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The Eucharist: our daily bread on our earthly pilgrimage

Archbishop Wenski's homily on feast of Corpus Christi with Servants of the Pierced Hearts

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during the profession of first vows of several Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The Mass was celebrated at St. Michael Church in Miami on the feast of Corpus Christi, June 14, 2020.

Earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, public celebrations of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass were suspended throughout the world. Our normal Lenten fasting extended throughout the Easter Season and included for many a painful fast from the reception of Holy Communion. As Pope Benedict wrote: “Sometimes we need hunger, physical and spiritual hunger, if we are to come fresh to the Lord’s gifts and understand the suffering of our hungering brothers. Both spiritual and physical hunger can be a vehicle of love.”

We hope that the hunger for receiving Jesus in the Eucharist has drawn more and more people to reflect more intentionally on their faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, which we celebrate today on this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.

This pandemic still has many sheltering in place in their homes because of their vulnerabilities due to underlying conditions – for them, at least until a vaccine becomes widely available, they will continue to follow Mass remotely and perhaps continue to “fast” from the regular reception of Holy Communion.

One saying has it, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Thanks to the zeal and creativity of our faith-filled priests and consecrated religious, many people have grown closer to the Eucharistic Heart of Christ during this pandemic. Every year, in October and March, we take a count of how many people attend Mass in our parishes. This March, of course, we had no Masses with congregations present; yet, in many parishes, there were more people attending by livestream this year than attended last year in person.

The efforts of many – including the efforts of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary – to stimulate the devotional life of our people have not been in vain. The cenacles celebrated, the Eucharistic Congresses organized, the hours of Eucharistic adoration in the presence of Holy Relics, have produced much good fruit. And many seeds planted are yet to blossom.

Last year, a troubling survey indicated that many Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament. And that is possibly true depending on whom you ask – but it's perhaps more true that many Catholics do not understand what the Real Presence is; or perhaps they cannot well articulate their belief that in the Consecration of the Mass, bread truly becomes the Body of Christ, and wine truly becomes the Blood of Christ. In the Holy Eucharist, while the accidents of bread and wine remain – that is to say, their appearances remain as before – the Blessed Sacrament is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man: The Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.

And while the survey is troubling and should not be easily dismissed, it is also true that the practice of Eucharistic adoration continues to grow. Many parishes have had – and will continue to have once we get on the other side of this pandemic – perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This worship of Christ – in the mystery of his Blessed Sacrament – leads to and extends the participation of the faithful in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the source and summit of our lives as Christians. Eucharistic adoration, I am convinced, will be, in years to come, a remedy for ignorance and religious indifference.

Today, on this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, we welcome the first vows of a new cohort of religious sisters who consecrate themselves to the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Their vocation was born in the contemplation of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament; it has been nourished and sustained by their sharing in His Body and Blood. I’ve said many times before, the “consecrated” are the Church concentrated. Your existence as consecrated religious – in the world but not of the world – points to the possibility of a different way of fulfilling one’s life, “a way where God is the goal, his Word the light, and his will the guide."

Como nos ha recordado el pasado mes de febrero el Papa Francisco, durante la celebración de la Jornada Mundial de la Vida Consagrada, “los religiosos y las religiosas, hombres y mujeres que viven para imitar a Jesús, están llamados a introducir en el mundo su misma mirada, la mirada de la compasión, la mirada que va en busca de los alejados; que no condena, sino que anima, libera, consuela”.

La fidelidad a nuestra vocación exige la renuncia cotidiana a todo lo que pueda pretender ocupar el lugar de Dios en nuestra vida. Hoy, al hacer sus votos, pido para ustedes, queridas hermanas, la gracia de amar y seguir siempre al Divino Esposo con corazón indiviso.

Your life’s journeys as vowed religious are like that of the Virgin Mary’s own journey: your life journeys are pilgrimages of faith and consecration. A pilgrim – of necessity – cannot be weighed down by extra baggage. And for this reason, the evangelical counsels help you mirror in your own lives Mary’s free response to the Lord’s invitation. Poverty, chastity and obedience lived according to the spirit of your own congregation’s rule of life help you get rid of that “extra baggage” that can weigh you down as you seek to follow Christ. But these vows are not simply renunciations; rather the vows have freed you for the journey. May Mary’s prayers – and her example – continue to encourage you on your journeys.

As manna fed the Israelites on their journey through the desert, so too the Holy Eucharist is our daily bread as we journey on our earthly pilgrimage. The Eucharist – Jesus’ gift of himself – reveals God’s infinite love for each one of us. The Sacrifice of Christ is for all and thus our communion in his Body and Blood commits us to work for and to build up a more just and fraternal world – a world where “black lives matter,” a world where all lives matter.

They say that our lives are God’s gift to us – what we do with our lives is our gift to God – and our gift to those around us. Today, these young women pronounce their first vows, Praise be Jesus Christ!

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