Friday, October 28, 2011

The Importance of Eucharistic Adoration and Prayer at St. Marks

“The worship given to the Trinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit... must fill our churches also outside the timetable of Masses…This worship must be prominent in all our encounters with the Blessed Sacrament… Adoration of Christ in this sacrament of love must also find expression in various forms of Eucharistic devotion: personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, hours of adoration, and periods of exposition – short, prolonged, and annual (Forty Hours) - Eucharistic benediction, Eucharistic processions, Eucharistic Congresses… Let us be generous with our time in going to meet him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith and ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world. May our adoration never cease?” Pope John Paul II

What is Eucharistic Adoration?
It has been the consistent belief of the Catholic Church from the very beginning that the bread and wine consecrated at Mass truly become the Body and Blood of Christ; and that, furthermore, as the Catholic Catechism states, this “Eucharistic presence of Christ [which] begins at the moment of the consecration...endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist.” (CC #1377). In other words, the Eucharistic Christ then continues to be present in our midst beyond the Eucharistic liturgy when the consecrated host is either reposed in a tabernacle or exposed on the alter.
Why Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?

If we can adore the Eucharistic presence of Christ when reposed in a tabernacle, why do we then need to expose the Blessed Sacrament on an altar? It is not essential for exposition to take place to have Eucharistic adoration, yet people report experiencing a greater sense of intimacy with Jesus and attentiveness of mind and heart to prayer when they are able to actually “see” our Eucharistic Lord. Moreover, according to Church regulations exposing the Blessed Sacrament for a period of time requires the presence of a sufficient number of people to be there and therefore fosters the commitment needed to establish and sustain a meaningful parish Eucharistic adoration program. But the best reason for having exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is simply that God wills it. During His Eucharistic discourse, Jesus made this unmistakably clear: “Indeed, this is the will of My Heavenly Father, that everyone who looks upon the Son, and believes in Him, shall have eternal life. Him I will raise up on the last day” (John 6:40).

Has not Vatican II Forbidden Eucharistic Adoration?

Vatican II sought to highlight the centrality of the liturgical celebration of the Mass and foster the faithful’s full participation in it. Some thought this meant doing away with Eucharistic adoration all together but the opposite is true. In his encyclical on the Eucharist, Mysterium Fidei, promulgated at the height of Vatican II on September 3, 1965, Pope Paul VI expresses his hope that “the restored sacred liturgy will bring forth abundant fruits of Eucharistic devotion, so that the Holy Church, under this saving sign of piety, may make daily progress toward perfect unity and may invite all Christians to unity of faith and of love, drawing them gently, thanks to the action of divine grace.” Experience has proven this to be true, for parishes which have established a long-term Eucharistic adoration program have over time seen an increase not only in the attendance at Mass but also in the sacrament of Reconciliation as well. And even though non-Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist at Mass, they can spend time before the Lord in Eucharistic adoration and through His Eucharistic presence felt spiritually do oftentimes seek full communion with the Church so that they may also participate fully in the liturgical celebration of the Mass.
What is the Difference between Perpetual and Non-Perpetual Adoration?

Perpetual Adoration is a Eucharistic devotion whereby members of a given parish (or some other entity) unite in making continuous hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament both during the day and throughout the night, seven days a week. Non-Perpetual Adoration is adoration of the Blessed Sacrament less than 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Perpetual Adoration, whenever possible, is to be preferred because it offers individuals the convenience of adoring Our Lord at any and all hours of the day and night and mobilizes the maximum number of individuals committed to prayer. Consequently, it is to be considered the goal of all parish Eucharistic adoration programs.

Is not Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in a Parish Forbidden by Church Laws?

Neither the Code of Canon Law pertaining to the exposition and reservation of the Holy Eucharist (cf. Canons 938-944) nor the Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass (HCW) cited by some liturgists to deny permission for Perpetual Adoration forbid perpetual exposition in parishes. Rather they provide the minimum requirements under which adoration with exposition can take place. Moreover, Pope John Paul II has himself set the pattern for the establishment of parish Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration by opening a chapel of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration at St. Peter’s Basilica on December 2, 1981. And in June 1993 at the 45th International Eucharistic Congress in Seville, he expressed this wish: “I hope that this form of perpetual adoration, with permanent exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, will continue into the future. Specifically, I hope that the fruit of this Congress results in the establishment of perpetual Eucharistic adoration in all parishes and Christian communities throughout the world.”
Will not Focus on Christ’s Presence in the Consecrated Host Eclipse People’s Awareness of His Presence in Each Other and the Community as a Whole?
It is true that the Eucharist is not the only modality of Christ’s presence to us. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states “Christ Jesus… is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church’s prayer…, in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present… most especially in the Eucharistic species” (Catechism, 1373) for therein “the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (Catechism, 1374). It is precisely this mode of Christ’s presence offered in atonement for our sins and “remembered” in this sacrificial meal which raises the Eucharist above all other sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend” (Catechism, 1375).

