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The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ B ~ Rev. Benjamin Roberts, D.Min.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the day that the fire destroyed our offices and seriously damaged the chapel and the old rectory. I remember arriving in the parking lot and seeing the fire trucks. I saw the mangled metal of the office doors. I saw the charred remains of the office equipment. I saw the firefighters and the investigators. Even today and almost every day I can close my eyes and see the smoke rising over the ashes.

And yet the grace of God was there. The presence of the Spirit was there. The grace and wisdom granted me by priestly ordination and an apostolic appointment were there. I was asked to describe the building and the arrangement of the offices. I was also asked if there was anyone that I thought might have wanted to hurt me or the parish. We knew by the end of the day that the fire was an accident, but thousands of thoughts filled my mind during those moments. And yet the grace of God was there. The presence of the Spirit was there,  The grace and wisdom granted me by priestly ordination and an apostolic appointment were there.

I said to Deacon Dave, “Please prepare everything in the Grotto.” I walked over to the people who had gathered that Monday morning in the grotto, as we had for several months during the pandemic. I looked at their faces and said, “I do not know anything more than what we can see. My staff does not know anything more than what we can see. I know only this: I need the consolation of the Eucharist.”

I have vested for Mass thousands of times. I have stood at the altar thousands of times. I have prayed the words of consecration thousands of times. And yet on that morning, when I had no other words, and when I had no answers, I had the words of Jesus. I had the prayers of the Church. On a day when it looked like the fires of hell had taken the holy ground where I had carried out so much of my pastoral ministry, at the word of Christ and the prayer of the Church, heaven broke open and Jesus descended to that small stone altar in the Grotto. With my weakened voice and my trembling hands and even my wandering mind, the celebration of the Eucharist was my consolation. It was our consolation that morning.

And why is the Eucharist our consolation? Because the Eucharist is Christ’s gift to us. When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, the veil between heaven and earth is pulled back. The choirs of angels and the citizens of heaven above attend to our prayers for the sacrifice that brings mercy, pardon, and salvation becomes present to us. And we, who are truly present at the celebration of the Eucharist, even with our weakened voices, trembling hands, and wandering minds, are received into the holy communion of our loving God. 

For we were consecrated in our baptism to join in the celebration, in the offering, of the Eucharist. This too, is Christ’s gift. This too, is our consolation. For when heaven opens by the sign of the holy cross at the beginning of the Mass, we open the depths of our hearts asking for mercy, healing, and strength.

On the morning of the fire, I had only a few words of my own. I could not think clearly enough to pray on my own, so the liturgy carried me. The words of the Church carried me. The words of the scriptures carried me. The words of Jesus carried me. These words from the liturgy, from the Church, from the scriptures, and from Jesus are all the Lord’s gift to you and to me. These words are our consolation, because if we let them, these words will carry us when the fires are burning and the fires are out. And the words we hear and the words we pray bring us to the Word of Father, Jesus Christ, who unites us to himself and feeds us with the Bread of Life.

Today, the Eucharist consoles us. Today, heaven breaks open. Today, not the fire of destruction but the fire of the Holy Spirit burns within us. And here the Lord Jesus welcomes us to his table, feeds us with his body and blood, consoles us with the gift of his peace, and invites us to the kingdom where he lives and reigns forever and ever. AMEN.

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