September 16, 2019
The following homily was delivered at an all-school Mass at Bishop Chatard High School, Indianapolis in 2017. Readings: 1 Timothy 2:1-8 and Luke 7:1-10
Today’s readings point us to the Mass, what it is and how we should both approach and respond to the Mass.
In 1 Timothy we heard: I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone… That is what the Mass is – prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving.
And in the gospel, we heard the words of the centurion, words the Church adapted and uses as part of our prayerful preparation to receive the Eucharist at Mass: Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof, but only say the word and my servant (my soul) shall be healed.
So let’s spend some time talking about the Mass.
Do you know what the Church calls the priest who leads the Mass? He is called the celebrant. By definition, a celebrant is in charge of or oversees a celebration. The Mass is a celebration! It is not something we check off our to do list, not drudgery, not boring — it is a celebration!
How is it a celebration? Let’s begin with the fact that we experience two miracles during the course of a Mass. First, through the prayers of consecration, bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ – the True Presence of Christ. A miracle occurs right before our very eyes.
There is a second, mostly forgotten, miracle that occurs. We are transformed as well. We enter this gym, our church, as individuals. We are transformed into the Body of Christ. Together we form the Body of Christ – wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst. When we come together in community, we grow stronger. There is great power and strength in the communal prayer of believers.
The more committed and engaged the believers, the stronger the Body of Christ becomes. When we sit with our heads down and doze off, or sit back in our chairs with our arms crossed, or send our attention elsewhere, we weaken the bonds of community – we weaken the Body of Christ. We have an important role to play, a vital contribution to make.
The Mass is also a celebration because there is an exchange of gifts. We receive the sacrificial gift of Christ. He offers Himself up at each Mass. He transforms us.
The beauty of this gift is that we haven’t earned it; it is undeserved. We are sinners. We fail so often to honor Him and follow His teachings and yet Mass after Mass He offers us, His unworthy servants, this gift.
Our return gift to Him is our faith, our belief that He only needs to say the word, and our soul will be healed. We can offer Him the same type of incredible faith demonstrated by the centurion.
When you come to Mass, don’t treat it as an item on your Things-To-Do list. Come to the celebration with joy in your heart, prepared to make the Body of Christ stronger.