Homily for May 2018 Holy Hour
1 Kings 19:9-13a
Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
In June of last year, we begin a Year of the Eucharist in our diocese. Bishop Matano proclaimed this year with the desire to help us deepen our awareness of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and what the Mass means for us.
In two and a half weeks (on June 3rd), our Year of the Eucharist will draw to a close as we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus. Of course, the end of the Year of the Eucharist does NOT mean that Jesus will stop being present in the Eucharist. Our belief in the Eucharist is based not on this year proclaimed by Bishop Matano but rather on Jesus’ words 2,000 years ago at the Last Supper.
The first thing we started doing differently during this year was to return to the old custom of kneeling after the Lamb of God at Mass. We kneel now in recognition of the Real Presence of Jesus as the priest holds up the Blessed Sacrament. Then we stand as we come forward. Our standing signifies that Jesus lifts us up. So, we have both kneeling and standing now at Communion.
The other change we made at Mass came in October as we began distributing Communion only in the front of church except at Christmas and Easter. I note Christmas and Easter because those are times when the church is filled. When the parish started distributed Communion in back there were far more people in church. Unfortunately, now on our typical Sunday, Communion in back is no longer needed. (By the way, we need to pray for the decline in attendance to turn around.)
Our other big change for our Year of the Eucharist was the addition of our monthly holy hour. This was something I was actually thinking about before Bishop Matano proclaimed a Year of the Eucharist. We need to spend time with Jesus. I personally enjoy the hour before the Blessed Sacrament but would people come? The Year of the Eucharist became the perfect time to try.
I was ecstatic when we have about 45 people show up for the first holy hour. I was worried it might be one or two. Since then our numbers have dwindled to an average in the 20’s but several of you are very consistent in your attendance. So, our monthly holy hours will continue.
What have our holy hours meant for you? I assume since you keep coming, that it has been a good experience. Have you shared with others how the time has been for you to perhaps encourage them to come and deepen their belief in the Real Presence?
As we reflect on what this Year of the Eucharist has meant for us, every one of our prayers, readings, and hymns tonight have been used during previous holy hours this year. I did this to review this year.
I will start with our second reading. It is Paul’s telling of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. He cites the words of Jesus, “This is my body…this cup is the new covenant in my blood” reminding us that our belief in the Real Presence Jesus in the Eucharist is not some human invention but from Jesus’ own words. This is fundamental to our belief in the Eucharist.
The gospel reading today comes from Jesus’ prayer in the garden as told in Matthew’s Gospel. I use this passage to provide the answer to the question of how long our time in Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The answer, of course, is one hour. The reason is Jesus’ words to Peter, “So, you could not keep watch for one hour?” Again, it is from Jesus’ own words.
What about the structure of our holy hour?
We use incense as a sign of our prayers going up to God.
We use readings from the Bible to put God’s Word at the center of our lives.
Of course, the Blessed Sacrament is on the altar because of our belief in the Real Presence.
How about the silence? The reason for the silence is found in the first reading. Often, God chooses to come to us in the silence. We need to turn everything else to be aware of God in the silence. God speaks to us in his words found in the Bible and he speaks to us in the silence of our hearts.
So, what are we to do with this hour? Here I turn to our responsorial verse, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Give all to God in thanksgiving for all he has done for us.