Longing for the Bread of Life

This week the Church has proclaimed Jesus’ “Bread of Life Discourse” (John 6:22-59).  Years ago, a wise parishioner shared with me his passion for this passage and his passion for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist; he reads this passage every day.  Every day.  I remember being so moved by his faith that I too began reading it everyday, for a few days.  Then I let it slip away.  This morning I received a text from a friend who is similarly moved by the profound witness of Jesus in the “Bread of Life Discourse.”  His excitement over this most beautiful gift from God ended with this wise and humorous insight: “immediately following Jesus’ ‘Bread of Life Discourse’ was the first ‘Mic Drop’ in recorded history.”  Yesterday I went for a walk in the woods and carried with me one phrase from yesterday’s portion of the passage in the Gospel, “whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  it brought me to tears, filled me with joy and so connected me to God’s desire to live eternally in communion with us that I could hardly contain myself.  And this morning, we heard the conclusion of the discourse, including these emphatic words, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”  

God so desires your love that he sent his only son into the world that you might have life.  God so desires your love that he has offered his only begotten son on the cross for you; gathering even sin and death into himself on the cross, which is now revealed as tree of life, transforming even sin and death into God’s glory.  God so desires your love that he has invited you to become his beloved spouse, sealing the marriage bond in the wedding feast of the lamb, where sharing the very body, blood, soul and divinity of his dearly beloved son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, for the atonement of your sins and those of the whole world, God brings forth his Kingdom, the Heavenly Jerusalem, fully present in the celebration of the Eucharist.  

When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are not “going to Church.”  When we celebrate the Eucharist we participate in the coming together of heaven and earth.  We are nourished by the fruit of the Tree of Life which is medicine for the nations (Rev 22:2).  And we become the body and blood of Christ; we become healing and peace for the life of the world.  Our nourishment from the Eucharist is not in preparation for heaven when we die; when we eat his body and drink his blood, we have eternal life, NOW.

Let us continue in prayer for healing, peace, holiness and wisdom as we continue to journey through this pandemic which is a real sharing in the suffering of Christ.  Let our love grow, let our life in this world be surrendered, let our eyes be opened to the depths of God’s love, let us trust our own resurrection life, let us long for communion which we will celebrate together in the Eucharist, soon and very soon.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 

Gratitude

On this Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, let us ask for a sharing of her courageous spirit and seek her intercession for healing from the COVID-19 Pandemic.  

I realize we may all be living with anxiety in the midst of so many unknowns; yet through it all your faith is revealing God’s glory more and more each day.  From your outreach to one another by phone and mail, to your sacrifices for one another, to your manufacturing of facial masks, to your providing of assistance to the poor, to your ongoing prayer, you are giving witness to the Risen Christ.  I am grateful for your great faith and for your deep, abiding love.

I am particularly grateful to you for your generous support of our mission even while we are unable to celebrate publicly our communion of faith.  We have been able to continue the mission without difficulty, due to your stewardship over the years and your continued support during this season of social distancing.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

I offer a special word of thanks, too, to Jim Boeger, our Business Manager, who worked tirelessly to submit St. John the Baptist’s application for a Payroll Protection Plan loan from the Small Business Administration.  Through his hard work and by God’s grace we have received a loan which provides needed back-up during these uncertain times so we can confidently move forward knowing our mission is secure.  Together with your ongoing support we will be well positioned to thrive as we discover together what parish Life looks like in the wake of the pandemic.  

Archbishop Carlson has extended the suspension of public Masses through May 8.  Until then, we will continue celebrating daily Mass and our regular Sunday Masses with congregations of seven.  If you have not already done so, please call the parish office to let us know how many from your household to include in a future Mass.

We will continue with our Eucharistic Procession of Fridays at 6:00 pm.  This Friday we will journey east on Delor, south on Ulena, west on Bates, south on Gravois, north on Christy and east on Delor back to the Grotto. Please step out and join us in a decade or two of the Rosary as we pass near your home. 

Hopefully, we will be able to gather together, safely, soon.  We are one body in Christ; it his spirit, the spirit of the Risen Christ, dwelling within us and holding us together.  I pray that God’s grace and mercy be yours even in this difficult time of separation.  God bless you.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

St. Catherine of Siena

This week, on Wednesday, April 29, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena.  She is a courageous, loving and faithful mystic in the life of the Church.  She lived during the Plague of the 14th century, ministering to those who were sick.  She is recognized as a Doctor of the church.  She can be a great example for us and someone we turn to in prayer.  God bless you.

https://www.wofdigital.org/videos/catherine-hd-1080p

“Emmaus and Genesis” from Bishop Barron

In a profound new way, Bishop Barron breaks open for us “The Road to Emmaus.”  Our whole life is a return to the Garden, where, even now, we are nourished by the true fruit of the Tree of Life, Jesus’ body and blood, the Eucharist.  God walks with us, even fasts with us, as we journey together during this time of separation.

