Alive in Faith and Purpose

06-23-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We who live in this country experience hunger very differently from other people in distant lands or in a border country to us. In fact, most of us are not hungry at all, but are too well fed with the “wrong foods.” Sadly, hidden among us, even in Franklin MA, are people who are hungry and struggle to get food on the table to eat. We are blessed by our dynamic and faithful Saint Vincent de Paul Society that quietly, faithfully and diligently helps those who are in need. I also am constantly impressed by the many parishioners who unceasingly bring foodstuffs and supplies to the St. Vincent boxes at the entrances to our Church. The struggle of the hungry is constant and the response by these bearers of food gifts is also constant. There are also those who quietly mail in or put envelopes with checks in them in the Sunday collections to help the cause. I often wonder if they or their loved ones have not had struggles in their past that make their hearts and minds sensitive to the hidden needs of others. Since this week is about the Eucharist and the spiritual hunger of our hearts, I thought that I also would remind us all how our Saint Vincent’s feeds those who are hungry of body due to the generosity of the members’ volunteer time and our parishioner’s generosity of good and finance. We who have our bodily hunger fed are easily able to seek to have our spiritual hunger fed. Sadly, some folks only seek to feed the body and not the heart and soul.

And thus we must ask ourselves about how the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is supposed to have meaning for us. Some folks will respond with a large and long theological explanation of this. They will probably begin with the word “transubstantiation,” which is theAristotelian-Scholastic word for the changing of the bread and wine at Mass into the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Indeed, we hold this belief as Roman Catholics, and when we approach to receive Christ in the host at Communion time, we acknowledge this Sacred Presence by our word “Amen!” For some, it appears that theological notions and ideas are their world that they dwell in as faith. Our church invites and asks us for more. We are invited to find a deep meaning in this sacred reality that will deepen our hearts and beings and give meaning and purpose to our daily lives. Our Church does not envision Mass as some perfect, or near perfect, stage ceremony that impresses us; rather, our tradition asks us to enter in and participate in listening, praying, thanking, and affirming. As Saint Irenaeus proposed, we are a people of faith seeking understanding for our lives. Indeed the sacred mysteries and ceremonies of Mass help us to ponder our faith and grow in understanding. When we surrender the noise in our heads at Mass and enter into the celebration, we become open to finding a deeper meaning and understanding. When we let go of all that we use to protect or defend ourselves and simply let the grace and light of God flow over us, then we can grow beyond words and definitions and feel our God in our hearts and spirits. The early followers of Jesus did not respond or assent to a list of words of faith (i.e., a creed); instead they encountered Jesus personally and responded to Him.

Our Gospel this weekend has a very important meaning for us today. It is not just a story about Jesus during an evening in Galilee when Jesus blessed and broke the bread, but that in fact whenever in time his followers gather in his name to share his holy table, whenever his ministers speak his words over the bread, Jesus Christ is present to nourish his followers and to make them one. What happened then, happens now. The apostles came alive in faith and purpose. We also may do so.