Forty Hours Devotion: Closing Mass of Thanksgiving

Readings: Sirach 50:22-24; Mark 5:18-20 [display_podcast]

Have you ever had an experience that was so wonderful you just never wanted it to end? Maybe you were on a vacation and the place where you spent your time was really beautiful, and you had all kinds of fun, you got to swim and do all sorts of really great activities, and your whole family had a really good time. Or maybe you were at a party and all your best friends were there, and the food was delicious, and there was great music and games. Or maybe you went to a movie that was the best you’ve ever seen: the jokes were funny and the story was great and the filming was top-notch. You can probably think of other examples, too, of experiences that were so wonderful.

When we have these kinds of experiences, we don’t want them to ever come to an end, do we? We wish we could stay on vacation forever, or we want to have a party like that every week, or we wish we could stay and watch the movie over and over and over. The man in the gospel who had been cured of evil spirits had an experience sort of like that, only a billion times better!

He had lived his whole life plagued by evil spirits. They got him into trouble, made him sick, got him injured, and probably made everyone around him think he was crazy and were afraid of him. His life had to be lonely because his behavior, instigated by those nasty demons, pushed people away. So just imagine what an incredible relief it had to be for him when Jesus came along, and with just a few words, cast the many demons that were in the man into a herd of swine, who ran over a cliff and drowned! The man was able to walk around and act normal, and be healed of all the sickness that was in him. Can you imagine how wonderful that was for him?

Well, it was so wonderful, that in the Gospel reading we have today, he asks Jesus if he can stay with him forever. And that’s completely understandable because how would he ever want such a wonderful experience to end?

We’ve come to the end now, of our Forty Hours Devotion. It has been a wonderful time of grace for all of us. We have had beautiful Masses and prayer services. You all got to spend time with Fr. Nathan and learn new ways to pray. We have had opportunities to come to Reconciliation and start our spiritual life all over again, new in the Spirit. We have had the opportunity to see the Lord and come into his presence in a very special way. This has been a beautiful time of prayer and there has been such an incredible spirit of quiet and reverence in the whole building. We have truly been so blessed to have these Forty Hours to pray together and to be with our Lord together. We wish, in lots of ways, that it would never end. We’d like to sit in our Lord’s presence forever.

Except that’s not what our Lord wants for us. He loves it when we are here and spend time with him. But he doesn’t want us to sit here forever. He wants us instead to go back into our school, back into our workplaces, back into our families and our communities, and to be his presence to others.

Because the Lord is with us in all sorts of ways. Of course, he is uniquely present to us in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Eucharist we adore which is the same Eucharist we receive at Mass. But he is also present to us in one another. And when we look at someone, we are called to see Christ in them in much the same way as we see Christ in the Eucharist. If we spend our time here looking at our Lord in Adoration and then go out of church and ignore his presence in other people, then we have wasted our time. Adoration teaches us to see our God. To see him present in the Eucharist, yes, but also to see him at work in our world and present in each person he puts in our lives. Even the people who irritate us beyond belief!

And just as we respect and reverence Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we absolutely have to respect and reverence Jesus present in each other. So now we have to treat each other with dignity and honor, and love them no matter what. And if we cannot see the good in someone, we have to pray to see Christ in them. Because there is nothing good in anyone than is better than Christ in them.

This is a Mass of Thanksgiving. So as we offer our gifts today, we must also offer our thanks. We thank all of the committee who worked so hard to plan these hours, and to plan the prayer. We thank everyone who read at Masses or prayer services, everyone who sang or distributed the Eucharist, or put together worship aids or prayer books on the tables our back. We thank all those who stayed up late or got up early to adore the Lord. We thank those who were present all day long, and those who could only come for an hour. We thank those who could not come at all, but supported all of us with prayers.

But most of all, we thank God. We thank God for being present to us in the Eucharist. We thank God for giving us the grace of these Forty Hours. We thank God who is nearer to us than our own hearts, and who never fails to show up when we call on him. We thank God who works great wonders everywhere: here and in our own hearts. And we thank God for all the blessings we’ve yet to see, the blessings he will give us as his presence continues to grow in our midst. Thank God!