Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time - February 4, 2018

One of the events of our Catholic Schools Week was “80’s Day.” The students dressed up in 1980s styles. That was easy for me since I spent much of the 1980s dressing the same as I do now. But I did spend part of the day (the part where I was writing this column) thinking about one of my favorite ballplayers from the 1980s, Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn. He led the National League in batting average eight times in his career, and I have used him as an example of someone who kept working at his craft. Gwynn was one of the first ballplayers to use videotape extensively. As often as he would swing a bat, he knew that it was easy for bad habits to creep into his swing.

When we do something over and over, we take it for granted. But we can get into bad habits. I think of that tendency in connection with the most important thing we do. Nothing could be more important than the opportunity to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. It seems so simple that we do not give it much thought, and that is where the bad habits can develop. So let’s look at the film.

First of all, the instructions call for a sign of reverence when we come up. That instruction sounds rather vague, so people interpreted it in various ways. To provide a bit of uniformity, the bishops of the United States determined that the proper sign of reverence is a slight bow, which generally means just a nod of the head. That is all that is required at that point.

The priest or Eucharistic Minister shows us the sacred host and says, “The body of Christ.” We respond, “Amen.” Some people have gotten into the habit of not saying anything or of making a very quiet response.  Considering the importance of what we are receiving, we should say “Amen” with enthusiasm. Other people get the “Amen” in very quickly, even before I have had a chance to say “The body of Christ.” I recognize that this tendency can come from priests and Eucharistic Ministers who get into bad habits themselves and seem to rush the line along. Perhaps we can help those distributing the Eucharist to be more reverent if the recipients respond reverently, saying “Amen” as a response. Keep in mind that this one, simple word is so meaningful that it was never translated into English, for there is no corresponding word or phrase that does it justice.

For those receiving in the hand, please hold out your hands in a reverent manner. Do not take the host from the priest. Instead, allow him to place it in your hand. Your right hand (if you are right handed) should be underneath your left, allowing us to put the host into your palm. When we were first permitted to receive Communion in the hand, we were taught that this gesture was a way for us to make our hands a “throne” to receive Our Lord. Then, reach over with your right hand to take the host and place it in your mouth. And please do that before turning to return to your place.

If you are receiving on your tongue, simply stick your tongue out and let the priest or Eucharistic Minister put the host on your tongue. Again, you can say a good “Amen” before putting your tongue out.

Tony Gwynn was a great hitter who never stopped asking if he could do better. That attitude got him into the Hall of Fame. What we do at Mass is much more important. That same attitude could help us get into heaven.
                                                       Father H