August 2 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I recently read an article “Catholics: They are not coming back….unless….”  Written by a priest in the Rockford Diocese, he gives many reasons that after the pandemic is over and the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is re-instated, many Mass going Catholics will not return to Mass.  While some still fearing for health reasons, his main premise is there are millions of Catholics, who have grown quite comfortable in a Eucharist free faith.  In other words, watching Mass on television and not receiving communion is just fine.  His caveat is that unless we once again explain to Catholics why a real, attended Mass is necessary for their spiritual health, many will not return.  I agree with him to a certain degree.

But, my romantic idealistic side says not all is lost!  Perhaps I am being a bit naïve, but I think many will come back because as it has been said, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  This proverb, in some form or another, can be traced back for millennia.  It became popular in 1850 by the author Thomas Haynes Bayly in his work entitled Isle of Beauty.  And, there is scientific evidence that it is true in relationship to lovers or friends.  I think it should be true related to the Eucharist!  The Eucharist is not something that we should relate to as a “thing” – the Eucharist is a person!  The very soul and divinity of Jesus Christ himself.  The longing we might feel when absent from a lover or friend is the same longing we should have for the Eucharist if we have not received Jesus in Holy Communion in quite some time.  I’m hoping that when a vaccine is found and people feel safe, they will jump at the opportunity to come back to Mass and once again have that physical relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.

Our scripture readings today tell us that Jesus feeds every hunger.  If we lose the hunger for the Eucharist, there is nothing to substitute for the bread of life.  The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in today’s gospel ends with an important detail.  There was enough food left over to fill 12 wicker baskets.  God feeds in abundance.  We need to receive that Eucharistic food so that we can go out and feed others in abundance.

Let not the necessary steps to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic deaden our desire and need for receiving the Eucharist.  Actually, we need that food more than ever!  When the time comes, let the pews of Our Lady of Mercy be filled with starving people hungry to receive Jesus our bread of life!

Have a blessed week!

Father Don