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As we are returning to in-person liturgies I wonder if you have ever asked yourself why you participate in the celebration of the Eucharist? Is it maybe out of a sense of obligation? Is it out of guilt or fear? Is it simply out of habit? Is it because someone makes you go? Is it because you think it’s your part of some kind of bargain with God? Or maybe it is because you are moved to celebrate the unfathomable mystery of the Creator of the Universe becoming human so as to show us the path to salvation which passes through the cross?
And if you are like me, when we participate in the Eucharist, sometimes the liturgy really speaks to us and sometimes it does not. There are times when we are moved to tears, while other times it may feel like we just go through the motions. Often this has little to do with the liturgy itself but with how we are feeling on any given day.
Yet, even when the liturgy seems boring and ineffective, as long as we open our heart to the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit the Eucharist will change us and will mold us more and more into being the Body of Christ to the world. That is the power of the liturgy.
The first reading today is from Deuteronomy. This book illuminates the evolving relationship between God and God’s people. The Covenant which God made with Abraham was unconditional, based on the profound relationship between God and Abraham. Deuteronomy presents a shift as the covenant between God and Israel becomes bilateral. God offers to uphold the covenant and bless Israel as long as the people hold up their part of the bargain by remaining faithful to the commandments and the Law of Moses.
This is exactly what Moses affirms in today’s reading. But there is a hidden danger in his emphasis on strict adherence to the law, as the law can become an idol in itself. That is what Jesus points out in today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew.
The Pharisees take offense at the fact that Jesus’ disciples fail to wash their hands before a meal. Purification of the body in many circumstances and for many reasons was deemed important because this was prescribed in the Law of Moses. It must have been a true shock for the Pharisees to see the disciples of Jesus ignore these prescriptions.
Jesus responds to the Pharisees by challenging the relationship between the law and the covenant. Merely following the letter of the law is not enough, according to Jesus. Much more is needed. The covenant between God and God’s people is not just about what is on the outside; rather it is about what is on the inside. It is not just about washing one’s hands but about the cleanness of heart.
The same holds for us. Our relationship with God is not just about the outside but about what is on the inside. Our celebration of the Eucharist is not just about fulfilling an obligation. It is not just about listening, saying the correct words and engaging in the correct actions. It is about singing God’s praise for the marvelous deeds accomplished in Jesus Christ. It is about opening our heart so we might become more like the one whose sacrifice we celebrate: Jesus, the Christ. It is about becoming more like Christ so we can be Christ to the world.
Or in the words of our second reading from the Letter of James: “Being hearers of the word is not enough; we have to be doers of the word.” And according to today’s Responsorial Psalm, it is the one who does justice who “will live in the presence of the Lord.”
So let’s end by returning to my original question: why do we participate in the Eucharist on Sunday? During the Eucharist we are invited to listen to the Word so that we may become doers of the Word. And we are invited to share in the Body of Christ so we may become Christ’s hands, feet and heart to the world. These are two of the many reasons why we are called to participate in the Eucharist every Sunday.
As summer is slowly winding down, staff members at The Basilica are gearing up to welcome back our community. We are looking forward to the opportunity to reconnect with dear friends and renew our commitment to serve one another. It is wonderful to see The Basilica’s doors open again and watch our campus gradually return to the vibrant spiritual home we all admire. I have been especially comforted by my own return to The Basilica and find that I appreciate the beauty and serenity of our buildings and campus more than ever.
The care and upkeep of our buildings and campus requires a constant process of renewal and is made possible thanks to support from The Basilica Landmark whose mission is to preserve, restore, and advance The Basilica of Saint Mary for all generations. We are so grateful for the generosity of all those who have already supported the Basilica Landmark’s Annual Fund. If you have not done so already, I hope you will join me by making a gift to The Basilica Landmark’s Annual Fund at thebasilicalandmark.org/give. Your donation will serve the most urgent of our Basilica Landmark initiatives, including tuck-pointing the exterior church walls, installing additional air purification systems, waterproofing the school basement, and replacing exterior campus lighting.
Making an estate gift through your will or trust, as a beneficiary of a retirement account (such as a 401K or IRA) or an insurance policy, is another wonderful way to show your support for The Basilica Landmark and its critical mission. With planning, your estate gift will help continue this vision and maintain our historic buildings and campus for future generations. To learn more about the benefits of making an estate gift, and how it can help continue the critical work at The Basilica Landmark, we encourage you to reach out to Monica Stuart.
Lastly, we are especially excited that our biggest event of the year is back on the block! For 25 years, the grounds of The Basilica have welcomed countless music fans, volunteers, and parishioners to the Cities 97.1 Basilica Block Party. This long-standing summer tradition unites and connects us to the broader Twin Cities community. Proceeds from the event benefit The Basilica Landmark and a portion of the event proceeds will also go to The Basilica’s St. Vincent de Paul ministry to assist our neighbors in need. I invite you to reconnect with The Basilica Block Party by attending this important community gathering and fundraiser on September 10 and 11! Visit basilicablockparty.org for ticketing information, volunteer opportunities, and the fantastic lineup of new bands as well as some old favorites.
May you find many opportunities in the coming weeks to reconnect with your Basilica family and renew your commitment to this incredible community.