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Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 21B

When did you give your life to God? When were you saved? As Catholics, we don’t often ask these questions. They’re much more common among other Christians, but it’s helpful for us to reflect on what our answers would be. Have you given your life to God? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? One answer would be: at our baptism. At least that’s where it began for most of us. Even if we were infants, at our baptism, we began to participate, to take part in the life, death, and Resurrection, and in the whole mystery of Jesus Christ. But as we grow and develop, our faith and our response of faith need to grow and mature as well. When we’re able to think for ourselves and to make free choices and our own decisions, do we recommit ourselves to Christ, or do we stop following Jesus like so many of his disciples in the Gospel we heard today?

Just a few weeks ago, I was able to attend the Steubenville North Youth Conference in St. Paul with 43 young people from our parish and our area. During one of the talks, the speaker led those of us who were willing, in a prayer and pledge, committing our lives to Jesus Christ. He warned us not to do this lightly, not to just do it because the people around us were, and not to feel pressured into it, but he invited us to freely commit our lives to Christ, if God had prepared us to do so at that time. Now this was a great thing, and a powerful moment for many who felt they had never really done something like that before, and we need to renew our commitment to Christ time and again in our own words or in words that we find fitting for the occasion.

But, as I listened to the speaker emphasize the seriousness of making this commitment to Christ, I found myself asking: Well, don’t we realize, as Catholics, that this is exactly what we’re doing, every time we go to Mass? Granted, it’s a serious thing to stand and speak your commitment to Christ at a youth conference, but I would say, it’s a much more serious thing to come forward for Communion, to say “Amen, I believe,” to the very Body of Christ, and to receive Jesus Himself, the Holy One of God into our own bodies. Whether we realize it or not, our actions and words in receiving Holy Communion make the same proclamation as St. Peter in today’s Gospel, that we have come to believe and are convinced, that Jesus is the Holy One of God, that He is the Word of eternal life, that His words to us are Spirit and life, and that His Flesh and Blood give divine life to ours because His Flesh and Blood are joined to God Himself. This is what our words and actions proclaim at every Holy Communion, whether we realize it or not. Dwe realize it?

Do we realize that when we stand together and profess the Creed on Sundays, when we stand and say together, “I believe in one God,” when we profess the faith of the Universal Church, the same faith for which thousands of martyrs gave up their property, freedom, and life, do we realize that we recommit ourselves to God in that moment and are meant to cling to that faith with the same fidelity as the martyrs who shed their blood for it? Do we realize that when we offer the bread and wine at Mass—and it’s not just the priest who offers the bread and wine, but the priest together with and on behalf of everyone here and all the Church—that when we offer the bread and wine, we also offer our work, our joys, our sufferings, all our cares from throughout the week, and our very lives to be placed upon this altar, to be united to the one sacrifice of Christ, signified and made present here?

Do we realize what we do at every Mass? Do we say what we mean and mean what we say at Mass? Or do we just go through the motions? When we’re young or new at it, it’s important that we learn what to do and what to say during the Mass, the right responses and the postures and everything else, but as we grow and develop and are able to think and act intelligently, do we become more aware of what it is we’re actually saying and doing at Mass, or are we still infants in our faith? Do we pay attention to the words and prayers of the Mass, so that we can understand what we’re doing, and pray intentionally, or are we just waiting for it to be over? 

All of us here, decided to be at this Mass today. We each decided more or less freely, and perhaps for various reasons, but we’re here now, so be here. Be present to what we’re doing here, to the prayers and actions and what it is they mean. At every Mass, Jesus makes Himself really present to us. The question for us is: Are we really present to Him? 

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