‘The Word became flesh here’

New Eucharistic Adoration chapel dedicated

On March 26, Bishop Raica dedicated Annunciation of the Lord Parish’s new Eucharistic Adoration chapel, the Chapel of St. Joseph, in Decatur. The complete text of the bishop’s homily follows herein.

My sisters and brothers, thank you, Father Merrill and Father Deering, for your kind and cordial welcome to Annunciation of the Lord Parish here in Decatur. I’m so pleased that Bishop Baker, Abbot Voss, Father Bazzel, and [others] have joined us today for this magnificent special occasion. I’m delighted to be here on this weekend of the patronal feast of the parish, but, above all, [I am delighted] to bless the new Chapel of St. Joseph for Eucharistic Adoration in the parish.  This is the second chapel constructed in the northern part of our diocese these past few years. I believe the impact of the Eucharist on our lives cannot be underestimated.

First, a word about the patronal feast – the Annunciation of our Lord. Whenever you go to the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, you will see the place where the Annunciation is alleged to have occurred. You can touch the spot, the ground where this fact of history happened.  The sign says in Latin: Hic verbum caro factum est. The phrase which says, “The Word became flesh” is clear – verbum caro factum est. Then it adds the adverb of place: Hic, meaning here! I can’t think of a more profound word than the actual geographical location of where this event took place in the body of a young Jewish girl. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, she conceived and bore a son who was named Jesus. She heard her vocational call and responded simply yet powerfully, “Let it be done to me as You say.”

It’s curious, isn’t it that we didn’t have to climb up to Heaven to find God. Rather, it is as though Heaven came to earth so we could meet God – face-to-face – in the amazement of a little child Who lived for 9 months in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Who was born in Bethlehem. It is one of the principal reasons that we want all life protected, especially the unborn, because each one contains a spark of divine life that is affirmed by science itself.

Annunciation of the Lord Parish has had a growing Eucharistic Adoration community. Many are here this evening. The Chapel of St. Joseph – Capilla de San José – is a testament to the faith already present here. The chapel is a small, intimate space where we can encounter the Lord. One-on-one! It is to say: “We are on holy ground here!” We can be close to the Lord, and the Lord can be close to us in the Blessed Sacrament. This intimacy is one in which heart can speak to heart, where we are struck and sometimes overwhelmed by the love that God has for us.  Because God is infinite, we tend to think of God as someone distant, aloof, majestic, a terrifying mystery if we were to ever encounter God, unconcerned with my little troubles in life. That’s not what we speak about today. Rather, we have a great staff and community to support each other and to share the Good News. We see the presence of Jesus given us through Holy Mass, even more so because Eucharistic Adoration guides this community. Jesus guides this community of faith. He blesses you for this gesture and becomes the gift that He wants to be shared.            

Today, we see it illustrated in the readings, most especially the Gospel – the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. It must have been truly an amazing event to witness in which the dear, dear friend of Jesus, along with Martha and Mary, whose name was Lazarus, died unexpectedly when Jesus was away. Jesus now comes to the house to find that the one He loved, His dear friend, has already been in the tomb for 4 days. Anything that happens now would be next to impossible. In the midst of it, He reminds His disciples that this will not come to nothing. He goes to the tomb, already sealed, and asks them to roll back the stone. To the utter amazement of those present, Jesus calls to Lazarus: “Come out” of the tomb. The dead man came out! And He asks His disciples to unbind him from the linen strips and let him go free. It is a foreshadowing of the resurrection on the last day. It is the gift and promise of life itself that the Lord gives to each of us. The point is that Jesus is here – to help us overcome that which keeps us bound. They could relate to Lazarus again, just like before. Ultimately, Jesus will free us, too, from death itself! He opens us to a new way of relating to the rest of the world. Of course, Lazarus would have to die again and wait for the resurrection from the dead like everyone else, but this event was a sneak peek into what awaits us believers. Listening and staying close to Jesus can help us to live even more deliberately for Him.

Over the past few weeks, we have been hearing about the significant events that the Gospel records to help us come to believe. A couple weeks ago it was water – the Lord promised He would give us living water so our thirst would be slaked. We don’t have to keep coming back to the well. Last week, to the wonder of his family and religious authorities, the blind man saw. Today, Lazarus, the dead man, comes back to life. We have an amazing Lord Who takes care of all our needs – from our thirst, to sight, to life itself – restoring us to relationships with our loved ones. We should consider ourselves so very blessed.

Tonight, we bless the Chapel of St. Joseph – the long hoped for Eucharistic Chapel in Decatur.  It is the place that reminds us that Christ is not dead but alive. It is the place where we can draw close to the Lord. It is the place where we can be near Jesus and Jesus can be near us. It is the place where we bring the areas of our heart and lives that are bound up by sin, disappointment, failures, and mistakes, as well as our moments of joy and elation over blessings received. To the former, we beg the Lord to help us unbind them and come into the light; to help us do the right and the good. To the latter, we find a moment of praise and thanksgiving. 

All of this is an ongoing conversation that we have with the Lord. Jesus is not consigned to the books as if He were a blip in history. No, He is alive today. His presence can move us today. He speaks to us today as He spoke to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. He reminds us of hope that what is bound can be unbound, what is stuck in darkness can come into the light, what is causing us worry and anxiety He can walk with us on life’s journey. 

I view this chapel of adoration here as another step in solidifying the dynamic mission of Annunciation of the Lord Parish in the Decatur environs to be a sort of divine nuclear blast furnace of grace and hope. After all, here is Christ present among us. As Christians, we are Christ to one another, to our families, to our communities and places of employment. We are given the great commission to be the people we say we are! Live who we are, not merely adhering to the teachings of Christ, but truly allowing Christ to come into our lives, and transform our lives by our obedience to our vocational call. 

My sisters and brothers, together we are on a great journey and mission. Our task is not to save the world, that belongs to Christ, but to open our hearts to God’s Spirit moving our lives to enter our faith more deeply. Perhaps that’s why the Annunciation, which we celebrated yesterday, is so important for us. Oftentimes, we settle for the Word becoming an idea, but even better, during the Mass, we celebrate the Word becoming flesh. In our tabernacles and in this chapel, we are further reminded that the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us.

May those who frequent this chapel in humble adoration before the infinite Lord present in the Eucharist receive abundant graces, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and witness the powerful presence of Christ today. May God bless you all!