Bishop Douglas J. Lucia delivered the following homily at the Installation of Acolytes at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora Oct. 18.
Dear brothers and sisters, the Word of God this afternoon reminds you and me that we are the pilgrim people of God, traveling on a journey of faith: called by the Father, accompanied by the Son of God, and led by the Holy Spirit. While all of us are on this journey, those of you in Second Theology are at a specific point in your pilgrimage today — as you are installed as acolytes.
My brothers, you may have served at the altar since you were a child. However, today marks a special moment in your lives as you receive the Office of Acolyte and continue your journey of discernment concerning the Sacrament of Holy Orders. In today’s Prayer over the Offerings, I will pray that the food of this Eucharist may bring us freedom of heart to serve God, in addition to healing and glory.
St. Luke, whose feast we celebrate today, was the author of both the Gospel bearing his name and the Acts of the Apostles. In the prologue to his Gospel, Luke tells us that although others had compiled a narration of the events surrounding Jesus’ life, “I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence” (1:3). He makes it clear right from the beginning that he isn’t just telling fanciful stories. He is telling us that God, in the person of Jesus, has actually come into the world as Savior and Redeemer.
And that’s the point: We don’t believe in a myth; we believe in a God who acts in and through history. First, God revealed himself to the people of Israel and made them his own special people. Then, in “the fullness of time,” he sent his Son to save not just Israel but all of humanity (Galatians 4:4). That means that we don’t have a God who stays in his own separate realm, making a supernatural visit here and there. No, we have a God who came in the flesh to inaugurate his kingdom here on earth.
An early invitation to the Eucharistic table that is a favorite of mine states, “These are God’s holy gifts for God’s holy people. Receive them with thanksgiving. See what you are, become what you see.” Brothers and sisters, that is the challenge of today’s Gospel as Jesus sends out his disciples ahead of him. Clearly, they are to prepare his way. They are to be unencumbered by possessions, realistic about meeting opposition, people of peace, healers of the sick, and proclaimers of God’s kingdom. And yet, a key line for me is that God’s peace — God’s presence — will dwell with us wherever we are at, as we eat what is set before us.
Is this not, my brothers and sisters, the very heart of the Communion we share in and which our brothers will share with us as they minister at the Lord’s Altar? And yet, you and I are challenged by a recent poll that says 70% of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence. What is the source of this unbelief? Is it a case of why would one believe, if evidence of such a Real Presence is lacking in the behavior and lifestyle of so-called believers?
A deacon who served as hospital chaplain offered this reflection on Communion:
“As part of my ministry as deacon, I sometimes serve as chaplain at a local Catholic hospital. There I am usually called to minister to families whose loved one is seriously ill, or who has just died. These pastoral visits are communion (small ‘c’) in that Jesus works through me to reach His people in their time of crisis.
On the other hand, I also serve as a Eucharistic Minister at another local, public hospital. On these visits I bring Communion (large ‘C’), the visible Body of Christ. As I walk into each room, the eyes of the patient are fixed on the small case around my neck. They know that inside that small case there is a pyx containing Jesus, and their eyes truly light up, not from seeing me, but from seeing Jesus coming to be with them.”
My brothers, regarding the Office of Acolyte: Like any other ritual, the liturgy has its rules, its rubrics. They tell us whether to sit or stand or kneel, to hold a lighted candle or to blow it out. It is important to know the rubrics that apply to you and carry them out with dignity and care, not by drawing attention to yourself but by assisting in the prayer that draws the congregation into deeper communion with God.
Recall the early Christian community who gathered to listen to the word of God, to partake of the Eucharist and to pray together. As St. Paul testifies to in our first reading, “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it” (2 Tm 4:17b). This means that you need to be fully present to God and the community; get rid of distractions. Prepare your mind and heart and your whole being for the Eucharistic celebration. It is up to the ministers of the sanctuary to set the example, for as today’s Psalm Response announces, “Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.”
Brothers and sisters, this also implies that, as missionary disciples, by our Communion, all our lives are designated to be a living Gospel for all people to hear — the Word become flesh. All of us are called to follow where the Master trod and to enter evermore into the deep mystery of God’s presence and action in our own lives. As another minister of Holy Communion often declares, “Good news! I bring a visitor who will never leave you.”
And so, dear sons in Christ, as people chosen for the ministry of acolyte, you will have a special role in the Church’s ministry. The summit and source of the Church’s life is the Eucharist, which builds up the Christian community and makes it grow. It is your responsibility to assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministry, and as special ministers to give Holy Communion to the faithful at the liturgy and to the sick. Because you are specially called to this ministry, you should strive to live more fully by the Lord’s sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in its likeness. You should seek to understand the deep spiritual meaning of what you do, so that you may offer yourselves daily to God as spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him through Jesus Christ.
In performing your ministry bear in mind that as you share the one bread with your brothers and sisters so you form one body with them. Show a sincere love for Christ’s Mystical Body, God’s holy people, and especially for the weak and the sick. Be obedient to the commandment which the Lord gave to his apostles at the Last Supper: “Love one another as I also have loved you.”