You can listen to Bishop Barron’s podcast, Emmaus and Genesis, here:

https://podcast.app/emmaus-and-genesis-e93711164/

Our Longing for the Eucharist

I share with you today a beautiful reflection on the Eucharist from the dawn of the fifth century.  Our life is eternal; our love for one another is more powerful than even death itself.  Let us persevere in our longing for the Eucharist.

From a sermon by Saint Gaudentius of Brescia, bishop
(Tract. 2:CSEL 68, 30-32)

The inheritance of the new Covenant

The heavenly sacrifice, instituted by Christ, is the most gracious legacy of his new covenant. On the night he was delivered up to be crucified he left us this gift as a pledge of his abiding presence.

This sacrifice is our sustenance on life’s journey; by it we are nourished and supported along the road of life until we depart from this world and make our way to the Lord. For this reason he addressed these words to us: Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life in you.

It was the Lord’s will that his gifts should remain with us, and that we who have been redeemed by his precious blood should constantly be sanctified according to the pattern of his own passion. And so he commanded those faithful disciples of his whom he made the first priests of his Church to enact these mysteries of eternal life continuously. All priests throughout the churches of the world must celebrate these mysteries until Christ comes again from heaven. Therefore let us all, priests and people alike, be faithful to this everlasting memorial of our redemption. Daily it is before our eyes as a representation of the passion of Christ. We hold it in our hands, we receive it in our mouths, and we accept it in our hearts.

It is appropriate that we should receive the body of Christ in the form of bread, because, as there are many grains of wheat in the flour from which bread is made by mixing it with water and baking it with fire, so also we know that many members make up the one body of Christ which is brought to maturity by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Christ was born of the Holy Spirit, and since it was fitting that he should fulfil all justice, he entered into the waters of baptism to sanctify them. When he left the Jordan he was filled with the Holy Spirit who had descended upon him in the form of a dove. As the evangelist tells us: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan.

Similarly, the wine of Christ’s blood, drawn from the many grapes of the vineyard that he had planted, is extracted in the wine-press of the cross. When men receive it with believing hearts, like capacious wineskins, it ferments within them by its own power.

And so, now that you have escaped from the power of Egypt and of Pharaoh, who is the devil, join with us, all of you, in receiving this sacrifice of the saving passover with the eagerness of dedicated hearts. Then in our inmost being we shall be wholly sanctified by the very Lord Jesus Christ whom we believe to be present in his sacraments, and whose boundless power abides for ever.

Beginning this weekend, we will move our streamed Mass to 10:00, and will again begin with the Rosary at 9:35.  We will also continue our procession with the Blessed Sacrament on Friday (today) at 6:00 pm.  We will make our way north on Varrelmann, east on Taft, south on Adkins, east on Delor, north on Newport, east on Taft, south on Ray and continuing up and down the streets until we finish praying all the mysteries of the Rosary.

I hope you all received our call Wednesday evening announcing that our private Masses each day will include seven parishioners.  Please call the Parish Office to indicate your desire to be included, along with the number of your family who would attend.  We will use a lottery system to assign families to particular Masses.  All who attend must wear a mask and practice social distancing.  And, God willing, we will resume public Masses soon.  God bless you.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The Long Road to Emmaus

On the seven mile journey along the Road to Emmaus, the disciples came to understand all that Jesus had taught, that he was the fulfillment of the scriptures, that he, indeed, had risen as he said; and then they recognized him in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:13-35).

On March 16, Archbishop Carlson announced that all public Masses are suspended. As the hours, turned to days turned to weeks and turned to months we have all been called by God to look for the Risen Christ on the Way. Our Road to Emmaus may be longer than seven miles; perhaps longer than seven weeks. Yet Jesus will accompany us on the Way. He will break open the stories of his love for us; he will break open the stories of our lives and point to his love present in the midst of all of it. The disciples began their journey in fear, yet returned to Jerusalem on fire from what they had seen and heard, “they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where the…recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

I miss you. I long for the day when we will share the Eucharist in our beautiful church. In the mean time, let us trust that the slow work God has begun in us will indeed be brought to completion, making of us an evermore beautiful offering of “the body and the blood, the soul and divinity of the eternal Father’s dearly beloved son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world (Chaplet of Divine Mercy).”

We will continue our Procession with the Blessed Sacrament this evening (Friday) at 6:00. We will travel east on Delor, north on Spring, west on Osceola, south on 39th, east on Taft, south on Spring and west on Delor back to the Grotto. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.