What I Have Seen And Heard
Published: July 7, 2011
The following homily was delivered by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory at the closing Mass, on the vigil of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, at the 2011 Eucharistic Congress.
Salmonella, E-coli, and botulism are among the many worrisome words and health threats that have become all too familiar for most of us. The human food supply chain has too frequently recently been impacted by these bacteria and other threatening realities and thus has become a regular cause of concern for many of us. We all regrettably have grown far too accustomed to hearing about these threats to the safety of our food from all types of invasive sources from bacteria to poor hygiene to capricious droughts and floods. There are an increasing number of hazards to the safety and to the availability of the foods upon which we all depend—except, however, for the Spiritual Food that we honor and venerate this weekend.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, center, smiles at the congregation as he stands between deacon of the altar Tri Nguyen, left, and deacon of the word Michael Byrne. (Photo by Michael Alexander)
The Lord’s Eucharist is a food that guarantees life and health and confidence for all who dine upon His generosity. As we come together for our annual Eucharistic Congress, we no doubt realize that these adverse and familiar threats to our ordinary food supply always seem to come from the outside—they come from many sources that are generally unrelated to our interior life. The only threats that we face in reference to the Eucharist are always found within the human heart and soul.
The Eucharist is a source of life that never is depleted nor is it ever in scarce supply—the Eucharistic harvest is always as abundant as the Gospel stories of the multiplication of loaves and fishes suggest and promise in Scripture. The Eucharist is a spiritual food that sustains and assures us that we will not only survive but flourish into life eternal. God’s abundance is the theme of this Eucharistic Congress and one that touches each dimension of our lives. Our God is a God of Abundance—He lavishes His love upon His people and provides for all of us beyond our ability to visualize or even to imagine. The Eucharist is just one expression of the generosity of this Lord of Life.
Life vocations are another expression of God’s generosity. The Lord always provides extravagantly for the needs of His Church. We may have grown too accustomed to the dire judgment of those who analyze Church life. Often—and occasionally with a certain flare of pessimistic delight—they remind us of the clergy shortage, of the scarcity of young people now entering consecrated life, of the decreasing numbers of young Catholic men and women who are being married and raising families all in comparison to a prior generation. Each analysis seems to propose the recommendation that we must change because there are not enough vocations and not enough interest in prior religious customs and beliefs—we must rethink our values and ideals because they have outlived their usefulness.
Many faithful Catholics even suggest that vocations of all types are currently in such short supply that we must consider doing things contrary to the Church’s heritage and tradition. That is not the way of the Lord of Abundance.
The situation is indeed serious, but I often believe not because there are not enough vocations, but perhaps because there are not enough people who hear God’s call and choose to respond to it, who have the courage to challenge the values of a secular world and are not frightened by the demands of fidelity that all life vocations offer. Commitment is a dirty word in many ways in our society—whether it is a lifelong commitment to a spouse or to a religious calling. In such an environment, we all might think that God is not providing enough vocations rather than acknowledging that perhaps there may not be enough people with the courage to hear God’s voice in making their life decisions.
We all too often are like the disciples when faced with the great throng of hungry people and not seeing the possibility of ever feeding them with the little that we have. First to those timid and fainthearted disciples and now to us as well, the Lord invites believers to see possibilities to envision promise—even within a few fishes and loaves.
Each young couple that stands before an altar and in their nervousness dares to promise each other love and fidelity, every new cleric who risks allowing the Lord to take his life and use it for God’s own purpose offers the Church hope. The wonderful couples who come together each year in our Archdiocese to celebrate a golden or diamond Jubilee of married life stand as a witness of hope in the midst of a world that has grown cynical, secular and pessimistic about its own future.
The Eucharist is the Church’s source of courage and confidence in a tomorrow that still belongs to the Lord, who always is abundant in His Love and in His Power to make things new. Are there enough vocations to secure the Church’s future—of course there are—God always provides. What we pray for this evening is that there are enough courageous and humble men and women who can respond to the call that God places within their hearts.
Our single individuals and those who have become widows and widowers are also people who bear witness to God’s Love as they pursue holiness not alone but always with the Lord, who accompanies them in their daily lives and sustains them in their sorrows and increases the joys of their personal triumphs. We all have a calling and a dignity that comes from God Himself. The harvest indeed is abundant because the Lord of the Harvest is ever supplying for the needs of His Church.
May we leave this Eucharistic Congress filled with joy, with confidence, with hope, with enthusiasm for tomorrow because the Lord of Tomorrow resides within the heart of His Church and His grace is never in short supply! Amen!