Hello and welcome!
This week, I have asked Father Jonathan Gaspar to share a reflection with you on the great gift of the Eucharist in our lives, especially in relation to the Year of the Eucharist we are now celebrating within the archdiocese.
However, before that, I want to take a moment to express our gratitude to His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios and the people of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston for generously delivering more than 5,800 meals to people in need in Greater Boston last week.
On Tuesday, His Eminence visited the Catholic Charities St. Ambrose Family Inn in Dorchester. This is a shelter that assists families in finding safe and affordable housing, and prepares families to live successfully and independently in their own apartments. While families stay at the Inn, they are provided with housing search assistance, social work services, comfortable rooms and nutritious meals.
Metropolitan Methodios and members of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston at Catholic Charities St. Ambrose Family Inn
The President of the Metropolis, Philoptochos Athena Kalyvas, and Board Member Georgia Lagadinos, also visited Upham’s Corner Health Center, which provides community-based health and social services to the residents of North Dorchester and adjacent neighborhoods. In addition to the meals delivered to food banks and homeless shelters, over 2,000 meals have also been delivered to health care workers throughout the major hospitals in the Greater Boston area.
Now, I give you Father Gaspar but, before I go, I want to wish you all a safe and happy Independence Day!
– Cardinal Seán
Let me begin by thanking Cardinal Seán for asking me to share some thoughts with you about the Year of the Eucharist in the Archdiocese of Boston. But more importantly, I would like to thank him for promulgating this year as a special time in our local Church to grow in deeper love and appreciation for the Eucharist, the gift of Christ’s abiding presence among us. Cardinal Seán also turned 76 this past week — so Happy Birthday, Cardinal Seán!
When most bishops reach the age of 75, they hand in their letters of resignation to the Holy Father, which is required of them by Canon Law. I cannot imagine many bishops, once they have done so, thinking about starting any new initiatives for their dioceses, so this Year of the Eucharist is extraordinary in many ways. In a way, it may be the last and greatest project that the Cardinal asks us to embark upon. Thank you, Cardinal Seán!
It has been almost five years since Pope Francis invited Christians throughout the world to celebrate a Year of Mercy, and I think we can all agree that it was a time for Catholics to rediscover the gift of God’s great mercy. Many parishes expanded their times for confessions, and some even participated in a 24-hour confession marathon, which Pope Francis named “24 Hours for the Lord.” We all had a chance to reflect on the scriptural images of God’s forgiveness, and many Catholics returned to the sacrament of reconciliation after having been away for a long time.
On Sunday, June 14, 2020, the Year of the Eucharist began with the Feast of Corpus Christi. Traditionally, this Feast is celebrated on the Thursday prior, linking it to the celebration of Holy Thursday during Holy Week, commemorating the Last Supper and the gifts of the Eucharist and the Priesthood. This year many of our parishes were just opening after three months of forced closure due to the current health crisis. It was a different sort of opening celebration in that parishes could not have the traditional Eucharistic Processions through the streets with throngs of parishioners singing Eucharistic hymns.
This year Catholics throughout our archdiocese began the Year of the Eucharist by simply participating in the celebration of the Eucharist, something they could not do for three months. There were many tears of joy as people reunited with the Lord in Holy Communion. We are created by God with a deep desire for communion with him. We are all familiar with the quote from St. Augustine saying that God has made us for himself and that our hearts are restless until they rest in him. The great Christian author C.S. Lewis once wrote in “Mere Christianity”: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” As human beings created in God’s image and likeness, we are created for union with him. The gift of the Eucharist is God’s way of being present to us and fulfilling that longing for Holy Communion that we are created with.
It is important to point out that the Eucharist is not just another thing that we believe as Catholics; it is the very heart of Christian life. In the introduction to the Roman Missal, which is the book containing all the prayers of the Mass, we read this: “The celebration of the Mass, in as much as it is the action of Christ and of the hierarchically ordered people of God, constitutes the center of the entire Christian life, both for the universal and local Churches, as well as for the individual faithful. The Mass is at once the very pinnacle of God’s action, whereby he sanctifies the world in Christ; and of man’s worship of the Father, adoring him through Christ his Son, in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, in it, the Church commemorates the mysteries of redemption throughout the course of the year, so as to make them truly present in a certain manner. All the other sacred actions and every activity in the Christian life are in strict relation with the Mass, from which they stem, and towards which they are ordered.” Of all that we do as Catholics, nothing can be more important than the celebration of the Eucharist. All our missionary activity and the good that we do for others flows from the Mass, which is why it was described at the Second Vatican Council as the Source and Summit of our Christian life.
We believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist and that when we receive Holy Communion, we receive his Body and Blood, his Soul and Divinity. Christ wants to be one with us in an intimate union, which is why he says that “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (John 6:56)” When we participate in Mass, we do so as members of the Body of Christ, offering ourselves to the Father together with Christ, who is the perfect sacrifice and the head of the body.
One of the hopes of this Eucharistic year is that Catholics throughout this archdiocese will not only grow in their knowledge and love of Christ, who is truly present in the Eucharist, but also grow in our knowledge and love of the celebration of the Mass. Too often, we attend Mass as spectators, looking to be entertained, thinking only about what we can “get” from attending. Hopefully, this Eucharistic year will help us all to think about why we go to Mass, and to rediscover our active participation in this sacred action, by offering our very selves to the Father in an act of communion with Christ the Lord, who offered himself on the Cross.
Parishes throughout our archdiocese have already begun to celebrate the Year of the Eucharist by promoting Eucharistic Adoration. Whether it is in a period of public Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance or as a private encounter before the Tabernacle in an empty church, the time we spend with Christ in adoration is an opportunity for him to speak to our hearts and to radiate his healing and love as we pour out our hearts to him in love and adoration.
During this Year of the Eucharist, priests and deacons will be preaching more about the Mass and about the Blessed Sacrament in connection to the Sunday readings. Catechists and teachers will also be encouraged to help people of all ages to grow in knowledge and love of this great gift. Parishes will be encouraged to look at the way we celebrate Mass, especially on Sundays. Beyond being more hospitable and welcoming to those who join us, we need to focus also on how we are helping people to pray and unite themselves more fully to Christ in the Eucharist. Our liturgical music should focus on God and on what he is doing in the Mass, and less on ourselves. Our proclamation of the Scripture through the readings at Mass should be clear and not distract others from hearing what God has to say to his people today. And through our participation in these Sacred Mysteries, all of Christ’s faithful should become what they receive so as to transform their world by the love of Christ.
I finish as I began, by thanking Cardinal Seán again for this Year of the Eucharist. As one of his last and greatest ideas for the Archdiocese of Boston, he is asking us to recognize the centrality and priority of the Eucharist as the source and summit of our lives as Christians. His hope is that we will all place Christ, our Eucharistic Lord, back at the center of all that we do as a Church. When we do so, everything else will fall into order. Thank you, Cardinal Seán, for the gift of this year. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your abiding presence with us in the Eucharist!