Homily: Eucharistic Congress, Atlanta 2009

Author: Cardinal John Patrick Foley

Homily: Eucharistic Congress, Atlanta 2009

Cardinal John Patrick Foley

Christ's Passion is renewed in a pledge of future glory

On Saturday, 13 June [2009], Cardinal John Patrick Foley, Grand Master, Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, gave the following homily during a Mass celebrated at the Archdiocese of Atlanta's annual Eucharistic Congress, in which approximately 30,000 Catholics participated this year.

Your Excellency,
Archbishop Gregory,
My brothers and sisters in Christ,

Just two days ago in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, continuing the tradition restored by his Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, celebrated Mass in the square in front of his Cathedral Basilica of St John Lateran in Rome and went in Eucharistic procession from there to the Basilica of St Mary Major to mark the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.

This beautiful feast, which we celebrate today in thanksgiving for the Eucharist, a word which itself means thanksgiving, had its origins in the Middle Ages.

A priest from Bohemia, in the modern-day Czech Republic, was having doubts about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He came to Rome on pilgrimage to pray that his doubts might be dispelled — and apparently had no answer to his prayers. On the way back to Bohemia, he stopped to offer Mass in the town of Bolsena and during that Mass, at the breaking of the sacred host, blood poured from the broken host and stained the corporal and the altar itself. Needless to say, the priest's doubts were dispelled.

As a result of that miracle of Bolsena, the corporal on which the Precious Blood has flowed was brought to the Holy Father, who was at that time in residence in the city of Orvieto. He summoned two great theologians, St Bonaventure and St Thomas Aquinas, to prepare texts for a special Mass and divine office for a feast he instituted, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, which became popularly known as Corpus Christi. The corporal with the stains of the Precious Blood was placed in a special monstrance which can still be seen and venerated in a side chapel of the Cathedral of Orvieto, and the purple stains still remain in the marble of the church in Bolsena where the doubting priest celebrated his most memorable Mass.

By the way, when the two theologians brought their proposed texts to the Holy Father, St Bonaventure told the Pope that the hymns written by St Thomas Aquinas were so superior to his own efforts that they should be adopted in full — which the Pope proceeded to do.

Many of you are, I am sure, familiar with the hymns written by St Thomas: the Pange Lingua, which contains the Tantum Ergo; the O Salutaris Hostia: and the Lauda Sion Salvatorem. These hymns are regularly sung, either in their original Latin or in English translation, on Holy Thursday, on this feast day, and at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

St Thomas also wrote another hymn, O Sacrum Convivium, which I personally recite every day as part of my thanksgiving after Mass.

In English, that hymn reads, "O Sacred Banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of his Passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and there is given to us a pledge of future glory".

I would ask you to meditate on these beautiful words which encapsulate what we believe about the Eucharist.

"O Sacred Banquet, in which Christ is received" — the Eucharist is a meal, a sacred meal in which, by Christ's invitation, we receive his Body and Blood for our spiritual nourishment.

"The memory of his Passion is renewed" — Jesus, at the Last Supper, said "This is my Body, this is the cup of my Blood, which will be given up for you. Do this in memory if me". Referring to what would happen to himself on the next day, the first Good Friday, Jesus gave to us on the first Holy Thursday a memorial of his sacrifice, a vivid way of remembering what he was going to do for us, giving his life on the Cross in reparation for our sins and for our growth in intimacy with him, for our holiness.

"The soul is filled with grace"— an exact translation would be, "The mind is filled with grace", which really recalls two types of grace, sanctifying grace, which is a created share in the inner life of love of God himself; and actual grace, the continual promptings to do good and the helps to avoid evil which we are fortunate to receive in our lives.

"There is given to us a pledge of future glory" — in a very real sense, grace is the heaven we carry within us. Obviously, when we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we carry within ourselves the Body and Blood of the God-man, our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ — whose very name means, "Anointed Savior". Since heaven is defined as eternal life with God, our worthy reception of Holy Communion is, in a very real sense, an anticipation of heaven, a pledge of our future glory.

Another prayer which I recite every day as part of my preparation for Communion is one which recalls many truths about the Eucharist:

"O Jesus, I want you for my sake, because I am nothing, because I am weak, because I am a sinner; for your sake, that I may know you, love you and grow to be like you; for the sake of others, that I may never do them harm, always do them good and give you to them"

"Since you want me, dear Jesus, take me: all that I have, all that I am and all that I can be".

In thanksgiving to God for the magnificent gift of the Eucharist, may each of us offer to Jesus each day all that we have, all that we are and all that we can be. In this way, by God's grace, we can change the world.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
17 June 2009, page 7

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