[Can’t preach for the Solemnity, but here’s what I think and feel…]
Our country faced staggering uncertainty. Even before they killed George Floyd.
Our parishes faced staggering uncertainty, too. Even before the bishop unjustly prohibited me from exercising the pastoral ministry. [Spanish]
They called the economic situation a ‘perfect storm.’ Even before the protesters risked spreading the virus all over again. After all, the city of Philadelphia fell prey to the ravages of the Spanish flu in 1918 because of a public demonstration, in favor of the US entering World War I.
Will we ever have our ‘normal lives’ again? How can we possibly deal with all this? Where can we find the resources to cope?
In Him were found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3)
He remains with us. On our altars. Jesus Christ. Crucified, risen from the dead, exalted in heaven. He lives with us, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. He has the resources. And He wills to share His resources with us.
Some dear members of our parishes have returned to Sunday Mass. They get hot under their masks. Someone ushers them in and out of church, like visitors to a medium-security prison. They pray in our pews, on our behalf, like the first Israelites to return to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity.
Meanwhile, the rest of us have something in common. Christian solitude.
When the coronavirus ordeal began, even before we learned how to “livestream” a Mass, I mentioned how challenging it is to celebrate Mass by yourself.
Having to do this, back in mid-March, confronted me with the embarrassing truth: I had become spiritually lazy. Saying Mass by myself required me to use spiritual muscles that I had not exercised in a long time. To believe in the Real Presence, without any other human beings around, to help me believe it.
In March, I had no idea what the good Lord had in mind. Namely, to train me to run a marathon with those very spiritual muscles. Now, I run that marathon right alongside you, dear isolated reader–that is, the majority of dear readers for whom the barriers to returning to Mass still remain too high.
Me, celebrating Mass by myself–while substitutes take my rightful place at the parish Masses. You, longing for communion, in Christian solitude at home. Together, we find ourselves running a long, hard marathon in the hot sun. A marathon of faith in things unseen, without the usual company around us, to help us believe.
But it is precisely that marathon of faith which we most desperately need to run. Because faith alone can give us The Resource. The Gift from heaven that sustains us through thick and thin. Jesus Christ, Son of God, son of Mary. The Savior of the world, Who unites Himself with the human race, through every Holy Mass, validly celebrated by a Catholic priest.
How much will it break my heart, to find myself greeting my people at the edge of the parish property on Corpus Christi Sunday, instead of kneeling in front of the Host in the monstrance on the altar, lifting the smoking thurible on behalf of the whole parish? How much will it crush me, that we won’t have a Corpus-Christi procession? Followed by hamburgers, hot dogs, and Mexican dances?
I won’t try to explain how much it hurts. And let’s remember that this ordeal will pass; we will have our normal lives again, someday.
But as we run this long, hot marathon of solitude, we remember this. All the “normal” parish stuff: it’s all an image of something greater anyway. A Mass on earth gives us an image of the unending Mass, in heaven. We process with the monstrance on Corpus Christi to symbolize that our whole earthly life involves a pilgrimage. To somewhere else.
Christian solitude poses immense spiritual challenges. But, fundamentally, such solitude comes from heaven as a gift. Because someday many layers of dirt will cover my grave. And your grave, too, dear reader.
Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, can give us the resources to deal with that inevitable fact. And right here, right now—no matter what the circumstances, fears, anxieties, sufferings we have—right here, right now: Let’s believe in Him. The Word made flesh for us, Who abides on earth in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.
[A kind soul started a facebook group where I can post videos that you might find helpful. Here’s the video version of what you just read, English and Spanish.]
8 thoughts on “Painful, Solitary Corpus Christi of Faith”
Just watched the video after reading your homily. How is it that you always find the words to say that I need to hear at that point in time….to lift me up when I am tired….your words help me on my own “marathon of faith.” Your people miss you too Fr. Mark. Wish we had the words to tell you how much…..God be with you.
Thank you, Fr. Mark for these words that were so timely and desperately needed. You are in my daily prayers!
You are a true shepherd and greatly loved.
Sorrow and pain are glorious beautiful love expressed. I pray for you everyday. I will be at Mass Sunday and I will pray for all who cannot.
Thank you Father Mark and God Bless You!
Dear Fr. Mark,
Thank you! Thank you for training for actual physical marathons that have prepared you for this spiritual one. Thank you for daily offering the sacrifice of the Mass in your isolation on behalf of the entire people of the church. Thank you for sharing your journey with us in the many online forums we have at our disposal. Thank you for carrying your sadness and suffering in the way that you do, for I am certain that God is pleased with you and greatly desires your ever increasing holiness. Thank you for being our pastor even though for this short time (though it certainly seems long!) you are not able to celebrate with us nor actively serve and lead us. Thank you for remembering our suffering. Thank you for praying in solidarity with us. Thank you for learning how to LIVE stream. Thank you for your compassion. Thank you for seeing God’s hand in all of this.
Know that we pray in solidarity with you, whether we are physically attending Mass with priests standing in your place or praying at home. Know that we unite our prayers with yours as with the whole church. Know that Our hearts are heavy with our burdens and yours, even while they are light and joyful because we share our yoke with Christ crucified and Christ victorious. Know that you are impacting us and leading us even while we are not physically present to one another. Know that you have taught us well, that it is Jesus we seek in the Eucharist, that it is a holy love that we strive for as we follow him, that we will find healing in his presence and his alone. Know that your words stay with us while we are apart. Know that even while separated, we are bound as a people, as the Body of Christ, that even while we will not process following the Blessed Sacrament to a physical place of adoration, we do process as we journey in these strange times, following Jesus, the Head, to our eternal home.
Dear Father Mark,
Thank you for your silent homily. As I read, I remembered something the ‘good Sisters’ used to teach. Back when I was a little girl in Catholic school they spoke about ‘white martyrs’. The white part had nothing to do with race or pigmentation – it was about a bloodless martyrdom. It occurred to me that those of us who have been locked out of our churches and are grieving about it are white martyrs.
I also remembered something else they taught, that I knew, but didn’t really appreciate – Jesus is everywhere. So like you I am in hurting and lonely in this marathon. Thanks for reminding me of the truths that are so evident that sometimes I don’t see them. You are in my daily prayers. I hope that this situation is resolved in a happy manner for you and for the Church. God love you and bless you.
It’s a looooong Lent. Come Lord Jesus. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
God bless you!
When I read these comments from the above, at least I know I am not alone.It is so sad.You are the BEST. Ed. Mayer.