Forty Hours Devotion: Solemn Vespers

Reading: Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 [display_podcast]

What is so wonderful, I think, about these Forty Hours is that we truly do have the wonderful ability to approach our God who is enthroned on Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering. That wonderful worship scene of which the writer of the letter to the Hebrews speaks this evening is where we are right here, right now. We won’t obviously be in it in all its fullness as we would like, until that great day when we are gathered to the Lord. But here in these Forty Hours, we have a little taste of that sacred space, which is the heavenly worship.

I dream a little, sometimes, of being in that heavenly worship and what it might be like to have that heavenly worship here on earth. I think we’ve seen a little of that in these hours, and it is my prayer that the fruits of this time will continue to unfold in the days and weeks ahead. What if the peace of these hours could be rolled into our daily living? What if the calm of being before our Lord helped us to deal with the crises of our day, at work, at home, at school? What if our worship led us to a better understanding of who we are, and who God is, and what God wants for us? What if our meditation led us to a direct encounter with God’s call in our lives and moved us to embrace God’s will in new and life-changing ways. Those things happen all the time when we make adoration of the Blessed Sacrament part of our prayer.

And the transition of worship to the practice of our lives is one we desperately need to make. Our worship and our prayer can’t be just words. It can’t even just be about sitting here before the Blessed Sacrament. Our worship has to have an effect on how we live our lives. Because yes, we worship Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Yes, we receive Christ in the Eucharist. But we are also called to be Christ to one another and to receive Christ in them. As we serve one another in gratitude, we are Christ for them. As we allow others to minister to us in our need, they are Christ to us. As we gather in faith, we become the presence of Christ for one another. As our service to the poor, needy, or afflicted radiates hope to those in need, we become the presence of Christ to others. As we love one another into a community of grace, we are Christ to a world that desperately needs God’s presence. The Christ in us is the same Christ in the Eucharist we receive and the Eucharist we adore. By worshipping and receiving the Eucharist, we become a divine presence in our world in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with our own efforts or worthiness, but is all about our Jesus.

And probably you don’t feel worthy of that kind of unique calling. You may not in fact feel worthy of being the presence of Christ to others. And that’s because you’re not worthy. None of us is: not you, not me, not anyone. As we worship the Blessed Sacrament, as we receive our Lord in the Eucharist, we become filled up with his presence and our living of that call becomes all about letting God be God and letting his grace flow through our lives.

We just sang in our response “May we who eat be bread for others. May we who drink pour out our love.” The age-old theology of the Eucharist is that we become what we receive – taking the body of Christ, we become the body of Christ. And our worship of the Lord in Adoration is an opportunity to reflect on that heavenly calling, an opportunity that beckons us to leave behind our false humility and instead be filled up with the grace that can make a tiny light of grace shine on the world grown dark in sin. And don’t sell it short. That tiny light of grace can provide a whole lot of illumination to a very dark place.

As we continue to adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament as we observe these forty hours, may our worship unite us ever more as families, ever more as a community of faith, ever more as the Body of Christ we have been called and created to be. May we set aside our unworthiness to instead take up, with incredible humility, the grace so freely given to us in this Blessed Sacrament. May we become ever more aware of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and in one another. May we open ourselves to the challenge of reaching out to others in love as we contemplate the great Charity of Christ in this Saving Sacrifice. May we receive with gratitude the bountiful graces of our God in every moment of our lives.

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Today’s readings [display_podcast]

The covenant faithfulness of the Lord is a wonderful topic for Mass during our Forty Hours Devotion. One of the fruits of Eucharistic Adoration is that we can come before our Lord, with all of our problems or doubts or concerns, and know that in the Eucharist, God is always present to us in an immanent and real way. The God of the all the world, the One who created the heavens, the One who is over and above all things, this God humbles himself and comes to us in the Eucharist. All we have to do is spend some time before him, to look up at the monstrance, and we will realize that his covenant promise to be with us always has been fulfilled.

The covenant God made with Abraham was just the beginning. Abraham was promised that he would have many descendants and would be the father of many nations. And God kept that covenant, and went one better. Or maybe a million better. That covenant was superseded by the covenant God made with his creatures in the person of Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have forgiveness of sins and the promise of life everlasting. In Christ, the Church becomes not merely the parent of many descendents here on earth, but the parent of all descendents in the heavenly kingdom.

Many think of Jesus as the new Covenant, but as he points out to us today, “before Abraham came to be, I AM.” The Covenant that came about in Christ is the covenant God had in mind all along. Blessed are we who can adore the covenant faithfulness of our God.