Monday, October 07, 2013
Homily: "Increase our faith...through the Eucharist"
Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.
Three stories tonight. The first involves a friend of mine who is about my age. She is married with kids, and is a devout Catholic. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. This devastated her family and friends. We took serious prayers to the Lord, asking for the cancer to be removed and she be restored to good health. God answers every one of our prayers. It’s one of the three answers: 1) Yes, 2) not right now, or 3) I have something better in mind. God answered our prayers, and the cancer has been in remission ever since, and she is in good health. Her prayers, though, were answered a bit differently, I think. I picture her in the initial days praying like the prophet Habukkuk in the first reading: “Lord, I cry for help but you do not listen. I cry out to you, ‘Cancer!’ but you do not intervene. Where are you in all this? Answer me”. God’s answer to her was His answer to Habakkuk and all of us: “The vision still has its time”. In other words, God’ answer will come in time….at the appointed time. God will bring good out of bad…in fact, a greater good. We can’t always see it at the time, but we see it in time….at the appointed time.
Her appointed time came sooner than most of us. She sent all of us an incredible email. She wrote that the cancer forced her to take a step back from her life. And, what she saw was that she had been very impatient with her little kids, yelling at them for the smallest things. Her kids are her life. She realized what is really important around her home, reprioritize, and be more loving and patient with her kids. She and her husband have had a few more kids, and it is now a very loving home. She sees the cancer as a gift that changed her life as a mother. God allowed something bad to bring about a greater good.
The second story is about a student who came to me years ago as a senior. She emailed me to ask if we could meet up. We went to lunch, and she told me that she had been away from the Church, and wanted to know what she needed to do to come back. I told her the first thing is to go to Confession. She said, “who goes to Confession anymore? And, where is that in the Bible?” I answered, “Actually, many of our students go to Confession. And, John chapter 20, verses 20 to 23 is where Jesus gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins. She replied, “oh, I didn’t know that”. She admitted that she didn’t know much about the faith, so she asked to meet with me regularly. We met every week from the fall until graduation in May, and her knowledge of the faith grew immensely. So, her faith grew immensely. By the time she left GW, she was rock solid in her Catholic faith and knowledge of it.
The Apostles say to the Lord in the Gospel, “Increase our faith”. We can’t increase our own faith; it is the “help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us”. One of the ways that the Holy Spirit increases our faith is to increase the knowledge of our faith. When I began meeting with the student, she basically admitted her knowledge of the faith was the size of a mustard seed (an image that the Lord gives in today’s Gospel). Jesus says elsewhere in the Gospel that the mustard seed is the smallest seed, but can become the largest bush. Her faith grew to be large because her knowledge grew so much. It can really help to increase your faith meeting with me, especially if you feel like your knowledge of the faith is the size of the mustard seed. If you think, “I don’t know anything about the Bible or the Holy Spirit or Mary” or whatever, that’s okay. We’ve all been there. I would be happy to meet with you to help grow your faith.
The third story is about GW Catholics in general. Thanks be to God, our faith has increased significantly in the past few years. The reason? The Eucharist. It really is so simple as Catholics: if we want to increase our faith, we go to the Eucharist. Especially daily Mass. The more we receive the Eucharist at Mass, the more grace we receive. Grace is what grows our faith. When people ask me what is the best way to grow spiritually as a Catholic, I say daily Mass. Something special happens when we choose to go during the week– and not just do ‘what we were obliged to do’ on Sundays. It’s only 20-25 minutes, and more personal and intimate.
Because we have centered our community on the Eucharist, we have seen an increase of faith across the board. A few years, less than 10 students were going to daily Mass; not it’s about 50. Sunday Mass attendance has increased significantly, as well as reverence for the Eucharist among students. Dozens come to Adoration on Wednesday. Confessions are way up, Bible studies are everywhere on campus, and we have almost 30 men and women discerning religious life and priesthood. We truly believe this is all a result of the grace of the Eucharist. Our faith has been increased, our knowledge of Christ and the Church has grown, and so our love for Christ and the Church has grown, with the help of the Holy Spirit.