When evil appears to win, turn to the Eucharist

Archbishop Aquila

This week I want to share with you two important themes that have come to me in prayer: the need for prayer and reparation for the atrocity of abortion, and the way that Christ sustains and builds our faith through the Eucharist.

Every person of good will has been shocked by the revelations that Planned Parenthood has been selling body parts from aborted children to biotech companies. The findings are horrific, and the fact that people can speak so cavalierly about the selling of body parts of aborted children while eating lunch and sipping wine demonstrates how deadened the consciences of many people have become.

One day, everyone who has promoted or supported abortion in any way will have to answer for his or her actions before the judgment throne of God. This is where prayer comes in, as we must pray that the conscience of every person will be awakened to the evil of abortion. We must bring before the Lord those whose deadened and erroneous consciences support abortion and Planned Parenthood. We must pray that they will encounter Christ’s mercy and love, and that their consciences will be enlightened with the truth.

There will be three opportunities for prayer in the Archdiocese of Denver. The first is a weeklong prayer campaign organized by Priests for Life that runs Aug. 22-29. Details can be found at PrayerCampaign.org. On Aug. 22, a peaceful protest sponsored by 40 Days for Life and the Pro-Life Action League will be held from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. at the main Planned Parenthood of the Rockies clinic, located at 7155 E. 38th Ave. in Denver. And finally, my fellow bishops and I have called for a statewide day of fasting, prayer, and reparation on Friday, Aug. 28. I encourage you to mark all the dates on your calendar and plan now how you will pray for the conversion of those who participate in abortion.

This brings me to the second point, and that is the gift of the Eucharist, which has been a part of my prayer recently. It has been on my mind and heart because it is through the Eucharist that Jesus nourishes us and helps us engage in prayer during times of trial, when evil seems to be winning.

Every three years the Church reads from the Gospel of Mark, the shortest of the four Gospels. But for five weeks of that cycle, the Church inserts the sixth chapter of John for the Gospel reading. We are presently in the final week of hearing from John’s Eucharistic chapter before returning to Mark.

John 6 provides the deepest teaching we have from our Lord on the Eucharist, and I would like to take this opportunity to explain how God sustains and strengthens us with Scripture and the Eucharist.

I encourage you to begin by taking 20 minutes of time this week to sit down with this chapter, either by yourself or as a family. Begin with a prayer to the Holy Spirit asking him to help you be attentive and listen to the Lord. Read the entire chapter out loud. Then take 5-7 minutes in quiet prayer to see where the Lord speaks to your heart. If you do this alone, simply enter into prayer, speaking heart-to-heart with Jesus about where the passage speaks to you personally. If you do it as a family, let each person speak about what word or passage spoke to their heart. Simply listen to one another. To close, lift up your heart in gratitude to the Lord for the Eucharist and this teaching!

John 6 begins with the invitation to faith from the Lord and concludes with a statement of faith, and it is our faith that Christ wants to strengthen with his Word. Allow me to share some of the reflections that came to me in prayer and strengthened me.

The chapter begins with the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish, after which the people want to make Jesus king, but he disappears. Then, he walks on water, which is followed by his teaching on how he is the true bread from heaven. The miracle of the loaves and fish and Jesus walking on the water demonstrate that he is true God and true man. His power and authority over the material world reveal his divinity.

The people only want earthly bread, but Jesus begins to reveal to them that it is the gift of his body and blood in the Eucharist. His teaching causes division and there are those who leave because of it. But Jesus never backs off from the reality and truth of his flesh being true food and his blood true drink. Instead, he issues an invitation to faith that he gives to us today, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Jesus invites them and us to put our faith, confidence and trust in him. He identifies himself as “the true bread” that the Father gives from heaven so that the world may have eternal life.

When the people murmur and dispute among themselves about his teaching, Jesus makes clear that the Eucharist is not a simple sign or symbol, but truly his body and blood. He invites them to a deeper faith, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes has eternal life … the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Jesus teaches us that at every Mass his one sacrifice on the Cross is made present and we participate in it by offering our lives with Jesus to the Father.

