The crisis of the Catholic Church during the past thirty years has largely been a crisis of reverence for the Eucharist. On today's Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, perhaps we can do something to restore proper reverence. The problem is not so much with the changes of Vatican II. It has more to do with the kind of society we live in and how it influences us.
Today's society moves rapidly and that leads us to expect instant results. Because of the fast pace, we have become impatient. A humorist said that we are so impatient today that they have had to invent a new measurement of time. Scientists used to say the smallest fraction of time was the nano-second, but now they need something even smaller. It is time between when the stoplight turns green and the guy behind you honks his horn! You and I know the joke contains an element of truth. Our lack of patience can affect us when we come to the Mass.
I would like point our three areas where we need to combat impatience. First is the very moment of receiving communion. It is the Lord whom we take into our hands or our mouths. We should show great reverence by bowing and adoring Jesus. If someone chooses to kneel to receive communion, I know it takes a fraction of a second longer. But rather than be irritated we should gain some inspiration from those who want to receive the Lord on their knees. The Chuch allows a legitimate diversity in receiving communion, but the common thread is reverence. In communion God humbles himself so much he takes the appearances of bread to be eaten. Reverence means we recognize the substance beneath the appearance.
A second area of greater patience - and reverence - is the Eucharistic Prayer itself. In it Jesus renews the sacrifice of Calvary. It's like being at the foot of the cross with Mary and the Beloved Disciple, but even more so because Jesus wishes to join each one of us with his saving death. The American Bishops have instructed us to kneel during the entire Eucharist Prayer. We are doing that here at Holy Family except for one small part. The conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer is the Great Amen which we sing or proclaim. We should not be so impatient to stand up at that point. If you look in the missalette it clearly tells the congregation to remain kneeling thru the Great Amen and then stand for the Lord's Prayer. A small point perhaps, but in the Bible kneeling is not just a posture of penance or humility. Above all it expresses gratitude, an openness to receive God's gifts. As St. Paul says, "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name." (Eph. 3:14-15) The context of these verses imply deep thanksgiving and receptivity. However you understand the posture, I ask you remain kneeling until the Eucharistic Prayer is concluded with your response, the Great Amen.
A third area of greater patience is the time of meditation after communion. When the song ends, we generally have some moments of silence. While the hosts are placed back in the tabernacle, we should recognize that for a short time, our own bodies become tabernacles. We are called to intense worship. There is no required posture at that time - some might might be more reverent by being seated and closing their eyes. Most will probably want to kneel at that time until the tabernacle is closed. But can we all try to put worldly concerns out of our minds and focus on Jesus?
Mentioning worldly concerns brings up something which should go without saying, but unfortunately has become a distraction. Please, when you enter God's house, turn off the cell phone! This usually happens most at wedding or funerals, not Sunday Mass, but I have seen people answering their cell phone, then getting up to walk out, all the while chatting with someone. I've even had cell phones go off in the confession, then have to wait while some guy talks to his girl friend! At least I can point out to him that the best thing he can do for his girl friend and for himself is to get his life straightened out before God.
We live in a world of constant distractions. But when we come to Mass, we enter different realm. We are fulfilling our most important obligation - to worship God our Creator. Tho it might be hard for us to imagine now, our greatest joy will be to worship Him forever in heaven. That same God loves us so much he humbles himself. He becomes food for our souls. This Sunday let's ask God for a greater patience so we can show true reverence for Jesus present in the Eucharist. As we read in this Sunday's Sequence:
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