Happy Father’s Day!
I love being a dad! How about you guys?
I can tell you that becoming a dad changed everything in my life. It gave new meaning to my work and outside activities. I want them to have what I didn’t have when I was a kid. I want my kids to experience what I didn’t get to experience as a child. I want what’s best for my family. Isn’t that what all dads want for their families?
I think that desire of wanting what’s best for our families deeply rooted in us. I believe that desire comes from God’s fingerprint on our hearts. In fact, I believe our desire to give what’s best for our families reflects God the Father. You see, God wants what’s best for us too. He loves you and He loves me so much that he sent his only son. You know the story. After the Fall, there was this separation between humanity and God. God sent many people to try to heal that rift between Him and us, but nothing worked. Ultimately, he sent Jesus to save us. God, creator of everything, loves you and He loves so much that he sent Jesus to save us. Try to absorb that for a second.
And by the grace of God, Jesus offers himself as a sacrifice on the altar of the cross, to use the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, for us. Jesus gave us the Eucharist to share with us his flesh and to share his blood, as we heard in the Gospel, to nourish us on our journey to the Father. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and the Blood of Jesus to praise God for the gift of the Eucharist and to give of ourselves in this liturgy by our, “AMEN,” we say we accept the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist.
One of the most painful things for me is when I hear about Catholics who leave the faith because they are not being fed or not being nourished in the Catholic Church. I can’t relate to that point of view. But even more shocking to me than that are the studies which suggest that as many Catholics around the world and indeed many in this church right now do not really believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist! How can we call ourselves Catholic if we don’t believe in the Eucharist? How can we call ourselves Christians if we don’t believe that Jesus Christ is real or that Jesus is really the Son of God?
Experts tell us that perhaps the reason for this problem is that some people have never had a relationship with Jesus. They come to mass and participate with the community, but individually some don’t have a relationship with Jesus. It’s important to have a strong connection to the community, yes like we heard in the second reading today, though we are many, we are one, but it has to start with Jesus. Our most recent popes all agree.
Pope Saint John Paul II wrote, “It is necessary to awaken again in believers a full relationship with Christ, mankind’s only Savior.”
Pope Benedict in a beautiful reflection on the Triune God wrote, “it’s important for us to have a relationship with God who has a name and calls us by name … he has a face and he seeks our face. He has a heart and he seeks our heart.”
One of the many things that Pope Francis has said on the subject is, “Being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus.”
Okay, so you think to yourself, “I’m a good person. How do I know if I have a relationship with Jesus?” Well, there might signs – sings only visible to you. This is not a definitive list, but it might help you in your discernment. If you feel empty or if you feel like something is missing in your life, no purpose, no direction, that might suggest a weak relationship with Jesus.
On the other hand, you might experience or those closest to you might notice that that you have more love, joy, peace, or patience in your life. If you feel the fruits of the Holy Spirit growing in you, then it might be evidence that you are developing a relationship with Jesus.
So how do you develop a relationship with Jesus? Well, think about how you build a relationship with anyone. Before I became a dad, I met my wife, Katrina. She’s in Honduras on a mission trip so I’m sure no one will tell her what I’m going to say. I fell hard for her! I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. I wanted to know everything I could about her! I wanted to know what she liked and what she didn’t like.
My brothers and sisters, I suggest to you that building a relationship with Jesus is very similar. If you want to build a relationship with Jesus, then you need to get to know him better. There are many Catholic formation programs that can help you learn more about Jesus. And you should try to spend more time with him. You can spend more time with him in daily personal prayer; in adoration; and in mass both on the weekend and daily if you can. But you don’t have to do it alone.
Bishop Vázquez has given us the Pastoral Plan. It’s like a strategic plan, but it focuses on the spiritual and pastoral needs for our diocese. The Pastoral Plan encourages parishes to create opportunities for people to have an encounter with Jesus, an encounter that causes transformation or a change within us that leads to a relationship with Jesus. The U.S. Bishops have similar programs. One that is going on right now is called Encuentro. Encuentro is a Spanish word that means a meeting or a perhaps a chance meeting. Often the image used is the disciples on the road to Emmaus who had a chance meeting with the risen Jesus Christ. They didn’t plan to meet Jesus, but they did and they were open to the experience.
One of the goals of Encuentro is to help incorporate immigrants, primarily Spanish-speaking immigrants, integrate better into the U.S. Church, but the strategies and lessons dovetail nicely with our Pastoral Plan. So we are being asked to participate in the Encuentro.
Over the next couple of months, we will introduce fellowship opportunities leading up to a parish Encuentro. We encourage everyone to participate. It is our hope that through these fellowship opportunities we will get to know each other a little better and through those relationships we might experience a personal encounter with Jesus Christ – an encounter that might lead to a change; a change that develops into a relationship with Jesus.
The Church believes that if we start to develop a personal relationship with Jesus, then our entire Catholic faith makes so much more sense and we will deepen our appreciation for the body and blood of Jesus present in the Eucharist – the source and summit of our lives.
- After you receive the Eucharist or come forward to receive a blessing before the Eucharist and you go back to your pews, please include in your prayers a thank you to God for the Eucharist. Say, “thank you, God, for the Eucharist!”
- Second, I would like you to ask yourself if you have a personal relationship with Jesus. How do you walk with Jesus in your daily life?
I think by doing our homework we might become better disciples of Jesus and come to a deeper understanding of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Got it? Get it? Are you going to do it? Good! Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we each come to know and to love Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. +Amen!