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Bishop Betancourt: Allowing Christ in the Eucharist to Shape, Form and Define Us

NEW HAVEN, CT, May 19 — In his homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost at St. Joseph's Church in New Haven, Connecticut, Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt gave the Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and all other members of the pilgrim Church on earth advice about how to allow the Eucharistic Jesus to shape, form and define our life.

He said that the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, and the whole National Eucharistic Revival of which it is a part, is meant "to ignite and foster a deeper faith and devotion to Jesus, who is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, and to proclaim once again the truth of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar."

He spoke about the importance of Sunday Mass, Eucharistic adoration, a Eucharistic life, the importance of the Sacrament of Confession to receive Jesus in the state of grace, and receiving Jesus with love and devotion.

Here is a transcription of his homily.


My dear brothers and sisters,


As we gather as a family of faith to celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost and embark on the beginning of the Pilgrimage with Jesus in the Eucharist, a journey that will culminate in the National Eucharistic Congress in Indiana, let us remember the purpose of this initiative. The United States Bishops, in response to a crisis of faith in the Eucharist among Catholics, have set forth the Eucharistic Revival. We aim to ignite and foster a deeper faith and devotion to Jesus, who is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, and to proclaim once again the truth of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar. The Second Vatican Council proclaimed that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (LG, 11). This revival is a call to all of us to renew our understanding and love for this saving truth and to live our lives from the Holy Eucharist.


Perhaps you’ve been a Catholic all your life but have never been taught or appropriately taught in a way that caught your attention and changed your life. Maybe others don’t believe because they go to Mass infrequently or only when convenient. Perhaps our preaching these past few decades hasn’t been sufficiently evangelical and catechetical. Or maybe the experience of receiving Holy Communion has never been a life-changing experience.


As Jesus’ disciples, we need to proclaim joyfully the life-changing Good News that God loves us and that He is constantly reaching out to us, offering Himself to us. Jesus wants to be in a relationship with each of us. The Eucharistic Revival offers us a real opportunity – no matter where we are starting from – to grow in love for the Eucharist, to live and to draw our life, direction, and energy from the Eucharist – to really make it the source and summit of our life – so that we can joyfully live lives of generosity and self-giving love.


The power of the Most Holy Eucharist transforms us into a living body, the Body of Christ, just as the Holy Spirit transformed the first disciples on Pentecost Sunday into the Church. Like those disciples, who once they received the Spirit, became courageous apostles, we are called in love for the Lord to leave the Upper Room, the false safety of our own little worlds, and bring who we are, the Church, to the world. And we do this by preaching with our lives, with our everyday actions and words. We proclaim the eternal life offered to all those willing to confess Jesus, accept His Gospel, and live His Life. Then, others will hear a language touching their hearts, calling inside their hearts. As we bear witness to the saving power of the Eucharist as the Church, the Holy Spirit will animate and bring God’s love to those seeking meaning and purpose in their lives. If we live as the Church we are, the Spirit will draw others to be Church.


So, we already have some ways to respond to the Holy Eucharist’s wonderful gift. And as we go out in procession with the Blessed Sacrament, we should meditate and pray on these ways:


1. Never miss Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation; go to daily Mass whenever possible. Sunday Mass is a priority for us Catholics; it is “our duty and our salvation.” The worship of Almighty God is a commandment, not a pious intention, or something we do when we feel like it or when it’s convenient. As Catholics, we come together on Sunday, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection, to offer the Father the eternal sacrifice of Calvary for the redemption of His people. Participation in Holy Mass is the most significant expression of our spiritual life and should be the focus and highlight of our week.


2. Spend time with the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration. If we believe that the Eucharist is Jesus, then we should spend time adoring Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Eucharistic Adoration helps us to contemplate, ponder, and abide with Him in silence. Adoration allows the effects of Mass to sink into our souls more deeply. Here, what is given to us in Mass can be developed and made fruitful.


3. Live a “Eucharistic Life.” A Eucharistic Life is defined by and lived from the Eucharist, which is Christ’s Body and Blood given up for us. We become like Christ, allowing His life to shape, form, and define us. We become His hands, feet, face, and voice. We are a living tabernacle of His Presence, which we then take into the world to extend His Kingdom. Eucharistic life is a life of service, generosity, self-denial, and forgiveness offered and received. Ultimately, it is a life of self-giving love, connecting us to the poor and anyone in need. We are to bring the presence of Christ to all we encounter. Saint Mother Teresa often remarked that the only way she and her sisters could continually serve the poorest of the poor in the most forgotten and distressed parts of the world was that she and her sisters started their day with Mass and spent at least an hour every day in Eucharistic adoration.


4. Go to confession regularly. We are sinners, and we constantly need the Lord’s mercy. We must receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist in the “state of grace.” What does this mean? It means that if we fall into mortal sin, we must be reconciled to the Lord by the Sacrament of Confession before we receive Him again because mortal sin severs our relationship with Him. He never wants us separated from Him, but sometimes we fall into sin. Whenever we commit mortal sin, we want to go to confession as soon as possible. Even when we don’t fall into mortal sin, venial sin could be present: impatience, white lies, judging others, omission of charity, etc. That’s why it’s essential to go to confession at least monthly. St. Padre Pio used to say, “Even a clean house needs to be dusted.”  While sin dehumanizes us, confession restores us and makes us more human. [CCC 1468] “To lead a truly Eucharistic life, we must have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance to ensure that we are in a state of grace before receiving the Holy Eucharist. Catholics are “sacramental people,” the sacramental grace that we enjoy is the work of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ.


5. Receive Jesus properly at Mass. What does this mean? It means that we must receive communion, we must receive Jesus with attention and devotion and following the liturgical guidelines, so we do not become complacent, mindless, and sloppy in receiving the Lord at Mass.


On Pentecost Sunday, the Church was born.  The Holy Spirit united different people into the one Church.  We, the members of the Body of Christ, benefit from our differences one from the other to build one community of faith, one big family in God.  May we allow the Holy Spirit, through the power of the most Holy Eucharist, to flow through our lives so that our reverence and gratitude for each other’s uniqueness might itself draw more people to become members of the Body of Christ.


As we now, in a few moments, will start in solemn procession this grace-filled pilgrimage in preparation for our National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, let us, under the care of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, and the intercession of Blessed Michael McGivney, renew our commitment to be faithful to our Lord Jesus, by living, like Him, a Eucharistic life.


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