Ascension Church

Homily August 19, 2018

 

I. Some years ago, a group of American sisters traveled to Guatemala to begin work as missionaries there. Upon arriving, they were overwhelmed by the poverty and the violence that they encountered. Its effect on them was apparent to those who lived there. Recognizing their pain, the residents told the sisters that they’d best go home. “Go home and learn hope,” they advised. “When you can bring us hope, then come back.”

 

II. Lately, I’ve wondered whether or not I need to go home and learn hope and then, come back. As I’ve stood here at the 11:30 Mass, I’ve struggled to find a word of hope to our immigrant members who, given their wide family networks, are all affected by the daily threat of detention or deportation, terrified at the prospect of being separated from their families. My hope wobbled after this week’s release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse. While I’ve been tempted to ignore it and move on to something else, I needed to be angered and saddened and sickened by it. How does one remain hopeful in a Church and society where priests and bishops are more important than children, where the rich are more valuable than the poor, where white lives matter more than black and brown lives?

 

III. In his first letter, St. Peter counsels, “Have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for your hope.”

On Thursday, I met with Catalina Morales, an immigration organizer, to discuss strategies for getting priests more involved in advocacy and accompaniment with undocumented immigrants. Catalina herself is an undocumented Mexican immigrant with DACA status. I asked Catalina what gives her hope in the face of it all. She said, “Community. When I remember how many people are actually trying to build community, [I know] that it is the community of God.

 

IV. Theologian Stanley Hauerwas writes,

If Christianity [makes] any sense, it must be because of something to do with eating that meal.

Jesus cautions us today to not settle for manna—short-lived, temporary, impermanent food—when there’s something more, something far better, being offered: true food and true drink. We depend on so many things, or ideas, or drugs, to satisfy our deepest longings—but these come and go. What alone answers our deepest hunger is an intimate, living relationship with Jesus Christ. Things change, things don’t change, people come and go, priests and bishops can be monsters. An intimate, living relationship with Jesus Christ cannot rest on such impermanent, ever-changing variables.

 

V. At my First Communion, I learned that among the most sacred times during Mass are those precious few moments after Communion, when everyone is quiet, more or less. It’s the time when we allow the Body and Blood of Christ to be absorbed into our very fiber; when, according to Andre Dubus, we “taste and chew and swallow the intimacy of God.” In “Holy Communion,” we ingest the essence of Jesus Christ: that is, the abiding awareness of divine love that transforms death into life. That is real food. That is real drink. That is the reason for our hope.