My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
A well-known theologian, Father Hans Urs von Balthasar, said, “We must make every effort to arouse the sense of community within the liturgy … enlarging the scope of prayer, so often, narrow and selfish, to embrace the concerns of the whole Church and, indeed – as in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord: ‘Where two or three are gathered together …’ – that is, where individuals, in profound faith and obedience, desire to be and to realize the Church – there I am in the midst of you.”
This description is the fruit of the Eucharistic feast in which we are called to participate. With the pandemic, we tried to offer you the experience of spiritual communion through livestreaming of the celebration of Mass. It was wonderful for you to be able to participate with your parish community when our churches were closed. As our churches have been open since Pentecost on June 1, five months ago, many of you have returned to the celebration of Mass to be nourished spiritually through the Eucharist, a gift of God to each one of us. Just as we have been grocery shopping to nourish our physical body, so we are called to nourish our souls through the Eucharist.
The Eucharist fills us with Jesus. We become what we receive through His presence. Our celebration of Mass is not running through the drive through, but it is a purposeful desire to be a part of this community and put an effort into this, to come together — around the table of the Lord — to experience the bond between heaven and earth. God transcends through the Eucharist and comes to us – how can we refuse this connection?
The participation in the Eucharist does require our physical presence. It does beg us, in understanding this gift of unitive love, to acknowledge the community of faith with whom we gather within the sanctuary of the physical church. We prayerfully hear the word of God that we are drawn into the story of our salvation. The Word delivers us to experience Christ in the Eucharist, as one people; a community prepared and sanctified by Christ.
We bring the indwelling of God of our souls joined together with the communion of saints to praise God. We offer ourselves individually and collectively to God, from whom we are given life. We receive Christ as head of the body and all its members. Joining the community in the pew heartens us to be more Christlike to all others.
So, when we hear Scripture proclaimed in St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25, we need to understand these words of Jesus in light of the Eucharist we receive. This is the experience of the mercy of God to embrace the concerns of the whole church – to be aware of each other and our individual and communal needs. We cannot receive Jesus and ignore the stranger, or the hungry, or those in prison or sick. This understanding transcends every aspect of our living – our immediate family and everyone whom we encounter.
We are fast approaching the season of Advent. If you have not yet returned to the celebration of Mass physically, I encourage you – individually, within your family, as a group of friends – to do so, unless you are health fragile. Come! The celebration of Mass is offered every Sunday and every day of the week at every parish in the Diocese of Orlando. Surely, with wearing a mask, there is a time in which you are most comfortable and would return without fear. Jesus is calling you to come home.
The Church Fathers and early Christians came together to support one another in a time when the physical experience of persecution and death was the consequence of discipleship in Jesus. They were easily identified because of their gathering in prayer and their care of each other.
May our Eucharistic living bring about the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world.