Present before the Real Presence, part 1 of 2
June 11, 2020 COVID-19 Faith Reflection—Present before the Real Presence, part 1 of 2
Our first public Sunday Mass after ten weeks of quarantine was Pentecost Sunday. Parishioners wore their facemasks and sat in the marked pews six feet distant from one another. The next weekend, Trinity Sunday, a few more households attended. Plenty of space for more. Like putting a toe in the water, people are coming back to Mass.
It is too soon to tell how well Mass attendance will resume its pre-quarantine levels, but I have a guess, and it is only a guess, that some may think, “Well, we stayed home on Sundays for ten weeks. We watched Mass online most Sundays. But we’re in no hurry to get back in a pew. The coronavirus is still out there. And honestly, it is easier to view Mass online. The kids were certainly happier to stay home. What difference does it make if we come to Mass or not?”
I get it. As the world is on-demand when we want it, why not the Mass? Sunday Mass attendance takes effort. It might not fit in our plans for the day.
This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Formerly known by its Latin name
, the solemnity makes clear that the Mass gives us the one thing absolutely necessary for our spiritual life that we cannot get online. We cannot buy it on Amazon. We cannot bid on it on e-Bay. We cannot download it from Facebook. Through the Mass and only the Mass, we receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
Viewing the Mass online and even making a prayer of spiritual communion is a shadow of the reality of the Mass. It’s like a Zoom version of a Thanksgiving Day dinner where you watch everyone around the table dig into the sweet potatoes, pecan pie, green beans, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and roast turkey while you can only salivate. Even if your brain does not register the difference, the stomach does. It is still hungry.
A couple of years ago I led a pilgrimage to Italy. We had Mass in the Church of San Francesco in Lanciano. In the eighth century, according to the National Catholic Register newspaper, a monk had had doubts about the bread and wine becoming Christ’s true body and true blood. One Mass, as he pronounced the words of consecration, “suddenly the monk saw bread turn into Flesh and the wine into Blood,” according to documents at the Sanctuary of the Eucharistic Miracle in Lanciano, Italy. We were able to see the flesh preserved for twelve hundred years on display in a monstrance on an altar.
A 1973 scientific commission of the World Health Organization confirmed tests from 1971 that the flesh is indeed real human heart tissue. The blood is human blood type AB.
Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” When the crowds challenged Jesus, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” and threatened to leave him, Jesus did not back pedal, “I was speaking symbolically.” Or, “It’s just a figure of speech.” Instead, he doubled down. Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (John 6:51-58). He really meant what he said.
In my Sunday faith reflection, I’ll talk about how we can show the miracle of the Mass. For now, note in the Mass that Jesus did not say, “Take and eat. This is like my body. Take and drink. This is like my blood.” He gives us the gift of himself, body and blood, soul and divinity, so that we become one with him. That’s what lovers do.
I have some good news and some bad news about the parish finances.
The good news is that we have surpassed our goal for
Our Catholic Appeal
, the annual pledge drive to support Bishop Noonan. We went $64,368 over our goal of $161,997 for a total pledge of $226,365. By diocesan directive, the overage goes in equal parts to priests’ retirement, the parish general fund, and the parish endowment. The amount pledged by Nativity in 2020 was almost the same amount within a few dollars as the amount pledged by Nativity in 2019.
Out of 1288 donor families for Church of the Nativity, 408 families made a pledge in 2020, for a participation rate of 31%. This was a big drop in participation from 477 families in 2019. This may be in part from uncertain economic times, lost income and lost jobs, but the participation rate had already fallen far behind before the economy shut down.
Thank you to the 408 families for your support of Bishop Noonan and the Diocese of Orlando. Like an HOA assessment,
Our Catholic Appeal
makes possible the work of the church such as campus ministry and seminarian formation that our parish alone cannot do.
Sunday, I will bring you up-to-date about the offertory collection. Stay tuned!
Returning to Church
Nativity Longwood .
on Thursday, June 11 at 9:31AM