Here is the homily of Fr. Michael Drea, senior chaplain at Harvard University and pastor of St. Paul’s Parish in Cambridge, given one week ago, Monday, May 12, at the Holy Mass in St. Paul’s in Cambridge, at the conclusion of the Eucharistic procession, which drew thousands in prayer, in response to the black mass that was to be held on Harvard’s campus, simultaneously. The black mass eventually was moved off of Harvard’s campus and might have been cancelled entirely.
Homily for the Holy Hour for Reparation
Delivered by The Reverend Michael E. Drea, Senior Chaplain
Tonight we gather in this moment of prayer as a parish and university community to celebrate the greatest gift that God has ever extended to us: His Son Jesus Christ – truly and substantially present body, blood, soul and divinity.
I welcome so many who have joined with our Catholic community in Harvard Square and beyond the territorial borders of the Square to pray that power of sin and death; the power of evil in our world that Jesus Christ has conquered from the Cross, will never take root in the hearts of people of good will. I am pleased to welcome Bishop Arthur Kennedy, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston and the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization, whose presence unites us with our Archbishop, Cardinal Seán O’Malley. I am also pleased to welcome Harvard President Drew Faust, Reverend Professor Jonathan Walton and members of the Harvard University academic and religious communities who stand with our Catholic community in prayer and solidarity. I welcome all of you who as people guided by the Truth that is Jesus Christ join us in this time of prayer for reparation.
Over the course of the last few days as this terrible affront to our Catholic sensibilities unfolded, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayerful support from individuals literally the world over. These wonderful people: Harvard alumni, parents, students, faculty and staff; people with no affiliation to Harvard; some Catholic, some from other faith traditions who all recognize the message of the satanic ‘black mass’ for what it truly is: an act of hatred and ridicule toward the Catholic Church and her faithful.
We gather here tonight experiencing the full range of human emotions. Emotions of sadness, disgust, dismay. We ask ourselves: How could any act of religious hatred and sacrilege have any place within the context of civilized discourse on any university campus? And yet, such discourse is upheld, but as President Faust said today, “this ritual is abhorrent; it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community.”
My purpose tonight is not to debate the merits of the academic pursuit, but as the Catholic spiritual leader of St. Paul’s Parish and of the Harvard Catholic community on our beloved Harvard campus, I am here to call each of us to a posture of prayer in imitation of our Blessed Savior, Jesus Christ. Prayer that seeks guidance and consolation; prayer that seeks spiritual strength to go into the world more committed to living the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The light of the Easter Candle here in the sanctuary to my left guides us through the darkness of a world that all too often seems shrouded in death. That light, the light of Jesus Christ, shatters that darkness and this very night leads us all to good, truth and love that only the Son of God can offer to us.
On that first Good Friday in the midst of the frenzy and intensity of the long and arduous procession through the streets of Jerusalem, Jesus encountered a range of emotions in the faces and gestures of those who lined the streets. Surely, Christ’s apostles and disciples could not begin to imagine that such a spectacle could be taking place. The Gospel gives us a glimpse into some of the emotions: lashing out, fear, acts of betrayal and personal flight from the presence of the Lord.
I would say, however, that the most profound glimpse into the response of those closest to Jesus is the same response and the same posture that we must take as our Lord present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is under attack at this moment.
Our response is the response of our Blessed Mother Mary and St. John, the beloved disciple. Where they caught up in the frenzy? No! Our Blessed Lady and St. John took on a spirit of prayer and vigil at the foot of the Cross.
Why remain so close? Why risk incrimination by being so close to Jesus? Why you ask? Because of their profound understanding that only the power of Jesus Christ to save all people, once for all, could shatter the bonds of evil and free humanity from its shackles. They trusted implicitly that this Jesus of Nazareth was truly the Son of God who would guide them through this dark moment – a moment which caused despair in some – to the joys and the peace of union with God forever.
This is why we are here this night. Praying with trust and devotion in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, under the appearance of bread reverently contained in the monstrance on the altar, that His Way, His Truth and His Life will sustain, nurture and guide us all to the light that never dims.
Catholic teaching on the Eucharist reminds us that “the most important effect of the Blessed Eucharist is intimate union with Jesus Christ.” (Navare, 597)
What a powerful statement to make and to ponder anew as we gather in prayer tonight. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council state it so well when they declare: “Really sharing in the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another.” (Lumen gentium, 7)
We are united with Christ in His sacrifice and we are united with Him in His life. “By (our) union with Christ, (we become) a sign and instrument of the salvation achieved by Christ.” (Lumen gentium, 9) Having received our Lord, we embrace that gift and united with Jesus, we go forth to bring Christ into the world.
“The Eucharist thus appears as both the source and the summit of all evangelization, since its goal is the communion of mankind with Christ and in him with the Father and the Holy Spirit. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 22)
And so my dear friends, when this great gift of Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity is treated without the highest reverence; when an act of sacrilege is perpetrated upon the Blessed Sacrament and the sacred liturgy, it demands our prayerful and our firm response that such an act cannot be tolerated.
Through our Baptism we are able to share in this communion and to embrace the life of Jesus Christ. For in receiving the sacred body and blood of Christ we become more like the one we receive.
Jesus reminds us so beautifully that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” (Jh 6: 54) St. Thomas Aquinas taught that these words, lived in the Eucharist we share, are words of immense value for the Christian. The Angelic Doctor tells us: “The Word gives life to our souls, but the Word made flesh nourishes our bodies. In this sacrament is contained the Word not only in His divinity but also in His humanity; therefore, it is the cause not only of the glorification of our souls but also of that of our bodies.” (Comm. on St. John)
May each one of us enter into, then, that most intimate union with our Lord in order to be strengthened in this moment of trial. May the grace of the bread that came down from Heaven nourish us fully and make us yearn all the more to stand in the presence of and journey with the living God.
As we depart from this church into the night of Harvard Square, sustained and united as a community, may we be reminded of our call to bring the presence of the living God into the world as people of good will. The motto at the founding of this University affirms that call. It reminds us that what we do in the classroom and labs; in the Houses, in the dining halls and the gym; over in the Yard and at the Stadium reflects the call of Veritas: Christo et ecclesiae – we do it for Truth – Truth for Christ and the Church.
12 May 2014 – St. Paul’s, Harvard Square