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: Nothing about us without us

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The slogan “Nothing about us without us” was used by Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, borrowing a royal motto from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-second millennium. Then, it was expressed in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis. Later, it appeared in Polish on the banners of 19th-century Poles fighting their country’s partition by Russia, Prussia, and Austria: Nic o Nas bez Nas. Today, it’s often used by disability activists asserting their claim to be fully participant in society.

“Nothing about us without us” also applies to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, which will meet in Rome in October.

That Synod will involve seven bishops’ conferences from nine Latin American countries who will consider their pastoral situation under the theme, “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.” As is usually the case in these meetings, the bishops at the Synod will work with materials drafted in Rome. Early indicators from the Synod’s preparatory document suggest that the Amazonian Synod will be longer on environmentalism than on theology. International media attention will doubtless focus on the Synod’s discussion of climate change and its relationship to Amazonian deforestation.

Recent synodal history suggests, however, that more will be afoot at the Amazonian Synod than what its announced theme suggests.

The 2014 and 2015 Synods were called to consider the crisis of marriage and the family throughout the world. Yet they became the occasion for powerful churchmen to try to deconstruct Catholic moral theology and sacramental discipline, according to the tried-and-failed theologies and pastoral practices of the 1970s. The 2018 Synod, summoned to discuss youth ministry and vocational discernment, began with an effort by the Synod general secretariat to enshrine the world’s language of sexual plasticity (and the lame understandings of happiness that underwrite that language) into an official Church document. When that failed, Synod-2018 became the occasion for the Synod general secretariat to promote an ill-defined notion of “synodality” that struck more than a few bishops present as a prescription for local-option, choose-your-own-doctrine Catholicism on the model of the (imploding) Anglican Communion.

This pattern seems likely to continue at the Amazonian Synod. There, the deeper agenda will be the ordination of mature married men — viri probati — to the priesthood. Proponents will argue that this dramatic change in the Church’s longstanding tradition of a celibate priesthood (which, contrary to much misinformation, antedates the early Middle Ages by hundreds of years) is necessary because Amazonia is a Catholic area deprived of the Eucharist by a lack of priests. One hopes that the counterclaims — that Amazonia is mission territory requiring wholesale evangelization, and that Amazonia’s lack of priests reflects racial and class divisions in Latin American Catholicism that discourage priests of European pedigree from working with indigenous peoples — get a serious hearing.

Proponents of ordaining viri probati in Amazonia, including retired Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, have insisted that any such concession there would have no implications for the universal Church. That cannot be, however. Should the Amazonian Synod request the Pope to grant a dispensation from the discipline of celibacy for that region, and should he grant it, it will be just a matter of time before bishops conferences elsewhere — Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Austria come immediately to mind — make similar requests, citing pressing pastoral needs. On what ground would those requests be denied?

In a year-end interview with Vatican News, the Synod’s general secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, insisted that the Amazonian Synod would not discuss environmental issues only, but would also confront “ecclesial themes” — and would do so in a way that Amazonia could be “a model for the whole world.”

We can be grateful to the cardinal for his candor in, however unintentionally, letting the celibacy cat out of the synodal bag. Any decision to ordain viri probati in Amazonia would inevitably have major consequences for the entire Church. A decision of this magnitude cannot be taken by an unrepresentative segment of the Church and then turned into a “model” for everyone else.

That is why the principle of “Nothing about us without us” must apply here. Whatever else “synodality” may mean, it surely must mean that decisions bearing on everyone should involve as broad a consultation and as global a reflection as possible. Bishops who agree should make their concerns known now, not after the Amazonian synod meets.

Featured image by Vatican Media | CNA