In other words, Christ is present in the Eucharist par excellence precisely because the Eucharist becomes the means by which he is able to establish his presence in every other experience of the Church’s life and ministry and in its members. Rather than eclipsing his presence in all other ways, the Eucharist first celebrated, consumed and then adored becomes the means by which that presence is established and enhanced. This has been the conviction and personal experience of all who have possessed a true understanding and love for the Eucharist in the past and it continues to be the conviction and experience of all who do so today.

Will not Eucharistic Adoration foster a type of a Privatized Spirituality that places exclusive focus on personal growth over social concern?

A true concern for society (i.e. welfare of the poor, issues of peace and justice, evangelization) is a byproduct of the strength of one’s own prayer life and personal dedication to Christ. Eucharistic Adoration fosters such a genuine sense of conversion from over preoccupation with one’s own will to the embrace of Christ’s will for oneself and others. Consequently, rather than being a deterrent to the social mandate of the Church, it provides the foundation upon which a genuine commitment to Gospel service and evangelization can be built.

How Much Time and Money will it require to Establish Eucharistic Adoration?

Eucharistic Adoration is a lay-run ministry. As such it supports the call of Vatican II to promote the involvement of the laity in the mission of the Church. Consequently, once established, outside of his occasional pulpit support and offering of spiritual guidance when needed, very little time will be demanded of the pastor? Experience has also shown that the laity tends to be very generous in financially supporting ministries they see as directly benefiting them and their families. As a result, whatever expenses are needed also tend to be provided for by the lay people themselves.

Someone asked Mother Teresa of Calcutta: What will convert America?

"My answer is prayer. What we need is for every Parish to come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in Holy Hours of prayer"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The union between the love of God and love of neighbor

St. Catherine describes the way of love like this: In the first stage, in the beginning, even when we say that we love, we don’t understand love. What we have is love of ourselves, self-love. We have a list of selfish plans and desires. In the beginning this is the human condition wounded by original sin.

A second stage is an encounter with a love that has no selfish desires, like the one that we find in 1 John 4, 10: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us He loved us before we loved Him. When we receive this kind of love we receive healing and cleansing. We receive freedom, a very specific strength that helps us to get out of the jail of selfishness, because living in egotism is like being in a prison; to live life as the slave of “my plans” is to live in a very small cell.

Well... Once the prison is broken we are able to receive the love of God, we are freed.  We receive the Life of God and our soul is like "a dry weary land without water" (Psalm 63) starting now to drink from the love of God because of a personal encounter with Jesus.

Again, first: There was no love, only selfish desires; second: Love comes in the Person of Jesus. The third stage: that love has the power to build us, construct us until the point that we are going to be capable of loving… loving who? God, the one who has always loved us with a selfless love.

This process is almost like the development of babies. They are not great sinners, but in the beginning they live only for themselves. “My food, my sleep, my comfort” after receiving love from their Moms, they start to love her; they learn to love with a love of gratitude. In this third stage a love of gratitude to God, a love made of happiness, and the ability to trust in Him is what begins to grow within us.

And finally… The fourth stage: God has healed me, forgiven me and freed me. God built me and made me capable of finding some of the beautiful masterpieces that He wants to build and see within me. My life has a purpose and now I can see it. Then, God show me that there are others like me that pass through stage one, two and three, other brothers and sisters that were also helped, loved and freed from their selfishness… we see them and we can easily relate to them.

Little by little God is going to awake in us the capacity of loving our neighbor. How come? Why is He doing this?

When I love someone I want to make them happy, I want to please them, I want to respond to their needs, I want to help them in their projects, in what that person wants to achieve. I will help them finish what they are working on; I want their projects, and plans to be the best. (This is what God is doing; because He loves us, He wants us to succeed at loving our neighbor, and therefore, succeed at loving Him even more.

God said to St. Catherine of Siena: “You can’t love me like I love you, because I love you in a selfless way, without expecting or receiving anything from you… you can’t love me like this… but what you can do is to love the ones that I love, in the same way I love you… you can love them without expecting retribution”

My brothers and sisters, we are called to love God’s project. His plan is the salvation of the whole world. We need to love in the name of God and, because of our love for Him, we need to love our neighbors. This is the explanation of the unity of these two commandments: The Love of God and of our neighbors.

Come Holy Spirit and make us capable of uniting the love of God and the love of our neighbor in the Heart of Jesus.

Dear Lord, I believe in you, because you have a plan for me that will bring me to be like you. I hope in you, because your example and your grace give me the strength to be able to identify my will with yours. I love you, because only by loving you can I be transformed into you and be holy. Give me, Lord, the grace to practice charity faithfully.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, give me the grace to love others with all my effort and good will. I want to contemplate you, Lord, so that I may learn from you how to love them to the point of giving my life for them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How can I repay the Lord for all the great good done for me? (Psalm 116, 12)

Teacher, tell us what is your opinion, is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" (Mt 22, 15-21)  To approve meant to be a traitor to his brothers and to be one with the Romans; to disapprove meant to work against the Romans and be subjected to an accusation of rebellion.  

