Homily of Archbishop Eamon Martin at Mass for the Adoremus Conference
National Marian Shrine, Basilica of Our Lady of Knock, Co Mayo
- In adoration you draw life from the Eucharist … Receiving the Eucharist is a deep expression of our being in communion with Christ and the Church … Some people say that there is a decline in understanding and respect for the Eucharist here in Ireland, that many people have forgotten how sacred the Eucharist is, and that some are receiving Communion without proper preparation or disposition … By your witness and through your apostolate, I encourage you not only to give your undivided attention to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, but also to spread far and wide your love and devotion for the Eucharist so that the people of Ireland will never take for granted this priceless gift.
- In the future when weekday and even Sunday Mass is not able to be celebrated, some of you might be willing to be formed to lead a period of guided adoration with prayers, praise and sharing of the Word of God.
Dear brothers and sisters in the Apostolate of Eucharistic Adoration, you are in good company here in Knock, because when Mary, our Blessed Mother appeared here, 140 years ago, she did so as an “adorer” herself! Throughout the apparition she remained wrapped in silent contemplation before the Lamb of God “on the altar glorified”, and in the presence of the angels and saints.
Back in 2002, during the Year of the Rosary, Pope Saint John Paul II spoke beautifully about Mary continually contemplating the face of Christ – we can only imagine the look in her eyes and the expression on her face as she gazed at Him – from the stable at Bethlehem, to His presentation in the Temple; from the marriage feast at Cana to the foot of the Cross. She looked at Him, and her soul magnified the Lord. In that sense Mary is the teacher of all “adorers” who, like her, gaze on the face of Jesus. During that same Year of the Rosary, as if to link Mary and the Eucharist still further, Saint John Paul added the ‘Institution of the Eucharist’ to the mysteries of the Rosary, and he also wrote an encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia – on the Eucharist and the Church (EdE).
Perhaps it was partly his visit here to Knock in 1979 which inspired Saint John Paul to describe Mary as the “Woman of the Eucharist” and also to speak of the Church, like Mary, having her “gaze constantly turned to her Lord, present in the Sacrament of the altar, in which she discovers the full manifestation of his boundless love” (EdE 1).
I thank you, the members of the Apostolate of Eucharistic Adoration, for forming a nucleus of people in many parishes of Ireland who regularly adore Jesus Christ, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. You are like Mary, who loved to contemplate the face of Jesus. You are like the Beloved disciple John, (who also appeared at Knock), who at the Last Supper laid his head close to the breast of Jesus, hearing the beat of that Sacred Heart, soon to be pierced through for our sakes on the hill of Calvary.
In adoration you draw life from the Eucharist, knowing that in the tabernacles of Ireland, the reserved Sacrament remains as a beating heart, burning with love for us. As Saint John Paul put it, you gaze “in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament” and in that way “are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace” (EdE25). In adoration you realise that the Eucharist is the ‘source and summit of the Christian life’ (Lumen Gentium 11 – Light of the Nations) and that the Church continually draws life from the Eucharist. Saint John Paul said,
“Every commitment to holiness, every activity aimed at carrying out the Church’s mission, every work of pastoral planning, must draw the strength it needs from the Eucharistic mystery and in turn be directed to that mystery as its culmination. In the Eucharist we have Jesus, we have his redemptive sacrifice, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience and love of the Father” (EdE 60).
The Eucharist is indeed the Church’s “most precious possession”; it is the “gift par excellence” from the Lord (EdE 7). Today, gathered for the Mass around the altar here in Knock, we shall be drawn back to the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday when, like a meek Lamb being led to the slaughter, Jesus gave His life for the forgiveness of our sins and His followers were transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Catechism says: “the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1367). The Eucharist is “the sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated down the ages” and “when we receive communion, we receive the very One who offered himself for us; we receive his body which he gave up for us on the Cross, and his blood which “he poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28) (EdE 11).
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once wrote, “the act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself” (Sacramentum Caritatis 66). Dear brothers and sisters, that is why I entrust you today with an important mission – a wider apostolate – connected with your Eucharistic adoration. I call on you to promote and protect the Church’s rich understanding of the mystery of the Eucharist. Be like Saint Joseph, who also appeared with Mary here at Knock, remembering how he protected and unfailingly cared for Jesus. I encourage you similarly to be loving guardians of the mystery of the Eucharist, protecting it “from all taint of error or corruption”.
Last Sunday while distributing Holy Communion I was struck by the reverence with which most people, of all ages, approached the altar. Some people say, however, that there is a decline in understanding and respect for the Eucharist here in Ireland, that many people have forgotten how sacred the Eucharist is, and that some are receiving Communion without proper preparation or disposition. By your witness and through your apostolate, I encourage you not only to give your undivided attention to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, but also to spread far and wide your love and devotion for the Eucharist so that the people of Ireland will never take for granted this priceless gift. Ask yourselves honestly, “do I always appreciate the amazing mystery of the Eucharist? Do I always receive it worthily? Do my actions on entering a church reflect my awareness of the ‘real presence’ of Christ in the tabernacle? How much do I express my ‘wonder and awe in God’s presence’? Do I always genuflect, kneel or bow, and keep silence and always show reverence before the Eucharist?”
Receiving the Eucharist is a deep expression of our being in communion with Christ and the Church. The reception of the sacred body and blood of the Lord cannot be reduced to some kind of a right, nor to being merely some kind of communal sharing in a meal. The Church also teaches that when we are conscious of being in a state of grave sin, we should repent and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving the Eucharist and, if our lives, beliefs, outward conduct and decisions are “seriously and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm” and out of communion with Church, then we ought not to approach the altar to receive the Eucharist.
At the same time we must be mindful of the words of Pope Francis, who in 2013 said, “The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (Evangelii Gaudium14 – The Joy of the Gospel).
These days, with the decline in religious practice, the reduction in the number of priestly vocations and the corresponding decline in the number of Masses, your apostolate of Eucharistic Adoration is taking on a new significance in Ireland. In the future when weekday and even Sunday Mass is not available, some of you might be formed to lead a period of guided adoration with prayers, praise and sharing of the Word of God. I am especially pleased that some of you are already gently introducing many children around the country to Eucharistic adoration so that they can enter into the joy and mystery of spending time with Jesus whom they receive in Holy Communion.
Let no one think that Eucharistic adoration is a passive or spiritually introverted activity. On the contrary, as Pope Benedict XVI said, “it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord (in adoration) that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another” (Sacramentum Caritatis 66).
As there is no authentic celebration of the Eucharist that does not lead to mission, neither should there be adoration that does not impel us to conversion in our personal lives, our relationships and deeds at home, in family, in community and workplace. The Eucharist sends us out to announce the Gospel of the Lord, to glorify the Lord by our lives, to change ourselves and to world!
Let me bring you back then to the apparition that took place here at Knock in 1879 – an altar, the Lamb of God, angels, Saint Joseph, Saint John, and the Mother of God, wrapped in a moment of silent and wondrous adoration and contemplation – a heavenly tableau! It was truly a “cosmic” moment, when heaven became united to earth, and the Irish people were offered comfort and hope in time of distress.
Saint John Paul said such “cosmic” moments happen every time the Eucharist is celebrated. By continuing to promote and teach Eucharistic adoration, you help to inspire a new appreciation in Ireland of the mystery and power of the Eucharist to bring hope, joy and life into our troubled world. Join with me then at this Mass – and with Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint John and with all the angels and saints – in praising God and by saying: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honour and power and glory and blessing. Amen”.