The following Homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on June 15th at the Mother of the Light Convent
My reflections today are taken from a homily given by John Cardinal O’Connor, former Archbishop of New York on a Friday night at a conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
The Cardinal began with his well publicized chastisement of the New York Yankees for playing their home opener on Good Friday between 12PM and 3PM. As a result he told Mr. Steinbrener that he would not attend any Yankee games that year. The Cardinal received many letters of encouragement and support from laity and clergy as well. But several weeks later when he asked that Little League organizations refrain from playing on Sunday mornings, the volumes of letters turned against him.
The Cardinal explained that baseball is not the issue. “I am as much a supporter of baseball and little league as anyone, but I chose to bring attention to a much broader picture—the secularization of modern society”.
In a secularized society, there is no such thing as mystery. There is no reality except that which can be experienced through the senses. There is therefore no such thing as Eucharist. It is not the Body and Blood of Christ, but merely bread and wine. Since mystery cannot be unveiled, there is no need for a mediation from God on our behalf.
Each person in a secularized world has rights that are not God-given and inalienable but rather given by the government. In such a society where government endows rights, it also reserves the right to rescind them. They are no longer inalienable. We have seen the results of such thinking in the society of Nazi Germany where persons became victims of the state. Are we beginning to see the formation of similar thinking in our own society today?
In a secularized society, the Church must defend itself, and its need and right to worship. The Church which is the Body of Christ must be involved in the defense of every aspect of God-given self-defense, based on the dignity of persons and God-given inalienable rights.
This confrontation becomes a nasty struggle, requiring much courage to continue and not give up. The temptation is there not only for laity and priests but for this Cardinal as well. The courage required to persist can only come from feeding on the Body and Blood of Christ, the one who never gave up; from communion with Him who strengthens our heart’s desire to be saved.
The Cardinal went on to speak of his own ministries to the physically and mentally handicapped and the autistic, to aids victims, to mothers who would otherwise have aborted their child. He went on to give example of a young autistic girl who was unable to demonstrate any visible response, not even the batting of an eyelash, no response even to her mother. Yet when the Cardinal comes for Mass, the child insisted upon sitting near him and watching his every move, staring intently as if she truly understood the mystery unfolding before her. Is it coincidence or is it miracle?
According to one recent survey, 71% of Catholics claim to no longer believe in the Eucharist because they have lost the sense of intimacy. Some of the early Fathers of the Church were not embarrassed to compare the intimacy of the Eucharist with the intimacy of marriage. The Sacrament of Marriage is complete unless and until it is consummated, until the bodies become one in an act of love. Unless the bodies are given to each other in unity the marriage is invalid.
Can we also say that the union of persons, body and blood, must be given to each other for the Sacrament of the Eucharist to be valid and effective? The Bible speaks of sexual intercourse as “knowing”. Adam knew Eve and Mary did not know man, but God invites us to know Him in a sacred spiritual union.
We can come to Mass merely to fulfill an obligation, to be present through the rituals; many marriages make that same mistake and fall apart. We can choose not simply to be present as Mass but to participate by entering into a relationship with God, Who is absolute Love, who can empower us to change our lives as well as society. We can enter into mystery but only if we believe, only if we want to. It must be our heart’s desire. God does not force love, there is no such thing. Forced love is no love at all.