fist on the ambo and challenging us in a loud voice, “Why are you people here?” He paused so long to let us think about this question that we almost thought that he wanted responses from us.

He cited several reasons that might apply to some people:

1) They might feel guilty if they didn’t attend Mass.

2) The ballgame doesn’t start until an hour or two after Mass.

3) Force of habit, etc.

Of course, he softened these somewhat shallow reasons for going to Mass with a wee bit of humor.

He mentioned that going to Mass is a continuing education, in that we get to hear the readings, the Gospel and the homilies. But, the pinnacle of the Mass, the real purpose in being here, is to receive the body and blood of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

He continued his discussion of the eucharistic celebration as a sacred mystery, the Real Presence which we were about to receive. He noted that the concept was a little difficult for the human mind to grasp.

He spoke of the precious Ark of the Covenant and noted how much greater a gift it is for each of us, individually, to become a receptacle for the body and blood of Christ. He said that in his 61 years as a priest, there have been just a few times when he could almost grasp the depth and meaning of this great and beautiful mystery. Difficult to fully understand or not, this is the real reason we come together, to be one with Christ. He said, “There are times when I feel like I almost get it.”

A prayer of thanksgiving for receiving this sacrament that is in such harmony with its purpose, that is, to be at one with Christ, follows below:

“Heart of Jesus, think of me.
Eyes of Jesus, look on me.
Face of Jesus, comfort me.
Arms of Jesus, hold me.
Hands of Jesus, bless me.
Feet of Jesus, guide me.
Body of Jesus, feed me.
Blood of Jesus, wash me.
Jesus, make me thus, thine own
Here and in the world to come.”

The last four lines of this prayer address the central meaning of the Eucharist. How much more clearly can one express unity with Jesus, with the body and blood of Christ? One might think that the prayer is, perhaps, a little bit “me-oriented,” but Jesus wants us to desire to be in unity with him.

And so, when I return to my seat and kneeler after receiving the body and blood of Christ, I look upon the crucifix above the altar and focus on God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the maker of heaven and earth. I focus on each phrase and idea expressed by this prayer of thanksgiving, this prayer for unity with God through the Eucharist.

In doing so, the Communion hymn almost fades from awareness, at least for the moment. Why? Because the prayer focuses on Christ and how grateful we should be for his great love and sacrifice for us. Perhaps there will be “times when we will feel like we almost get it.”

-Carl Greger Mitton, Salem  


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