The answer was unexpected: "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." as a way of saying "you who receive a lot from the Romans, many things, pay for that to them in the same measure or don't receive it, and you who receive many things from God, return to Him in the same proportion"

An interesting shift in Jesus' answer could point us in the direction of the importance of the saying. The question was whether one should give (Greek didômi) tribute to Caesar. But Jesus' answer spoke of giving back, paying back (paradidômi), as if one already owed something (and notice that after Jesus is asking for the coin it is from their pocket from where the coin is coming). What Jesus said could be paraphrased as: "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's due, and to God what is God's due." Instead of answering the direct question of whether one should pay the forced tribute to Caesar or not, Jesus raises the question to another level, that of the principle of justice. Greek philosophers before Jesus defined justice as "giving back to everyone what is their due." Jesus seems to be saying that the only binding obligation is that of justice, that of giving back to every person what is due to them. Serving God is basically a matter of justice? If God has given us all that we are and have, then we are bound in justice to give back to God great gratitude, great loyalty and exquisite service. The central act of Christian worship is called Eucharist, which means "thanksgiving." It is basically a question of paying back the debt of gratitude that we owe to God.

Then the question for us is how can I repay the Lord for all the great good He has done for me? I will raise the cup of salvation. Which means that I will offer Him all that I have.  Jesus talked about the cup at least on two occasions referring to His Great Passion and Sacrifice on the cross: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Lk 22, 42)... and when the two disciples came asking for the first places in the kingdom: Can you drink the cup I am going to drink? (Mt 22, 20)

The answer of what should we do to repay to God all that He has given us is: With all that we have my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

For many of us to eat is more than to satisfy necessity. It is a social act, a time to rest, an occasion to enjoy a good moment. In the banquets at the time of the first reading this was even truer. Music, drinks, dances... This is good to keep in mind in the readings today.

Banquets where (and should be today) a transition between work and rest, a transition between what we should do and what we would like to do.

Something that grabs our attention in the first reading is that "On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples. The web that is woven over all nations" (Isaiah 25; 7). It seems than it is a banquet of revelations.

It will be a moment when veils will be taken from all nations. The problem is that we never associate eating with receiving special revelation. It is more understandable when we know the context of the banquets with kings. The people who where there could not see the king from a long distance and that was the only chance to have an image of the king stored in their memory like a treasure.

God will reveal himself in His banquet. He is the king that we are waiting for, the one that we always want to contemplate, the one we always want to know, the realization that everything He promised is true. All of this is even tastier than all the food, even more amazing is that it all happens at the same time of the banquet.

Why wouldn’t everyone want to go to the banquet?

The gospel takes the same idea with a little difference. For some reason the ones who were invited weren't interested in going, even though it was the king's banquet. Isn't that absurd? But is it less absurd to be negative in accepting the love of the God that invites... The other thing we see is that it seems that the excuses they made for not going are the result of a satisfaction with what they had. And that's the problem. The satisfied people don’t want to eat.

The conclusion could be that the call to the kingdom, to the banquet, requires unsatisfied people, people who hunger and have a need to be full.

Dear Lord, grant me the grace to value heaven and to live in such away that I can get there. Jesus, so many times I give more importance to my own satisfaction than to centering my attention and efforts on achieving true communion with you. Help me to value your invitation to reach heaven through a truly Christian life that prefers virtue to sin, disinterested love to selfishness, and humility to pride. Amen.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the readings today, we can perceive disappointment: What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?  (Is 5: 1-7) The sadness in the gospel becomes a judgment: What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes? (Mt 21: 33-43)

There is the distance between the projects of God, which needs to become fruitful and the little, sad result of human selfishness. From this distance comes the anthropomorphic expression of a God that is “disappointed”

The question for all of us is how am I cultivating my vine?

God always has a better plan: He wants fruits. He doesn’t want sterile works and fruitless lives. There is a new plan announced in the hard words of Jesus:  "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him produce at the proper times."

How is the vine of our lives? Let me go a little bit further. Fathers and mothers also need to ask about the vines of their homes. Sons and daughters how is the vine of your studies and lives at middle, High school and College? Countries must ask for their legacy of faith and history they have received.

Are we leaving things better than when we received them?

What about the world? Are we taking care of it so that the next generation will enjoy it like us? Or we are using it as though we are the last generation that has a right to enjoy it?

The words of Jesus are an invitation to change the way we see things. Today’s Gospel was said to the chief priests and the elders of the people. Why them in particular? Because their blindness not only moves them to ignore the responsibility of the vine entrusted to them but they are also taking possession of it; to the point of killing the one inherited, Christ. As we see there is a relation between the disobedience that ruins the vine and its goal and the desire of appropriating the vine, making it ours and excluding the owner. To expel God from life and ruin creation as we see it is the same thing.

In this Gospel passage, Lord Jesus, you show us how men have rejected your Father and you. It is so easy to lose sight of your love. Grant that I may know and love you better. Quicken my steps that I may bring your love to my brothers and sisters. Lord, grant me the grace of apostolic zeal.
Lord Jesus, your love knows no limits. You reach out to each soul according to the situation it is in. To the chief priests and Pharisees you offered a parable to open their minds and hearts. To us you give the example of your life, the witness of your words, and the teachings of your Spouse, the Church. Grant, O Lord, that I may love my brothers and sisters as you want me to, and so be your faithful apostle. Amen