Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Manhattan
Memorial of St. John XXIII
Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist
Sixtieth Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council
October 11, 2022
1 Cor 11:23-26, Ps 116, Jn 6:51-58
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
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The following text guided the homily:
The section of Manhattan in which we’re located has been called since the early 19th century “Hell’s Kitchen,” a phrase police and civic leaders employed to denote what was then the borough’s most notoriously crime ridden slum. To call it Hell for them was too mild; they considered it the furnace of hell.
And so it was fitting that in 1876, when the Archdiocese of New York decided to establish a parish here, they named it after the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where Catholics could focus on a different type of fire, the white hot flames of Jesus’ loving and merciful heart, and be ignited with the fire of the Holy Spirit to go out to extinguish the vestiges of hell throughout the neighborhood.
It’s also appropriate for us to come here today to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, convened in order to reinvigorate the Church’s mission to sanctify the world and bring Christ and his Gospel even to those corners considered most forlorn.
We celebrate this landmark anniversary in a particularly Eucharistic way, since the fathers of Vatican II repeatedly declared that Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit, root and center of the Christian life and of everything the Church does. All the main teachings of the Council — on the primacy of the word of God, on the universal call to holiness, on authentic Christian humanism, on the vocation of the laity, on religious freedom and on relations with other religions — can all be looked at through a Eucharistic lens.
St. John XXIII, whose feast day the Church celebrates on October 11, proclaimed 60 years ago today at the opening of the Council, “The great problem confronting the world after almost two thousand years remains unchanged,” namely to recognize Jesus Christ as the “center of history and of life” and choose to believe in him, to follow him and to be with him. Since the Eucharist is Jesus Christ, the choice to follow him is made concrete in a Eucharistic life.
That’s why it’s fitting for us to celebrate this anniversary of the Second Vatican Council with a Mass followed by a Eucharistic procession, taking Jesus Christ out into the world he redeemed and proclaiming him, by our joyful witness, devout prayers, and enthusiastic singing, to be really, truly and substantially among us, and inviting others to join us in following him who is the Way. Our world needs Jesus Christ just as much as ever and as Catholics we cannot keep the treasure of our Eucharistic Lord within our Churches and tabernacles. The love of Christ, and the love of others, compels us to bring him out and share him.
Our Eucharistic procession is taking place during the context of the three-year Eucharistic Revival of the Church in the United States, called by our bishops to stimulate greater Eucharistic knowledge, faith, amazement, love, life and mission. There are various important parts of the Revival. One is to help all Catholics better understand and live the Mass. Another is greater Eucharistic discipleship, shown in a particular way by spending time with Jesus in Eucharistic adoration. A third is Eucharistic charity, as we imitate Jesus in giving our body and blood, our time, money and talents, out of love for those Jesus loves. And a fourth is a more ardent Eucharistic apostolate, in which we infectiously share our Eucharistic faith with others.
Eucharistic processions are an important part of that Eucharistic apostolate, as we give bold and unambiguous witness that we know that what we are carrying in the monstrance is not a piece of bread, but, as Jesus said in the Gospel we just heard, the Living Bread come down from Heaven, who has given us his Body and Blood for the life of the world.
Today we take the Lord out to what St. John Paul II famously called the “capital of the world.” We accompany him, just like the apostles, the disciples and huge crowds used to accompany him as he journeyed to preach, teach, heal, forgive, feed and save. In those tightly packed middle eastern crowds, some would just bump into him unchanged, but others would reach out to touch him with faith, like the woman with a hemorrhage for 12 years. Others, like Zacchaeus, would climb trees to see him. Others, hearing Christ was passing by, would cry out from the side of the road, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Today the same Jesus who traversed Jerusalem will cross the streets of New York City. As he goes, the Good Shepherd will pass many of his lost sheep. The Divine Physician will pass those who are sick in body, mind or soul. The Master will pass those who are curious, questioning and seeking. The One who was so poor he didn’t have a place to lay his head will pass the poor and homeless who are in need of his mercy and ours. The Light of the World will pass some who won’t want to see him or us, either because they want us to keep our faith out of the public square, or because they have some objection to the Church, or simply because they’re upset that our procession slows them down.
Jesus will encounter them all. He gave his body and blood on Calvary for everyone we will meet and he wants us, as we keep our eyes fixed on him, to look on each of them as the loving eyes of his Mystical Body. He wants us to pray for them, help them, encourage them and invite them, so that hopefully today or at least eventually, they will join us on the pilgrimage of the Church through time, which is in fact a Eucharistic procession destined to finish not at the resplendent St. Patrick’s, but in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Today as Christ risen from the dead comes for the harrowing of Hell’s Kitchen with the mercy of his Eucharistic presence, we prepare to accompany him like the crowds on Palm Sunday, rejoicing that the long-awaited one has come, and echoing their refrain, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Blessed indeed is he. Blessed is Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Blessed are we to be his disciples, apostles and friends. Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb, who yet again today gives us his body and blood for the life of the world, so that we might have life to the full.
The readings for the Mass were:
A Reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians
Brothers and Sisters, I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
Responsorial Psalm: Our Blessing Cup is a Communion with the Blood of Christ
How can I repay the LORD for all the good done for me?
I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.
Too costly in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful.
LORD, I am your servant, your servant, the child of your maidservant;
you have loosed my bonds.
I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord; whoever eats this bread will live forever.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John
Jesus said to the Jews who were present: 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.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” 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. 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. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
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