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‘A recovery of a Eucharistic faith’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

November 1, 2023

Editor’s Note: The following is the text of a presentation Bishop Terry R. LaValley gave to Commissioned Lay Ministers during their annual dinner themed, “Eucharistic Life,” at St. Mary’s Social Hall in Massena on Oct. 25.

Jesus says the bread He gives comes “from heaven.” The food He gives will not grow stale, but “endures for eternal life.” Jesus wants us to understand that He is not the one who gives us bread, loaf by loaf, like the Gospel scene of the multiplication of loaves. Rather He is the Bread of Life. His purpose is to feed us, nourish us with His very own life, His very own love, His very own REAL PRESENCE.

And that’s why we come together every Sunday. Our church is not a grocery store where we come and shop to fill our freezer. We come here to praise and thank God and to fill our heads and our hearts with the nourishment we need to give us spiritual strength, to grow in holiness.

The goal of the Christian life is holiness, but somewhere along the way we lost the desire. Some will sigh and roll their eyes when they hear talk of holiness. Either we think it is an unattainable ideal or we feel that holiness lacks relevance in the modern world. Maybe even some of us believe that the idea of holiness, a close relationship with Jesus, makes people feel out of touch with the real world.

It seems that holiness has come to mean being labeled and ridiculed as a wimp in a world where power, rudeness, rugged individualism, even terror rule the day. Whatever the reason, the disappearance of this goal to be holy hasn’t made it easy for modern Catholics; it’s made it much more difficult to follow Jesus.

My sisters and brothers, more and more, our culture is molding us, the Gospel’s influence is waning. A serious confusion, even malaise, is torturing the Church and weakening our faith. Do I want to be holy? Have we become disoriented and lost our focus? Have we forgotten, or minimized, the awesome gift of the Eucharist as the necessary food on the holiness menu? We come to Mass to feed on Jesus who is our Bread of Life. We come to hear His words of life that refresh our faith, our hope, and our love. We come to eat His Body and drink His Blood in Holy Communion. We come for the greatest, most mind-boggling gift, the very presence of Jesus Christ.

We mustn’t forget, too, that worship of God at Mass is not just about receiving, receiving the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, as awesome as this Gift is. Worship is also about giving: giving God our time, our thanks, praise and love; giving God our hearts, our entire lives. Last weekend, thousands of Catholics from across the State gathered at a Eucharistic Congress at the Shrine of North American Martyrs in Auriesville. What an inspiring event celebrating our Eucharistic faith! Holiness was in the air!

This gift of Jesus Christ himself is what makes our celebration of the Eucharist our most precious privilege as Catholics. Yes, it is our privilege, our gift, our good fortune to come together Sunday after Sunday, even day by day. We come to Jesus so we will never hunger, to believe in Jesus so we will never thirst, to receive Jesus who is food that endures for eternal life. What a privilege! What Good News! Let’s never stop praying for loved ones who aren’t with us at Mass.

Hopefully, we’ve turned the corner on the coronavirus. But, this is not a time to return to the way things were. They were not good enough. They were not the “good ole days.” I hope you share my vision of the post-pandemic Church of the North Country: Each one of us must grow closer to Jesus, and to His Body, the Church. The Mass is the means for that to happen.

We continue to seek to revitalize our teaching on the Eucharist and to rekindle in the faithful the urgent desire to participate at Holy Mass every week. The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate indifference, irreverence or disregard. Every commitment to holiness, every activity aimed at carrying out the Church’s mission, every work of pastoral planning in our diocese must draw the strength it needs from the Eucharistic Mystery. In the Eucharist we have Jesus, we have His redemptive sacrifice, we have His resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit. We must not neglect the Eucharist, lest we forget who we are.

St. Paul teaches the power of Eucharistic communion to unify the Church. The bread is a communion in Christ’s Body and all who partake become one bread. If there’s anything that the Church needs today, it’s a re-appreciation of communion, unity. Not sameness, but civility. Not to each his or her own, but the common good. Not anything goes, but conversion and moral truth. The life of grace and the practice of faith, hope and love make communion possible and real.

A great task of our time is to gain a genuine conversion of mind and vision. In the humble signs of bread and wine, changed into His Body and Blood, Christ walks beside us as our strength and our food for the journey, and He enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope. Today, in our fractured world and Church we need to be heralds of hope and channels of grace. After all, we are Christ-led, Christ-fed, and Hope-filled.

Wherever apostolic zeal is expended, the results are impressive. Mountains can be moved. God’s Spirit has that kind of power. Conversions in faith can be experienced. To the degree that we continue with business as usual, we can expect to watch an ever-increasing number of Catholics abandon the Eucharist. We need to renew the Church by becoming, consciously, intensely Eucharist-centered. We need to recall the necessity of worship, and reconnecting to the fact that the Eucharist is who we are and what we do as Catholics.

Yes, we need a recovery of a Eucharistic faith. As ministers of the Church commissioned to assist our parishioners’ response to the universal Call to Holiness, I am so grateful for your sacrifice of time and effort. “

Eucharist: A Mystery to be believed, Mystery to be celebrated, Mystery to be lived. And so, we pray:
Heavenly Father, your Son has given His flesh for the life of the world. As the faithful of the Diocese of Ogdensburg have set out to be renewed as we build up our Eucharistic faith, we rely on your Spirit’s guidance and support. As I thank you for our faithful commissioned lay ministers, I ask your continued blessings upon them, their families, and the ministry they so generously offer in our parishes through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. My sisters and brothers: May God be praised…forever may God be praised!

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