THE BISHOP'S CROZIER: God desires to come to us in the Eucharist
By Bishop James R. Golka
Greetings brothers and sisters in Christ. I am humbled and overjoyed to be called to serve with you as Bishop. Thank you for the kind welcome and especially for your prayerful support. My first impression of our Diocese of Colorado Springs is that God is clearly at work in many ways. I am grateful for the ministry of so many dedicated priests, deacons and religious. I am perhaps more impressed by the witness and faithful service of so many dedicated and gifted lay persons. Please know that I keep you all in my daily prayers. I honestly cannot wait to see what God has in store for us. Together may we hope and expect that God will accomplish God’s plans if we but trust and allow.
Upon arriving in our diocese, I became acutely aware of the concern of so many as to the worthiness of some politicians to receive Holy Communion. For example, if a politician publicly supports abortion or capital punishment, may they present themselves to receive Communion? This is indeed an important issue and affects the Church in many ways. Since becoming your bishop, I have to confess that my focus has changed a bit. It seems to me that it is somewhat easy and “safe” to point to others and make a judgement over whether or not I consider them worthy to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. The much more difficult task is to look inside of myself and ask how I am preparing to receive our Lord in the Mass. It seems to me that this might be a more important question. In the coming weeks I hope to explore various ways in which we might better understand what happens at the Mass and ways in which I might be better prepared for this event of communion with Christ.
I would like to remind us that my predecessor, Bishop Michael Sheridan, published a very helpful pastoral letter on the Eucharist this past December, “A Hunger for the Bread of Life.” (You can find this document at diocs.org. Click on the link to “Herald” and search for “A Hunger for the Bread of Life”). Following the treatment from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Bishop Sheridan spoke of the Eucharist as food, as a banquet, as a covenant feast, as a sacrifice, as a memorial, and as the real presence of Christ. He did this to emphasize what a gift the Eucharist is for us and to encourage Catholics to return in person to Mass as soon as that option became available to us again. Since then, it has indeed become available and Catholics have returned to our churches in great numbers.
Today I simply wish to highlight one aspect of the Eucharist which might help us. It is easy for us to assume that we come to Mass because it is a matter of habit or routine for us — and these things are important. But the spiritual reality is much deeper. In fact, we come to church not because we simply decided to, but because the Holy Spirit has first prompted us and invited us. We come because the Holy Spirit has summoned us. If God is summoning us to something — we can be certain that the thing to which we are called is going to be very good for us! Are we aware of this and grateful for it?
I fear that too many Catholics believe that faith is relegated to my search and my efforts to find God. The Biblical revelation is far more exciting. Faith is not so much my efforts to find and experience God. Our faith is the wonderful truth of an ever-faithful God who comes in search of us. God deeply desires communion with us. This is the story of why Christ came into our humanity. In Christ we see our God who comes in search of us to find, heal, redeem and save us.
Today I invite us to realize that the Mass is an event of God finding us. Mass is the arena for an encounter and experience of communion with Christ. When I come to Mass I might ask myself, “What have I done to be most prepared to experience communion with the God who made me?” An image that might help is to imagine a bride and groom as they prepare for their wedding day. During their wedding they will give themselves to each other in love. That giving creates an event of communion. That communion changes their identity. They are no longer two, but one flesh.
The same dynamic happens at the Eucharist. Christ gives himself to us. Christ also invites us to give over our lives to Him. This is the communion for which we must prepare. Come to Mass this next Sunday knowing that God has summoned you there. Come to Mass ready to be united to Christ in such a way that our identity will be changed. We get to share in the very life of God. Will we be ready?