Sunday, April 09, 2017

Passion for Communion

(Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord-Year A; This homily was given on April 9, 2017 at St. John's Chapel in Meriden, CT.; See Matthew 26:14-27:66)

“Jesus, may your Divine Blood enter my veins, to make me live the generosity of the cross at every moment.”
—St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Forge, #780

Those beautiful words, from St. Josemaría Escrivá, are not intended to be received metaphorically; they are no mere figure of speech.  Those words are the literal reality of the sacramental life and the power of God in our daily lives.  The cross is intimidating, exhausting, overwhelming.  Each of us bears some cross as true disciples of the Lord.  I know that some people here this morning bear several of them.  Yet it is the Blood of Jesus Christ, poured out for us here in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, that allows us to live out the “generosity of the cross at every moment.”  

Yet in the Gospel we just listened to, the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, we hear about the first disciples who received that Divine Gift, and hours later they failed our Lord utterly and completely.  The Blood of Jesus Christ was coursing through their veins, and they did not remain faithful to Him.

St. Peter, we know, will deny Jesus three times.  All of them will abandon Him and flee.  But in the Garden of Gethsemane they were not even able to do that much!  St. Matthew relates how they were drowsy and eventually fell asleep.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, indicates how this call for vigilance “also points ahead to the later history of Christianity.”  He explains how the drowsiness of the disciples is what allows the power of the Evil One to cause so much harm down through the centuries.  He writes:

“Such drowsiness deadens the soul, so that it remains undisturbed by the power of the Evil One at work in the world and by all the injustice and suffering ravaging the earth.  In its state of numbness, the soul prefers not to see all this; it is easily persuaded that things cannot be so bad, so as to continue in the self-satisfaction of its own comfortable existence.”
—Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI 
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, pp. 153

One of the most violent and dangerous places in the world today is Syria.  The images of the atrocities committed in that place, and across the Middle East, reveal to the entire world the gravity of this desperate situation.  Is it any wonder, then, that the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has struggled internally to find unity and fruitfulness in these days?  A strong and vital Church in that region of the world would have the power to stave off the evil that threatens so many.  Is it any wonder, then, that the Evil One would work so very hard to divide the Church in that place?  Is it any surprise to us, however, that Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa should suffer so much to bring unity and stability to that historic diocese?  Or think about the great evil of abortion in our own part of the world.  Are we not also lulled into complacency, preferring “not to see all this,” and “persuaded that things cannot be so bad”?

You have heard the expression before: “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  Those words are often attributed to the Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke.  But if you read the works of Edmund Burke, you will not find those words anywhere.  What Burke actually wrote was:

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” 

We cannot defeat evil simply by “doing something.”  We associate.  We gather together.  We are brought together in communion, or we perish.  We associate in communion with Jesus Christ and each other, or we die.  There is no other path for human flourishing and the victory of God.

What a tremendous inspiration then, to read the words of Archbishop Pizzaballa in his letter to his diocese at the beginning of the Lenten Season: “I decided to convene a gathering of all the diocesan priests of the Latin Patriarchate.”  He chose, at that time, to offer insights and to listen to their own suggestions and opinions.  He shared the great joy in seeing “that those gathered were committed to working through these problems, willing to face honestly the reality and ready to engage whole heartedly in the necessary steps to set us back on the right path.”  This is the association and communion that allows “the divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).  

This association and communion, of course, goes back to the very foundations of the Church.  The disciples, in the Passion narrative this morning, have totally failed our Lord and flagged in the generosity God called them to.  Yet show me these men in fifty days plus three, gathered together in the Upper Room with Our Lady, when the fire of the Holy Spirit falls upon them and sends them out as witnesses to the ends of the earth!  These are the same men that will gather together, day by day, united in the breaking of the bread “with glad and generous hearts” (see Acts 2:43-47).  Daily did our Lord add to the number and the vitality of those who gathered in His name!  They were united together in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, and that is what enabled them to transform the world as they knew it.  

As we enter into this, the most holy of all weeks of the Liturgical Year, we are invited to share in that same source of strength, power and love.  Our Lord comes to us here, to this altar, and pours out His Body and His Blood for us, to bring us together and allow us to accomplish His great work in whatever corner of His Kingdom He sends us to.  This morning, we pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, may your Divine Blood course through our veins, and flow deeply into every dimension of our lives, so that we may live the generosity of the cross at every moment of this Holy Week.