I must admit that I am still surprised to be here. When the bishop called me in to tell me he was naming me pastor of St. Pat, I was dumbfounded. I am grateful to God for the chance to return here as a priest and a pastor. I always felt like this was a second home to me, and I hope it will truly be that for me now. I want to start off by expressing my thanks to Father Black, for all the work he has done for our parish for the past two years. I hope he’s ready, because the real work now begins.
But what is the work of pastors and priests? What is it that we are called to do? Our feast day today gives us the answer, for our priests and pastors are ordained to give us the sacrament at the center of our faith: the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Our Lord did not leave us a book or any sort of writings; the New Testament was written by His Apostles and disciples. He left us the sacraments and the sacred liturgy, because in them we find Him present once more to us. And this divine presence is found in its fullness in the Eucharist.
The Church calls the Eucharist and the sacred liturgy the source and summit of the Christian life. Everything either directs us to the Eucharist, such as baptism and confession, or flows forth from the Eucharist, such as the works of mercy. It is because Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the bread and wine consecrated at the hands of the priest. What we receive in the Eucharist is not merely a symbol or a sign; it is actually Jesus Christ, true God and true man, who gave Himself up for us on the Cross. Far different and far greater than the manna God gave the Israelites in the desert, the heavenly Father pours upon us the bread of angels become our food for the journey.
The sacred liturgy - which is the Mass and the rituals surrounding the sacraments - is meant to communicate to us this truth: that Jesus Christ did not abandon us when He ascended into heaven, but that he is now present to us in the sacraments or mysteries of our faith. Each time the priest proclaims, “The mystery of faith,” he calls us to believe what Jesus said so clearly in the Gospel: This is my body, this is my blood. But only with the eyes of faith can we see that presence so real yet so difficult to apprehend. Only in faith do we receive what we believe is true.
Yet the sacred liturgy cannot be ignored or put aside to focus solely on the Eucharist. Everything in the liturgy points to or aids us to understand more completely what is happening and who is present to us once more. Jesus didn’t simply establish the sacraments to be something we merely do, but the means to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life, so that we may be happy with Him in the next. The liturgy is like the frame that accents or highlights the picture, giving us a better means of seeing what we are supposed to see.
My hope as I begin my pastorate is to help you understand far better the sacred liturgy so that you can better appreciate and receive Jesus in the sacraments, most especially in Holy Communion. If you can put the puzzle pieces of the liturgy together, then you can see most clearly Jesus Christ, who is for us the human face of God. This may require changes or challenges to what you have known or experienced, but all of this is done so as to more boldly and more clearly proclaim Christ our Lord. If we do not proclaim Jesus Christ in everything we do here at Saint Pat, whether in the church or in the school, then we are not doing as Jesus commanded us to do.
Let us pray that God will pour out His Holy Spirit upon our parish, that we may be awakened to His promptings and His call for all of us to be holy. Please pray for me and for Fr. Black as we serve you, as we seek to bring you Jesus Christ, that we may be humbled before the Lord mysteriously present in the Eucharist. Let us pray for one another, that we may be elevated by all that the sacred liturgy offers, from the texts and chants to the incense and candles, so as to truly encounter not an idea or a philosophy, but a real person, a person who hides in the Eucharist so that we may not be overwhelmed by His greatness, but humbled by His smallness, to draw nearer to Him and become what we receive. May the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ truly bring us to everlasting life.