Invitation and Presence

Santarem in Portugal, October 2007

My pastor friend put sanitary hot air hand dryers in the rest rooms at his church and after two weeks took them out. I asked him why and he said that they worked fine but when he went in there, he saw a sign that read, "For a sample of this week's sermon, push the button."

On this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, there are two words that I would like you to remember: invitation and presence.

The word “invitation” has the Latin word, vita, which means life. The invitation we receive for every baptism, every First Communion, every Confirmation, every graduation, every wedding is a sign of an ongoing and existing relationship. Whoever invited us wants us to share with them a significant part of their lives. Because every invitation is a participation in life.

The word “presence” also has a particular ring to it. It means before the sense. It means having the awareness of sensing before being at a particular moment.

The Eucharist is an invitation to a presence. It is not just a memorial of a historical event that happened years ago or a reminder of what Jesus did for you and me. The Eucharist is a reality of the God’s presence in our lives.

The words of institution that the priest say when he elevates the Body and Blood of Christ point to us this existing reality and presence: the body given up for you and the blood given in memory of me.

Since at every Mass there is a constant invitation to a relationship with our good Lord, every Mass that we attend should therefore be an opportunity for us to make ourselves present in that eternal presence.

If the Eucharist is an invitation to a presence, what is expected of us is to be present at this invitation. If the Eucharist is a party and Jesus is its life, what we need not be is to be a wallflower.

Be present because you are invited. Talk to the host in prayer. Sing most especially, because “to sing once is to pray twice,” as St. Augustine said. And as we normally do at parties, if our envelopes, the Bread and Wine we offer are our gifts, then our whole-hearted presence becomes our offering.

Sometimes it gets to be boring at Mass. I heard this story of a little girl who became restless as the priest’s sermon dragged on and on. Finally, she leaned over to her mother and whispered, "Mommy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?"

Sometimes, it gets to be distracting. And for some of us, going to Mass could be a burden in itself. We get tired from all our activities and we squeeze in Mass to fit our schedules. These are all the devil’s hidden tricks. It is the devil’s intent to separate us from our God and we should never allow that to happen.

The more should we go to Mass if we find it a burden, because that is the time when we really need God. The more should we be in Church if we find Mass distracting and boring, because those may be the times when we need God most.

Lastly, our party is not just for us. The invitation is still open. Invite those who are not here present to Church. Invite them not just for the company. Invite them not just for the party. But, invite them because of the Real Presence.

14 June 2009

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