Bishop Sartain delivered this homily during the closing Mass for the Eucharistic Congress Oct. 29 in Little Rock.
It is good that we are here. It is good that we look one another in the eye, that we see how the Catholic Church is larger than our parish, that we enjoy one another's company in friendship and prayer.
It is good that today we have had the opportunity to learn more about our faith, good that we have been renewed in our enthusiasm for being Catholic, good that we will carry home the fruit of this Eucharistic Congress.
But do you know what is best of all about this day? Jesus, our Savior, is with us. Jesus, the Word of God, teaches us. Jesus, the living bread of life, feeds us. Jesus has called us here, and Jesus sends us forth.
Everything that has happened today, and everything that happens in our parishes every day, is the work of Jesus. Our heavenly Father sent him to us so that we might be free of sin and no longer bound by death; Jesus died for us, rose from the dead for us, ascended into heaven for us, and will come again in glory for us. But he is also with us now, extending his hand in friendship, calling us to believe and receive what he has to offer, commanding us to follow in his footsteps of love.
Jesus is alive and at work in the Church! Each time we participate in the sacraments, we encounter Jesus himself, for he wants to give us everything we need to live a life of peace and hope. He wants to be involved in our lives -- no, even better, he wants to be our life.
Everything begins and ends with Jesus.
Perhaps at times we feel alone. But we are not alone, for Jesus is with us. Perhaps at times we feel lost, but we are not lost, because Jesus has found us. Perhaps at times we feel afraid, but there is no reason to be afraid because Jesus is at our side. At times we feel deep sorrow for our sins, but Jesus offers his mercy. At times we do not know how to love, but Jesus shows us. At times we wonder where we are going, but Jesus leads us.
Everything begins and ends with Jesus.
If we do feel alone, or lost, or afraid, or hopeless, or without love it might be because we have not responded to Jesus' invitation to "come to me." But when we say, "Yes, Jesus, I will come to you," we will find peace, like a child resting in his mother's arms.
Peace in Jesus. Jesus is peace!
A Eucharistic Congress is a time for renewal for the Church. Here we are reminded of the invitation of Jesus to come to him every day in prayer and discipleship. Jesus is our everything, and he gives himself to us in the Church, in our parishes, every time his Word is proclaimed and every time his sacraments are celebrated.
Most of all, he comes to us in the Eucharist, the source of every blessing in the Church. There has never been a time when the Church did not celebrate the Eucharist, because from the earliest days Christians remembered Jesus' command to "do this in memory of me." They understood that when they celebrated the Eucharist Jesus fed them in a way more powerful and more personal, more necessary and more essential, than any other food they received. They understood that each time they received his body and blood they received Jesus completely and that if they did not celebrate the Eucharist they would not be the Church.
If we do not celebrate the Eucharist, if we do not come to Jesus and receive his own body and blood, we are not the Church! If we grow in our love for the Eucharist, if we open our hands and souls to receive his body and blood, we grow strong in him. It is here that we receive every grace that comes from the death and resurrection of Jesus -- every grace! Taking part in the Eucharist, Jesus gives us everything we need to be the Church, to be good Christians, to live lives of peace. There is no need to go elsewhere looking for Christian food -- because Jesus gives us everything in his word and his sacraments.
The Eucharist is the best of all food, food that is essential to the Christian life. But the Eucharist is also our mission, for to be fed by Jesus is also to be sent by Jesus. The Eucharist makes us healthy for the kingdom, full of the kingdom we are sent to live and proclaim. Jesus was not sent by his father "with a mission," as if his mission was somehow separate from him -- Jesus and his mission are one, for he is the kingdom of God in person. The more we participate in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus transforms us so that his mission might be extended through us, so that everything about us might shine with the glory of his kingdom.
In the Diocese of Little Rock, the Eucharist is celebrated in several languages because Jesus has called his children together from many countries. Jesus did not speak English! He did not speak Spanish! He did not speak Vietnamese! But he was sent by his Father as savior of all people and all time. He was sent to gather into one household people of every race, language, and nation. And now his word is proclaimed in every language, and the Eucharist is celebrated in every language, even languages we have never heard. The highest form of unity you and I ever experience is not when we speak one language, but when together we celebrate the Eucharist. Here we are gathered with all the people of the kingdom, all over the world, of every age, and for eternity. Here Jesus calls us and makes us one.
Yes, it is good that we are here. But it is also good that we return to our parishes, to those hundreds of communities throughout Arkansas where people hunger for Jesus. We go home to be fed by the Word of God and by the Eucharist so that we might be instruments of Jesus for others. He comes to us and remains with us. We come to him, and he sends us forth in his name.
Do you have an intention for Bishop Sartain's prayer? If so, send it to him at Bishop Sartain's Prayer List, Diocese of Little Rock, 2500 North Tyler St., P.O. Box 7239, Little Rock, AR 72217.
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