He states further, “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Jesus speaks of the intimate communion we have with him when we receive his body and blood at Mass. The Eucharist nourishes us and sustains us as authentic disciples of Jesus. That is why we go to Mass every Sunday, we keep holy the Sabbath, so that with Jesus we may worship the Father and abide with him. The Eucharist strengthens us to give witness to Christ in the world, to intercede for others—including our enemies—and to invite others to encounter him.

At the conclusion of the sixth chapter we learn that many of his disciples found this a “hard teaching” and “withdrew” from him. Jesus turns to the twelve and asks an all-important question that is addressed to us today, “Will you also go away?” Peter answers for the 12 with a statement of faith, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

May our love for the Eucharist grow each time we attend Mass, and may we always give witness to the dignity of every human life from conception until natural death!

 

COMING UP: The Pell case: Developments down under

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

In three weeks, a panel of senior judges will hear Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of the unjust verdict rendered against him at his retrial in March, when he was convicted of “historical sexual abuse.” That conviction did not come close to meeting the criterion of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is fundamental to criminal law in any rightly-ordered society. The prosecution offered no corroborating evidence sustaining the complainant’s charge. The defense demolished the prosecution’s case, as witness after witness testified that the alleged abuse simply could not have happened under the circumstances charged — in a busy cathedral after Mass, in a secured space.

Yet the jury, which may have ignored instructions from the trial judge as to how evidence should be construed, returned a unanimous verdict of guilty. At the cardinal’s sentencing, the trial judge never once said that he agreed with the jury’s verdict; he did say, multiple times, that he was simply doing what the law required him to do. Cardinal Pell’s appeal will be just as devastating to the prosecution’s case as was his defense at both his first trial (which ended with a hung jury, believed to have favored acquittal) and the retrial. What friends of the cardinal, friends of Australia, and friends of justice must hope is that the appellate judges will get right what the retrial jury manifestly got wrong.

That will not be easy, for the appellate judges will have been subjected to the same public and media hysteria over Cardinal Pell that was indisputably a factor in his conviction on charges demonstrated to be, literally, incredible. Those appellate judges will also know, however, that the reputation of the Australian criminal justice system is at stake in this appeal. And it may be hoped that those judges will display the courage and grit in the face of incoming fire that the rest of the Anglosphere has associated with “Australia” since the Gallipoli campaign in World War I.

In jail for two months now, the cardinal has displayed a remarkable equanimity and good cheer that can only come from a clear conscience. The Melbourne Assessment Prison allows its distinguished prisoner few visitors, beyond his legal team; but those who have gone to the prison intending to cheer up a friend have, in correspondence with me, testified to having found themselves cheered and consoled by Cardinal Pell — a man whose spiritual life was deeply influenced by the examples of Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More during Henry VIII’s persecution of the Church in 16th-century England. The impact of over a half-century of reflection on those epic figures is now being displayed to Cardinal Pell’s visitors and jailers, during what he describes as his extended “retreat.”

Around the world, and in Australia itself, calmer spirits than those baying for George Pell’s blood (and behaving precisely like the deranged French bigots who cheered when the innocent Captain Alfred Dreyfus was condemned to a living death on Devil’s Island) have surfaced new oddities — to put it gently — surrounding the Pell Case.

How is it, for example, that the complainant’s description of the sexual assault he alleges Cardinal Pell committed bears a striking resemblance — to put it gently, again — to an incident of clerical sexual abuse described in Rolling Stone in 2011? How is it that edited transcripts of a post-conviction phone conversation between the cardinal and his cathedral master of ceremonies (who had testified to the sheer physical impossibility of the charges against Pell being true) got into the hands (and thence into the newspaper writing) of a reporter with a history of anti-Pell bias and polemic? What is the web of relationships among the virulently anti-Pell sectors of the Australian media, the police in the state of Victoria, and senior Australian political figures with longstanding grievances against the politically incorrect George Pell? What is the relationship between the local Get Pell gang and those with much to lose from his efforts to clean up the Vatican’s finances?

And what is the state of serious investigative journalism in Australia, when these matters are only investigated by small-circulation journals and independent researchers?

An “unsafe” verdict in Australia is one a jury could not rationally have reached. Friends of truth must hope that the appellate judges, tuning out the mob, will begin to restore safety and rationality to public life Down Under in June.

Featured image by CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images