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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: September 23, 2019
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the Mass of Christian Burial for his father, Basil H. Taylor, at St. Mary Church in Ponca City, Oklahoma on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019.
My experience from working with RCIA over the years is that the single passage of Scripture most likely to lead people to the Catholic faith and understanding of the Eucharist is John chapter 6. “Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” My Dad believed this with all his heart.
My last argument with my Dad, which took place two weeks ago, was about how much of Mass you had to attend in order to fulfill your Sunday obligation. It was an academic question because he always got there early and stayed all the way to the end, including kneeling down and saying a short prayer after the end of the last verse of the last song, which was the custom here at St. Mary’s.
But he often brought up that question about how much of Mass you absolutely had to attend. I had always heard that you had to get there by the time of the Gospel — or, jokingly, I would say “at least by the time of the collection” because Mass was comprised of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But he insisted, “No, before Vatican II you just had to be there for the offertory, the consecration and Communion.”
But I was delighted to see (Dad's) joy in being validated — he did a little victory dance — validated in his memory about this detail about how the Sunday obligation was understood in the past. Because, you see, the reception of the Eucharist, that intimate connection with Jesus, was at the very center of his relationship with God.
So we Googled it and I discovered that Google is wrong too, because it agreed with Dad. But I was delighted to see his joy in being validated — he did a little victory dance — validated in his memory about this detail about how the Sunday obligation was understood in the past. Because, you see, the reception of the Eucharist, that intimate connection with Jesus, was at the very center of his relationship with God.
He was hard of hearing and for many years he complained that he could not understand the homily — the Church echoes too much, the sound system made it worse, the priest talked too fast or too long (more than eight minutes — he always timed my homilies and those of other priests too) or the priest mumbled or a baby was crying — but no matter what, he had gotten what he had come for: the Eucharist.
Sometimes he went to the Spanish Mass: He liked the music, he received the Eucharist just the same, and being hard of hearing, he couldn’t understand the homily in the English Mass anyway. Whenever I visited home, he loved it when I celebrated Mass each day around the dining room table.
Not because there was no echo, no sound system or because I spoke slowly and distinctly — though he liked that and even offered unsolicited observations about my homily before we moved on to the general intercessions — but again, because what he treasured most was the opportunity to receive the Eucharist.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us why this is such a great treasure. Body and blood are the very life of a person, and since Jesus is divine as well as human, his body and blood are immortal, and thus by taking Jesus’ immortal life into ourselves, we share in his immortality even as death claims our mortal bodies.
That is what Jesus is talking about when he says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” Why? Jesus says, because “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him … just as I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me … whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
Today as we gather around this altar on earth, we pray that Dad may already be enjoying the heavenly banquet with Mom whom he loved so much in this life, and of course with Jesus whose body and blood he made his own in countless Eucharists over the course of the last 90 years, always making his Sunday obligation even when traveling, never doing the minimum of just getting there in time for the offertory, now in a place where his hearing is no longer an issue, where there is no echo or faulty sound system, in the presence of our Lord who doesn’t mumble or talk too fast or too long and where there is no need for him to supplement the Lord’s words with his own unsolicited observations.
Now in the presence of the Lord, who promised him eternal life through the Eucharist, which we now receive as we commend him to the Lord.