Bulletins and Fr. Bob’s Weekly Column
This Month’s Bulletins
Ihave begun to consider, in a summer series of columns, the five “responsibilities” of a people centered in the Eucharist that were noted by Bishop Matano in his recent pastoral letter announcing this year as The Year of the Eucharist in our Diocese. The second responsibility the Bishop mentions is this: “The poor must be among us as we seek to assist them, since spiritual nourishment is also essential to their lives….Our many and very beneficial outreach ministries to the poor must include accompanying them over the thresholds of our churches.”
Coincidentally, the same week Bishop Matano published his pastoral letter Pope Francis sent a worldwide message establishing an annual World Day of the Poor on the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 19 November 2017. In that message the Holy Father makes a very strong statement about the connection of the poor and the Eucharist:
“We may think of the poor simply as the beneficiaries of our occasional volunteer work, or of impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience. However good and useful such acts may be for making us sensitive to people’s needs and the injustices that are often their cause, they ought to lead to true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life. Our prayer and our journey of discipleship and conversion find the confirmation of their evangelic authenticity in precisely such charity and sharing. This way of life gives rise to joy and peace of soul, because we touch with our own hands the flesh of Christ. If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist. The Body of Christ broken in the sacred liturgy, can be seen, through charity and sharing, in the faces and persons of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. Saint John Chrysostom’s admonition remains ever timely: ‘If you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honor the Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments, and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness.’”
To see the connection between the poor and the Eucharist, we have only to look at Jesus’ own life and ministry. He is often seen eating and drinking with sinners, the poor and the outcast (see for example, Matthew 9:9-13); feeding the hungry of all states in life (“he took the loaves and giving thanks, broke them and gave them, and did the same with the fish…,” Mark 6:30); and he is accused of eating with all the “wrong” people, an accusation that leads ultimately to his death (“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” See Luke 15:1-3). The ultimate scene, of course, is the Last Supper as Saint John portrays it (13:1-15). Instead of the institution of the Eucharist, John tells us of the washing of the feet: “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done for you.” That is, “Do this in memory of me.”
So welcoming the poor into our community, and our Eucharistic assemblies, is essential if we are to celebrate the Eucharist authentically. No matter what shape “the poor” may take in our particular part of the world, “All the poor – as Blessed Paul VI loved to say – belong to the Church by ‘evangelical right,’ and require of us a fundamental option on their behalf” (Pope Francis, Message on the World Day of the Poor). Bishop Matano also quotes Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, and reminds us: “Since the Exhortation is addressed to the members of the Catholic Church, I want to say, with regret, that the worst discrimination which the poor suffer is a lack of spiritual care. The great majority of the poor have a special openness to faith; they need God and we must not fail to offer them His friendship, His blessing, His word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith. Our preferential option for the poor must translate into a privileged and preferential religious care” (paragraph 200).
Christ’s summer peace to you,
Father Bob Kennedy
P.S. Deacon David Palma and our parish staff members are thinking through how we might observe the first World Day of the Poor (actually a week) in November. Let him know of your interest and ideas.