By Katherine Long | Editor
Welcoming participants to the first evening of a three-night Lenten retreat March 15, Bishop Douglas J. Lucia said he saw the gathering as “a sign of hope.”
“Last year, we did this in a rather empty Cathedral. This year, we now have the faithful joining us again, here in this sacred place but also throughout the diocese,” the bishop said, referring to the some three dozen faithful gathered in the pews and those accessing the livestream from home. “And so what a privilege it is for me to gather this local church into prayer.”
Last year’s Lenten mission, “Walking with Christ, from Our House to Yours,” was held just two weeks after Central New York communities began canceling events, closing schools and businesses, and directing people to stay home to avoid spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Increasing restrictions followed; Bishop Lucia closed diocesan churches to public Masses and New York state instituted stay-at-home and social distancing directives. The mission took place in a nearly empty Cathedral and was livestreamed to faithful at home.
“The theme of these days are ‘Renewed in Faith, Hope, and Love,’” Bishop Lucia said Monday night. “Tonight, we seek that renewal of faith. Again, it brings back to mind when I was a youngster learning the Act of Faith. And yet, for me, an act of faith is the very lives we lead, opening ourselves to God. And that’s what we do here tonight.”
The Eucharistic Service began and ended with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a devotion Bishop Lucia identified in his recently released pastoral letter, “In the name of Jesus,” as a key component of renewing the faith of those in the diocese.
Morgan Durfee of the Office of Family/Respect Life Ministry proclaimed the first reading, Isaiah 55:6-9. Deacon Joseph Lupia proclaimed the Gospel, Matthew 15:29-37, in which Jesus heals many and multiplies the bread.
Vocalists Nora Strong, Shannon Proctor, Dominick Corbacio, and Nick Blaney and organist Alan Lynch provided beautiful, prayerful music.
Sister Laura Bufano, CSJ, offered a stirring reflection — as well as a bit of song.
“We begin this Lenten retreat, ‘Renewed in Faith,’ with Eucharistic Adoration, in which we celebrate the presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament,” Sister Laura said. “The words of Isaiah reminded us to ‘seek the Lord while He may be found,’ to ‘call him while he is near.’ The Lord is indeed here in our midst. Let us recall the words of Jesus as recorded at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: ‘Know that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.’”
“I am with you, on the journey, and I will never leave you. I am with you, on the journey, always with you,” she sang.
“At baptism, we were plunged into the Paschal Mystery,” Sister Laura said. “The mystery of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ — the very mystery we celebrate every time we gather for Eucharist. We come together each week as a community of believers to be fed at the table of the Word and the table of the Eucharist. In what ways do these celebrations make a difference in our life? In what ways do we allow them to make a difference? You and I are called to be witnesses to Jesus Christ, to live what we say we believe.”
“As we participate in the liturgical life of the Church, do we take to heart what we see and hear?” she continued. “Article 10 in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy reminds us that in the Eucharist, the covenant between the Lord and His people is renewed and draws the faithful — that’s all of us — ‘draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire.’ When was the last time you were conscious of being drawn into the compelling love of Christ?”
“As we pray before the Blessed Sacrament tonight, grateful for the great gift of the Eucharist, let us, like the disciples, bring all that we have and all that we are to God, who loves us more than we can ask or imagine. Let us with confident assurance open our hearts and offer as gift the gifts we have received. Let us trust that Jesus is with us on the journey, and that what we have is enough.”
Sister Laura offered a litany for the faithful: “May we have the courage to let our participation in the Eucharist, and our silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, make a difference in our lives, and in the lives of others. May we have the courage to live what we say we believe as we accompany one another on the journey. May we have the courage to proclaim the good news with our lives, not necessarily using words. Yes, let us renew our faith and respond to our baptismal call rather than take it for granted. Let us live more simply, rather than allow ourselves to get caught up in consumerism. Let us speak out against injustice, rather than stand by silently. Let us reach out to those who live in poverty and are marginalized, rather than treat them as though they were invisible. Let us put our gifts at the service of others, rather than keep those gifts to ourselves.”
She closed with a prayer she learned years ago as a student at St. Vincent de Paul School in Syracuse: “May the heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection at every moment in all the tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time. Amen.”
The Lenten retreat with Bishop Lucia was scheduled to continue March 16 with a Penitential Service and a homily offered by Deacon Tim McNerney and March 17 with a Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart and a homily offered by Father Jason Hage. Videos of each night of the retreat will be available from Syracuse Catholic Television at youtube.com/syrdio.