[Introduction of self to parish]
About two months ago I was taking some vacation time and I went to visit my sister and my niece. It was Sunday so I went to mass with them to their parish, just in regular clothes and sitting in the pews as the undercover priest, so to speak. My niece is three years old and as most of you know when you have a three year old sitting next to you all reverence goes out the window and you just try to survive the mass. Anyway, when we get to communion the chalices must not have been filled like they were supposed to be, because the Precious Blood was not distributed. My niece walked up with us and as we returned to our pew she picked up on the fact that something was different. So in a not-so-quite voice, she says to my sister, “where’s the drinks?”
In the moment I had to hold back laughter myself, but honestly I was rather proud of her observation. At just three years old she is very far from understanding the Eucharist… but by golly when it was missing she noticed in her own simple way. Now for all of us, the Eucharist is so much a part of our lives that we would notice if it was gone. But the danger of that blessing is that the things that are regular in our lives become routine and the routines become mindless. That should not be the Eucharist for us in our lives! Without receiving the manna in the desert on a daily basis for forty years, excluding the Sabbath, the Israelites would have literally died. They depended on that bread from heaven for life itself. And as Christ so strongly and firmly tells us today, this Eucharist is our source of eternal life. Without this sacrament we die! Without the sacrifice of the Cross when his Body was given for our sake death would still have power over us. And now it is our participation in the sacrifice of the Cross made present, held in your hands and on your tongue, that binds us to the action of Christ that brought us salvation.
Since this is my first weekend with you I’m sure that you are all eager or at least curious to know who I am and what kind of priest I will be for you, so let me start off boldly and share with you an aspect of my spirituality from the depth of my heart. Good preaching and good homilies are important and I will give all of my energy to make these things worthy of your attention and impactful to your lives… but don’t ever tell me that you come here to hear a homily. Beautiful music and an actively engaged assembly is important… but don’t ever tell me that you come here for the feel of the parish. Family, friends, school, community are all important… but don’t ever tell me that you come here because of your connections to this place. We come here… I come here, you come here… we come here because of the Eucharist. If you find good homilies and good music and good people here as well then praise God and let’s do everything we can to keep those things going. But the Eucharist comes first. The Body and Blood of Christ which gives us eternal life is why we come here. Never forget that. Never let the routine dull your motives and what you cherish. May all of us open our hearts to this great sacrament as we come forward to receive it today, that we may know life and love without end.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone