Friday April 9, 2020
Welcome to the life of a priest on Holy Thursday. We appeal to your kindness in remembering a prayer for the priests of the parish and two seminarians serving at the parish during the pandemic. Please pray for all the padres that they may be men of prayer who can preach with courage, teach with clarity, and serve with charity. Please pray for them and the young ones who will step forward from our parish pews to one day serve the Lord in His name and His person.
I enclose a note from the Bishop to all the priests of the Arlington Diocese. He calls all of us throughout seventy parishes and eight missions to join him in a Holy Hour for our feast day. God bless him and the many confreres of the Arlington Diocese.
Dear Brother Priests,
Like all of you, I am extremely disappointed that we will not be together tomorrow in our cathedral for the celebration of the Chrism Mass. However, we remain connected spiritually, especially during the time we will spend with our Eucharistic Lord tomorrow (beginning at 10:30 AM if possible). I have attached a reflection for your possible reading during the Holy Hour, with the hope that it conveys my fraternal concern and support. You remain very much in my daily thoughts and prayers. In my Holy Hour tomorrow, I will be thanking the Lord for the great privilege of serving with you in our wonderful diocese.
May Our Lord Jesus abundantly bless you and all those you love and serve throughout these sacred days and always.
Fraternally in Christ,
I am attaching the Bishop’s insights as an additional file.Click here
Unfortunately the church camera was affected by the windstorms today when the electricity went out for a short time all over the parish grounds. We did not realize until after tonight’s Mass that the camera was also affected by the electrical disruption and no one could see the Mass.
Fr. Heisler gave a beautiful homily for the Mass and the three of us in attendance (two seminarians and the foolish pastor) were deeply edified. I asked Father to provide me with a written version that I might add it to this letter. God bless the good priest. He spends a great deal of time in preparing his homilies and he is not about to be denied tonight. No computer/camera is his master. Let us pray for one another.
Mass of the Lord’s Supper April 9, 2020
Tonight we enter the heart of Our Lord’s passionate love by participating in the institution of the memorial of his passing from death to eternal life, The Paschal Mystery in the Most Holy Eucharist. In connection to this greatest of mysteries, He also establishes the ministerial priesthood so that His sacrificial priesthood may be exercised until the end of time. Tying these two mysteries together, He gives the new law as the summary and culmination of all laws, “Love one another.”
Although it is such a privilege and a joy to be with my vocation director to celebrate the gift of the Eucharist and the Priesthood together after all these years, ever since Fr. Gould worked out the schedule for the Triduum and Easter, it has been extremely difficult to imagine what to say in an empty Church for the Celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper for two reasons.
First, what do I say to you who are not here on the night when Jesus institutes the Memorial of passing from death to eternal life, to you who have been longing to receive Jesus in the Eucharist since March 17.
The second is more personal, for on this night, Jesus Christ also instituted the ministerial priesthood. The priesthood so closely connected to the celebration of the Last Super and Good Friday, that one could say, and it has been my experience, that the priesthood exists for the sake of the Eucharist from which the Church draws her very life!
Ever since a child, watching the priest wash the feet of parishioners, and hearing him say the words of consecration over the bread and wine in imitation of Christ, the Son of God, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that that was the reason for and the meaning of my existence on earth. That I would become who I am by giving, specifically by serving, by washing souls clean in confession with the blood of Christ and by feeding souls with the Bread of Life, by exercising the very power of Christ himself in imitation of his words and actions, This is my body, for you. In a word, to live the identity of the priest as a man for others, by existing for others to bring about communion with Christ.
And so the words spoken by Jesus, “With longing I have longed to eat this Passover meal with you”, strike a deep cord of anguish in the heart of every priest this year because you are not here, you are not here to be washed clean, you are not here to be fed. Without you, the priesthood has no meaning. This is my body, FOR YOU!
But now, today, we say to Jesus Christ throughout the world, “With longing we have longed to eat this Passover meal with YOU!” For we are longing, ever since the closing of our churches. On the last day of public mass on March 17, the first reading was from Deuteronomy, in lamentation they cried out, “We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.”
Like them, we feel abandoned, without a place to gather for worship together, in communion and for communion, a feeling heightened by the fact that we hunger to fed, to be connected, to experience that God is close to us.
However, as painful as our current situation, can we even began to imagine the pain of God’s longing for us, the hunger and the thirst of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in his sadness, his desire for us, ever since the fall?!
When Adam and Eve betrayed God and one another by entrusting themselves and their happiness to the evil one, “Do not eat of this or you shall die”, all mankind has tried to hide from God behind trees whose falling leaves remind us of our fall, lost to one another and to ourselves, seeking comfort apart from God like the prodigal son, in the arms of betrayers.
And with longing, like the Father for his Prodigal Son, God our Father has been planning the marriage banquet of His Son to reverse the ancient curse, with his new command, “Take this, all of you, and eat of this, and you will live!” that the two of us, all mankind and creation, might be one, that the two shall become one flesh.
To accomplish this, Jesus, sparred nothing. He doesn’t just nibble at the fruit or take a little bite. He loves us to the end, to the last beat of his heart, the last exhale of his breath. He takes sin into himself, the entirety of all sin, of every sin ever committed or will ever be committed into himself, He becomes sin. He eats the whole fruit of death on the tree, the wood of the Cross!
There is a saying in philosophy that is most appropriate for this evening, “The most powerful causes are the most hidden.”
Look at the stars, tiny specks in the vast sky, but they are the most powerful embodied energies in the universe! Anybody can lift this prayer card from this pulpit, but if I were to lift the book off the altar from here, it would be talked about for years to come.
God is infinite, therefore, he appears to be most the most hidden. When he created the world, he left not even a vestige or a footprint of his power other than the beauty in every leaf. When he became man, his divinity is completely hidden in his humanity. “On the cross only the divinity was hidden,” as we sing in the beautiful hymn Adore Te Devote “But here, in the sacrament, the humanity is also hidden.”
And now, God is Hidden from us even sacramentally. What trust God has in you during this night of faith, when all senses have been darkened and now we see the stars and believe. We believe that God is all powerful, that He longs to be with you, that he will find a way as He did in the Garden, as he did while we were in Egypt, as he did at the Last Supper, as he has done through the decades, centuries, and now millenia. That Jesus Christ will find a way as he has done throughout history to be with us in the most abject and loveless places in our world, into the prisons, into the concentration camps, into our homes, into our lives, into our hearts!
O Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, may your longing be fulfilled in our longing for you as we express our desire for you, “Since we cannot now receive you sacramentally, come spiritually into our hearts, there to remain with us forever, to unite us to one another and to you for all eternity.”