Archbishop Paul S. Coakley
September 21, 2014
St. Francis of Assisi Church
Praised be Jesus Christ! It is my great privilege to welcome you to St. Francis of Assisi Church and to spend this hour together with the Lord in prayer and adoration. Thank you for being here. Your presence is a powerful witness of faith in the midst of what has been a particularly challenging time for our community. I would like to gratefully acknowledge the participation of our Catholic people from around the Archdiocese but also those of you who have come from near and far to join us today. I am especially grateful for the presence of my brother bishops (and their support), Archbishop Beltran, Bishop Slattery of Tulsa, Bishop Kemme of Wichita, Abbot Lawrence of St. Gregory's University and so many priests, deacons and religious women and men. It is a special blessing to recognize here so many Christian leaders and believers from other churches and ecclesial communities who have come to join us in prayer as well.
We gather today in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord who is the source of our unity, imperfect though it might be, and our bond of charity. We just heard our Lord proclaim: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” For Catholics these words from the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel are the very heart of our understanding and appreciation of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus does not speak metaphorically when he says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” It is truly Jesus whom we encounter and receive in the Holy Eucharist.
At times, Christians have argued over the theological significance of these words. Satan, on the other hand, hears these words and trembles. The Eucharist has been at the heart of the current controversy over the so-called black mass which (which to our shame as a city) is being allowed to proceed this evening at the Civic Center Music Hall. That blasphemous and sacrilegious ritual is a mockery of the Catholic Mass that requires for its consummation the corruption and desecration of the Eucharist. Why? Because Satanists, and their master, know who is present. They acknowledge the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus, not to adore him, but only to mock and to scorn in hatred.
I think many people in our community haven’t understood the persistence of our efforts nor the depth of our outrage over this blasphemy largely because they do not share our faith. They do not understand, or accept, what we believe to be true. They do not share our faith in what we Catholics (and many other Christians) acknowledge to be the greatest gift that the Lord has entrusted to the Church: the gift of his own Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament. The Eucharist, instituted by the Lord at the Last Supper and entrusted to the Apostles is truly the Lord’s abiding Presence among us. It is really and substantially spiritual food for our pilgrim journey and the pledge of future glory in the Heavenly Banquet. It is the bread of angels given to men.
We are not here, however, to protest. Let us put aside, for the moment, our outrage. We are here to praise and to adore. We are here to give thanks for the gift of our faith and the priceless treasure of the Lord’s abiding presence with us in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. We are gathered before our Eucharistic Lord to listen to his holy Word and open ourselves to the promptings of his Spirit so that we might become more faithful and authentic witnesses of his love and mercy in the midst of our broken and suffering human family.
We are also here to offer our petitions to the Lord, that he might deliver us from the power of sin and, yes, from all demonic influences. We are here to offer our prayers in reparation for the blasphemous outrages being committed against our Lord, against his Church and the Eucharist in these days. Our city has also been the target of these dark forces of hatred that seek not to build up, but only to destroy. We beg the Lord’s protection through the intercession of his Holy angels and saints.
We are gathered as witnesses to hope at a time when darkness seems to be gaining ground both here and around the world. We know that Christ is victorious! He has conquered Satan. He has destroyed the reign of sin and the power of death through his holy Cross and glorious Resurrection. Through faith and Baptism we already share in his victory. The war has been won, though skirmishes will continue until Christ comes again in glory to reign forever. In the meantime we have been enlisted to bear the standard of the Cross and our share of the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his Body, the Church.
We gather here in prayer. We gather to adore, to praise and to give thanks, to beg the Lord’s mercy on our city, our nation and our world. We pray for our own continuing conversion that we might be holy and courageous witnesses.
Our faith is not meant to be (and cannot remain) contained within the walls of this beautiful church. Our Eucharistic Procession through the neighborhood beyond these walls which will follow in a few minutes is a reminder that we, the Church, are present in the world as light, as salt and as leaven to bring hope and the offer of Christ’s salvation to all we meet. Let us pray that we might embrace our mandate to live as missionary disciples in the midst of the world so that we might draw all people to Jesus Christ and to safe harbor in his Church.