‘Make room for Christ’

By Bishop Steven J. Raica

‘Make room for Christ’

Bishop Raica celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi

On June 19, Bishop Raica celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul, marking the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also known as the feast of Corpus Christi. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

Dear friends, at the outset, I wish a very blessed Father’s Day to all! Every year we take time out to reflect on the meaning of the Eucharist on this feast of Corpus Christi – the Body and Blood of Our Savior Jesus Christ! Throughout the entire Church, we celebrate it with greater grandeur and solemnity, rolling out the red carpet, if you will, as we honor the presence of Christ in our midst. Nothing could give greater honor or dignity than to make a concrete effort with all our might to appreciate, to understand with greater intensity, and to explore the deeper meaning of this gift of Jesus to us: His presence – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. 

For when we are alone, we look for something – that Someone with whom our hearts recognize and resonate, that Someone who gives us peace and inner tranquility. It is this amazing presence who confirms: “I am with you always until the end of time. … I am here today with you! … You are not abandoned. … You are not forgotten.” Through His Body and Blood, present at every Mass and reserved for our adoration, we find ourselves affirming once again the power of Christ in our midst: “I am here!” He comes here: yes, in downtown Birmingham, in our parishes and oratories throughout the diocese! We, in our unworthiness, are haltingly drawn forward through this ineffable mystery to make our way forward as sinners to receive Him with due reverence. We beg Him to “say the word” so that we can be healed, restored, and ultimately saved.

My friends, every year we renew the amazement and wonder of this gift. In dioceses and parishes throughout the United States, we are beginning the three-year process of our Eucharistic Revival to revitalize ourselves by our deeper appreciation of this gift. It is so easy to take the Eucharist for granted, becoming like everything else we do, but it shouldn’t be like everything else. It shouldn’t only be on our weekly “to do” list that we dutifully check off. The Eucharist should be an honored guest, a gift, a treasure for us. Our remote preparation includes our reflection of what the Lord is already doing in our lives – the great deeds and wonders that we have experienced. Our proximate preparation includes the regular celebration of the sacrament of penance and the way we present ourselves, being here and present intentionally, just like when we visit someone we love and cherish. It should be something we look forward to! If there is anything that should motivate us as we contemplate the Eucharist these next couple of years during the Revival process, it is this: Where can I “make room for Christ in my life!” Make Room for Christ! That’s a worthy consideration today! Making room means we may have to adjust our priorities and determine what really matters.

Make room for Christ in your mind

Our weekly gathering shouldn’t be the only time we think about our Lord. Every day, through our prayers, reflections on Scripture or other spiritual reading, as we walk along the road or drive in our cars, we ask ourselves, “What brings Christ to mind?” Even in those moments of frustration and dismay that crisscross our day when things don’t go as planned, where is Christ guiding us. We say, “Stay with us, Lord!” I’m also thinking about those moments when we see something truly beautiful before us – a greater awareness of what is around us for which we can say “Thank you, Lord!”

Make room for Christ in your heart

Like those we come to cherish, we make sure they have a pride of place for our love and affection. The Eucharist is a privileged moment when Christ comes into our hearts to dwell. Is our Lord loved and cherished? Do we afford Him a place of welcome and hospitality just as Mary, Martha’s sister, relished a moment of contemplation by listening to our Lord’s every word? Or, is our heart too full of distractions and clutter that prevent us from embracing with affection the reality of Christ? Perhaps that is why people come in search of Christ. They look for something – Someone who will help them make sense out of life, especially in the most dramatic moments. 

Here in our Birmingham area, already tragically marred, historically and daily, by violence and turmoil, we are reminded again of the very fragility of life itself. In particular, I mention the recent attack at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church that is sadly added to tragic events in schools in Michigan, Florida, Texas, a grocery store in Buffalo, and churches in California and other places and now here in Vestavia Hills. Christ came that we might have life not to destroy it wantonly. Hearts are wounded and lives irreparably changed. Healing, mercy, and understanding are desperately needed as we beg for the Lord’s embrace once again. In the meantime, through tears we express our condolences and solidarity with families and friends of those who’ve died. A neighboring faith community is hurting today. Today, we walk arm in arm as brothers and sisters who bear the incredible dignity of God in our lives and implore His mercy on all. 

I further think of those who desire to receive our Lord in the Eucharist and are unable. They may be unable because of serious sin, because they are infirmed or shut-in, because they have no one to bring them here or alternatively Christ to them, or because they are incarcerated and desire to be close to our Lord. Their Eucharistic fasting and prayers express a desire, that we all too often take for granted, for this unique presence of Christ in their own hearts. The room is ready, but it is as if no one comes or knocks. We include them today.

I also include those for whom the practice of faith has become tepid. Perhaps, they’ve fallen out of habit from receiving the Eucharist because of the pandemic, or, just maybe, there is nothing that motivates them. Some may have been driven away from Christ – their minds and hearts apathetic, anesthetized, and blinded to the beauty of this most amazing sacrament. 

Yes, dear friends, Corpus Christi reminds us to make room for Christ and to walk with Christ. This year, I invite you to open your hearts even wider to receive Christ. Open your minds more to appreciate and understand the gift that our Eucharistic Lord is for you. 

The sacrifice of Christ is made present once again as St. Paul reminds us, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.” This saving grace abounds as the miracle of the loaves and fish fed the crowds as our Lord spoke about the Kingdom of God and healing those needing cures. 

Today, we are blessed that what was done then is handed on to us. With minds and hearts renewed, we have a place where Christ can radiate in our lives. Make room for Christ, so your minds and hearts may be more conformed to His. Like St. Paul, it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me. That is the gift we proclaim today on this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. May God bless you!

“For more pictures from the Forty Hours Devotion, please click here.